Other views: A tax cut lie worthy of Orwell

It will be interesting to see if North Dakota continues its tradition of voting for Republican presidential candidates in 2004. The only modern exception was Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1964. The recent Bush tax cut will have had the "instant gratif...

It will be interesting to see if North Dakota continues its tradition of voting for Republican presidential candidates in 2004. The only modern exception was Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1964. The recent Bush tax cut will have had the "instant gratification" effect by 2004, but its long term effects are another story. North Dakota's reliance on the federal government is a fact of life. That is a contradiction for a state that votes for presidents who are supposedly against government spending.

The Bush tax cut was unrelated to cuts in government spending. As I have mentioned in a previous column, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan doesn't believe we can have it both ways. He was referring to tax cuts without spending cuts. Greenspan isn't the only non-believer who isn't a card carrying Democrat.

Bush Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neill was originally the Bush administration's top economic spokesman. O'Neill didn't think the economy needed a tax cut. He contended the economy was likely to recover anyway. Therefore, a tax cut was not necessary. O'Neill was dumped by Bush. His replacement is John Snow who was a deficit hawk prior to becoming Bush's new Treasury Secretary. Snow has now retracted his deficit phobia.

One is reminded of an George Orwell's novel, "1984," where the truth becomes a lie and the lie becomes the truth, all while the audience listens passively.

Former White House chief economist Glenn Hubbard was another possible casualty of the Bush tax plan. Hubbard was planning to resign anyway, but conveniently resigned after other non-believers had been forced out. Perhaps coincidentally or perhaps not, Hubbard was at a remote European vacation site when Bush announced his tax plan, thus being unavailable for immediate comment to the media.


The Bush tax plan has the suspicious air of clever politics rather than sound economics. There are several "sunset" provisions in the bill. Sunset provisions mean that certain sections of the law will go away unless they receive another positive vote from Congress. The sunset clauses will give Bush several more opportunities to accuse Democratic senators and congressmen of voting for tax increases just before several future elections. That sounds more like a Karl Rove political plan than the plan of a credible economist.

Let's face it, if the Democrats are the "tax-and-spend" party, is that worse than the Bush "borrow-and-spend" agenda? Responsible parents don't finance their businesses with their children's credit cards.

The other clever political maneuver of the sunset provisions is to make the federal budget deficit appear to be smaller than it really is. Accounting shell games are what recently disgraced Wall Street. Washington is criticizing Wall Street with one hand and imitating it with the other.

Government spending will probably rise to over 20 percent of the national economy in the upcoming decades. A nation at constant war with extremists can't fund the military and homeland security on the cheap. There will also be exploding health care costs and exploding social security costs for aging baby boomers. People are living longer.

Will North Dakota vote for Bush again in 2004? A Canadian journalist once observed the irony that in dictatorships, the citizens don't tell the truth for fear of the government, while in democracies the government doesn't tell the truth for fear of the citizens. If it is true, governments have little incentive to change, but citizens have a great incentive.

Maxson is a Minot, N.D. attorney, former legislator, and occasional contributor to The Forum's commentary pages. Email

What To Read Next
Get Local