Freedom Line

"And why in Heaven's name can't our party be for real tax cuts? … the Democrats once had a president who passed a massive tax-cut package. His name was John F. Kennedy."


Our Party Needs To Embrace Tax Cuts

By Senator Zell Miller (As appeared in The Wall Street Journal)

Why did the Democratic Party lose so badly last week?

It's simple. We didn't give people any real reason to vote for us and we gave them far too many reasons to vote against us. We set ourselves up to be taken down by a popular president who figured out a way to exploit both of those weaknesses.

Outright Opposition

Look at what the campaign became in the last week, played out live on the evening news. First, we saw President Bush, flying from state to state urging Congress to make his tax cut permanent and to create his homeland security department, and accusing Democrats of foot-dragging or outright opposition to both. Then we saw former President Clinton and Vice President Gore, flying from state to state, urging the old Democratic base to get out and vote against Mr. Bush … or in the case of Florida, against two Bushes.

At a time when people are hurting, we Democrats some how managed to turn an election that should have been about making people's lives better into a grudge match between our aimless opposition and Mr. Bush's vision.

We lost the Senate, big. Why? To start with, we didn't get anything done. After all the noise in the 2000 presidential election, we still don't have a prescription drug plan. More than a year after the terror of Sept. 11, we still don't have a Department of Homeland Security. Nearly two years into an economic downturn, we still don't have a clear economic agenda and — when we're not opposing tax cuts outright — our party still doesn't have a clear position on tax relief.

It's hard to run on your record when you don't have a record. And it's hard to run on your vision when you don't have a vision.

All we got in the end was the blame.

The Democratic Party — party of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, the party that gave us Social Security, the G.I. Bill and Medicare — has become a party that stands for nothing and does nothing.

Our party is stagnant, and if we don't do something new — in a better and bolder way — the Democratic Party could follow that other inflexible party of groups, the Whigs, into the dustbin of history.

By new, I do not mean becoming the antiwar party at a time when our nation's security is threatened in a way that it has never been before.

Why couldn't our party push for a national lottery with the proceeds going to help pay the cost of college for deserving students in America?

Why couldn't our party push to restructure the sacrosanct Head Start program into a universal pre-kindergarten program, with more emphasis on learning instead of just day care?

Why couldn't we Democrats push to spread the massive government bureaucracy now concentrated in Washington, D.C., out around the whole nation, saving money and bringing jobs to America at the same time?

Why couldn't we national Democrats be as tough on crime as the Republicans? Most of our successful Democratic governors already are.

And why in Heaven's name can't our party be for real tax cuts? In the middle of a recession, the Democrats once had a president who passed a massive tax-cut package. His name was John F. Kennedy. Today, in the middle of a recession, we should be a party advocating for more tax cuts, not less. But we aren't.

America is the most tax-averse country on earth. Our own revolution started with people tossing tea off boats in Boston Harbor … because of high taxes! Being a party that opposes tax cuts is not good politics, anywhere, any time. Like it or not, that's what we've become.

Instead of arguing that Mr. Bush's tax cut goes too far, we Democrats should be arguing that it doesn't go far enough. Middle-class families need more tax relief now as America faces an economic threat we haven't seen since the 1930s — the threat of deflation.

The Federal Reserve has already cut interest rates to the lowest levels in 40 years, and there's not much more it can do. This country needs a massive economic stimulus now, before we head down the road of falling prices, falling wages and falling home values. There is a way out and it works. Let's cut taxes for individuals and business even more, right now.

Good Politics

Now, there's a message Democrats could have run on. It is good policy and it is good politics.

And when you combine good policy and good politics, that's when you win.

Zell Miller is a Democratic United States Senator from Georgia. This article originally appeared in the November 14 edition of The Wall Street Journal.

[Posted November 22, 2002]

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