Read His Lips
Opinion of The New York Times
Saturday 16 August 2003
After presiding over a two-year binge of tax cuts, a rocketing federal deficit and job losses that recall the Herbert Hoover era, President Bush appears ready to step away from the supply-side gaming table, at least for a while. Mr. Bush announced Wednesday that he sensed enough of an economic upturn to reject any immediate plans for yet another tax cut. He estimates that the effects of two years of giddy revenue-slashing - geared heavily toward the wealthiest Americans - are looking "robust enough" to hold off on more cuts.
We accept the respite as an act of fiscal mercy rather than a cause for economic celebration. The Republicans' chokehold on the nation's revenue flow is doing far more to create debt and deficits than to create jobs, but it is a relief to know that Mr. Bush is not planning to do any more major damage in the immediate future.
Certainly things are bad enough as it is. Over nine million Americans are unemployed, and close to three million jobs have disappeared during Mr. Bush's incumbency, leaving him in danger of facing the voters next year as the first president since Hoover to preside over a net job loss. The Democratic candidates in the current scrum are rubbing their hands at this prospect. But most of them have been unwilling to call candidly for the tax cuts' repeal, and so far none have been able to attract much attention above the din of California's recall.
Strutting forth in the Texas heat this week, the president and his chief economic advisers looked like a "Magnificent Seven" tableau of economic optimists marching toward the looming campaign. "Hold the line" was Mr. Bush's surreal spending advice for a Republican-controlled Congress that has been more co-conspirator than deficit hawk in Washington's detax-and-spend mania.
As Mr. Bush's "growth" program rolls out, the richest 1 percent of Americans can expect an estimated 17 percent cut in their taxes by 2010, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. The other 99 percent get a 5 percent cut - along with accumulated deficits of $4 billion or more across the next 10 years and the lost chance that the now-vanished surplus might be used to protect their future Social Security benefits.