Gore would make April 15 darker
By W. James Antle III
April 15 has once again come and gone, with the federal government expected to reap an unprecedented peacetime gross tax receipt. A productive way to channel your grief over the income you lost to the IRS is to contemplate the potential depredations of Al Gore.
Surplus notwithstanding, Gore does not think you paid too much taxes this year. In fact, the more taxes you paid the more unfair the vice president thinks it would be to cut them. We must shore up Social Security and pay down the national debt, he intones. The fact that in his mind this precludes any statistically significant tax cut demonstrates he does not believe any government program of any size could be eliminated or even cut, or that the overall level of spending could be even slightly reduced. (Moreover, the tiny sliver of federal receipts he would consider returning to the American people would be in the form of "refundable tax credits" that would be "carefully targeted" to a disproportionate number of people without any income tax liability - i.e., welfare payments masquerading as tax cuts.)
Yet Gore does not stop there. In addition to being in favor of devoting virtually every dime of the current federal budget and most of the surplus to existing government programs in one form or another, he believes Washington should assume new functions. One cannot simultaneously launch sizeable new federal initiatives in education, the environment, health care and warmed-over anti-poverty schemes and refuse to cut current programs without increasing spending overall. Bill Bradley may have criticized Gore for being timid about socialized medicine, but most of the vice president's criticism's of Bradley's budget-busting national health plan were from the left.
This means, whether he admits it or not, Gore will deplete the surplus and possibly raise taxes. In the event of an economic downturn, we could even see a return to deficit spending. If George W. Bush does not forcefully point out this basic arithmetic when Gore confronts him about the fiscal responsibility of tax cuts, he is as dumb as his detractors say and destined to meet Bob Dole's fate in November.
Federal regulation costs the American people $6,000 annually on a per capita basis. Gore does not believe this is enough. His environmental fanaticism leads him to promote a vast regulatory expansion, including support for the Kyoto accord, which by some estimates will cost a typical family $3,000 a year. Gore wants federal regulators involved in the minutest decisions of daily life, from the amount of water your toilet tank can hold to the size of your backyard. His book Earth in the Balance rails against the automobile and combustible engine with a fervor that confirms the harshest Republican criticisms of his ideology - which is perhaps why Theodore Kacynszky thought it required reading.
Gore's vision revolves around transforming America into a full-blown European-style welfare state, with national health care and a whole host of spending programs and regulations. Our taxes are comparatively lower, after all, and our benefits not so lavish. Yet our unemployment rate is less than half the European rate due to our private-sector dynamism. As state spending in Western Europe swelled from 34 percent of GDP in 1961 to 51 percent in 1995, European Community unemployment rates tripled while US rates remained stable.
When the US tax burden reached 31.8 percent of GDP in 1995, unemployment stood at 5.6 percent and long-term unemployment was recorded as 12.2 percent. The British on the other hand had a tax burden equal to 37.2 percent of GDP with 8.2 percent regular unemployment and 45.4 percent long-term unemployment. Germany had a tax burden that comprised 46.4 percent of the economy and the attendant unemployment rates were 9.4 percent in the short term and 44.3 percent in the long term. French taxes equaled 48.7 percent of GDP, with 11.6 percent unemployment and 38.3 percent long-term unemployment. Italy's tax burden accounted for 45.2 percent of GDP and thus unemployment rates reached 12 percent in the short term and an amazing 61.5 percent in the long term.
Aside from the consequences Gore's policies would have for liberty, limited government and the rule of law, adopting his policies would surely jeopardize our prosperity. This is why Western Europe added fewer than 5 million new jobs from 1974 to 1992 while we added 34 million, despite having 50 million more working-age people. Excessive taxation, spending, regulation and monetary growth are bad for the economy.
The economy is already growing in spite of, rather than because of, the 1993 tax increase that passed because of Gore's tie-breaking Senate vote. It cannot be mentioned enough that this vote actually cost America $300 billion in output, $264 billion in disposable income, $138 billion in personal savings and 1.2 million jobs. Moving further in the direction of high-tax social welfarism, a direction Gore's policy proposals would surely take us, would be a path to stagnation.
Al Gore has a naive faith in government to solve nearly every economic, social and even environmental problem. For all their faults, which also include an excessive faith in government, George W. Bush and Pat Buchanan at least seem to recognize the value of the private sector and community as well.
An April 15 presided over Al Gore is a depressing prospect indeed. Perhaps you can soften the blow of this year's assessment by noting that it could have been much worse.
W. James Antle III worked for the Rhema Group, an Ohio-based political consulting firm. You can e-mail him at Jimantle@aol.com
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