The Kansas Chainsaw Massacre
The GOP bone-cutters have handed the
Democrats a red meat issue for the fall
B Y J A M E S C A R V I L L E
Hypocrisy kills. If you're a political candidate and don't practice what
you preach, you're setting yourself up for a clobbering.
Bob Dole clearly doesn't understand that concept. Here's a classic
example of a guy who's much better at talking out of two sides of his
mouth than one. The ugliest example is the one I brought up in my column
last week -- Dole's hypocrisy on family values. But believe me, it
doesn't stop there. Here's one that kills me every time: Dole regularly
shellacks President Clinton for giving us the "largest tax increase in
history." But guess what? If you believe the Wall Street Journal, by
every measure the largest tax increase in American history came not in
1993 but in 1982. Not only was the 1982 tax hike approved by Senator Bob
Dole -- it was sponsored by him! (You can check out the article for
yourself: "A Vote for Clinton's Economic Program Becomes the Platform
for Often-Misleading GOP Attacks," October 26, 1994. Unfortunately the
Journal doesn't have it online.)
This week, at our big convention in Chicago, some of my Democratic
colleagues would like to make a big deal of another piece of blatant
Dole hypocrisy on taxes. I refer, of course, to Dole's sudden conversion
to budget-busting supply-side economics after a career of standing
firmly with the Senate's Better-Dead-Than-in the-Red brigade. But in my
opinion, this is one case where we Democrats ought to take a pass on the
Here's my thinking on this. If we yield to temptation and attack Dole
for his death-bed conversion, we'd score some points on Dole, but we'd
lose the chance to turn this tax scheme into a much bigger issue. Why
not take Dole at face value and skip right to a big-time debate over the
merits of the Republican economic scheme? Supply-side economics is just
the kind of big issue that will allow us to nationalize the elections.
It's the kind of issue that Congressional candidates all over the
country can run on. In Chicago, we'll be able to put away our little
clarinets and break out the big ol' tubas.
Right from the start of the convention, we Democrats are going to play
up the big contrast between the proven success of the economic course
Democrats have steered for the past four years and the proven failure of
the supply-side schemes that the Republicans have just pulled out of the
trash heap of history. The Democratic plan is one of reduced deficits,
increased investments in our people and targeted, reasonable tax cuts
for those who need it most. The Republican plan, as we saw in the
1980s, is one of astronomical deficits, draconian cuts in investments
and an unaffordable tax system skewed toward the wealthy.
And how do we know that Bob Dole's supply-side plan would be a case of
devastating deja vu? It's elementary, my dear reader. Just bear with me
as we do some arithmetic.
Bob Dole's supply-side tax scheme would cost, by his own estimates,
about $550 billion over six years. Last year, in the budget that
President Clinton vetoed, the Republicans wanted tax cuts that would
have cost $245 billion over seven years -- less than half of what Bob
Dole is now proposing. As I'm sure I do not need to remind you, paying
for a $245 billion tax cut while at the same time trying to balance the
budget required very deep cuts in things Americans cared very deeply
about. The Republicans came damn close to committing political hari-kari
with their own budget knives.
Now let's assume Bob Dole would keep his word to balance the budget.
Exactly how deep would the cuts have to go this time? Last week, the
Concord Coalition, a group headed in part by Bob Dole's very good friend
Warren Rudman, gave us the answer. Because Dole has taken Medicare and
Social Security off the chopping block, he's going to have to come up
with cuts of MORE THAN 40 PERCENT in just about every other area of
government. And if you factor in all the extra goodies Dole's now
promising veterans and the Pentagon, cuts will have to go even deeper.
Last time around, the Republicans liked to say that they were just
slowing the growth of government. This time around, they'd be slowing
the growth of kids.
You think poor kids ought to get help with vaccinations and infant
formula? Sorry. Dole and the Republicans would have to cut back on both
by more than 40 percent. You want safe skies? Forget it. Bob Dole and
the Republicans would have to chop air-safety inspections by more than
40 percent. You want clean water? Pity. Dole and the Republicans would
cut environmental enforcement by more than 40 percent. You don't think
our students' minds ought to go to waste? Bummer. Dole and the
Republicans would slash Head Start, college loans, and all spending on
education more than 40 percent.
You think we need to crack down on drugs? That's a shame. Dole and the
Republicans would have to scale back drug interdiction, drug treatment
and drug education by more than 40 percent. You think we ought to
strengthen our borders? Oh well. Dole and the Republicans would have to
cut the border patrol budget by 40 percent. You hope that after this TWA
bombing, the FBI can ramp up its anti-terrorism efforts? Not a chance.
Dole and the Republicans would raid its budget by more than 40 percent.
You like getting early warnings when hurricanes are headed your way?
Whoops. Under Dole and the Republicans, the National Weather Service
wouldn't even have the money to hire Willard Scott to speak at their
Of course, Dole and the Republicans could take the other way out.
Instead of these draconian cuts, he could just go for slightly less
draconian cuts and let the debt pile up. Perhaps that's what he meant
when he said a little while back that he could "be Ronald Reagan if
that's what you want me to be."
Either way, as you will see in Chicago, we've got Bob Dole and every
member of Congress who stumps for Dole's plan right where we want 'em.
They're going to wish they had never let us put down the clarinets.
Will the GOP's budget-cutting schemes make them vulnerable to voter
wrath this fall? Join Carville in Table Talk.
James Carville's Web site