Wednesday, June 30, 1999
these common sense reforms
By DAVE HAMRICK
House Republicans last week laid out their domestic agenda, preempting the president, who presented his domestic agenda shortly afterward.
(Interestingly, CNN covered the GOP press conference, in which a program called lock box for Social Security, discussed in Congress for several months, was discussed. But during the president's press conference Monday, CNN maintained a headline under the president's face stating: President proposes `lock box' for Social Security. They never quit.)
The Republicans presented some good ideas. In fact, I find myself in the unusual situation of being in favor of every single one of them.
Here are the main points of their presentation:
Use Social Security and Medicaid taxes only for Social Security and Medicaid. Previously, the government has borrowed against the Social Security Trust Fund as a bookkeeping gimmick to make the deficit look smaller. This would end that.
They make it sound more dramatic than it is, saying they're going to lock away Social Security funds so they can't be used for anything else, as if someone were trying to take money directly out of Social Security and use it to pave an expressway somewhere. That's not the case, but it's still the right thing to take the trust fund out of the general flow of dollars so we can see exactly how big the deficit is.
Eliminate the death tax. This one makes me want to cheer. The death tax is the most onerous of taxes for two reasons: it taxes money that has already been taxed during the lifetime of the deceased, and it forces families to sell off assets after a patriarch or matriarch passes away in order to pay the taxes.
Fayette County has numerous farm families who will benefit if this goes through. Currently, if a farm owner dies and the land and buildings are worth enough money, his heirs have to come up with cash to pay taxes on half of that net worth. If the land is worth $5 million, not at all out of the question in Fayette, the heirs have to come up with $2.5 million cash. The only way out is to sell the land and break up the farm.
That's not right.
General tax cuts. Republicans are asking the president to join them in working for reductions in overall taxes for a variety of reasons: to stimulate the economy, to help middle class workers, to encourage those who want to be stay-home moms or dads... But the biggest reason is a simple one: taxes are too high. Taking half of everything a family earns is not right. Period.
Eliminate the marriage tax penalty. Married couples who both work currently pay more taxes than they would if they were single, paying separately. It's not the biggest problem the country is facing, but it should be fixed.
Education savings accounts. You wouldn't have to pay taxes on the interest on money you're saving for education. We shouldn't pay taxes on savings interest at all, but this is a good step in the right direction.
Education programs that help fund local boards of education rather than using all the money to support Washington bureaucracies and task forces. A bunch of egg heads meeting in some posh congressional committee room somewhere cannot possibly figure out how to make education better in Fayette County. They just can't.
Increased funding for the military. We've been over this one several times before.
One thing is glaringly missing from the GOP agenda: a balanced budget amendment. I know they don't have the votes to get it through the House, but in my opinion Republicans should put it on the agenda and vote on it every year if necessary until there are enough like-minded people in Washington to get it passed.
If we get a Republican in the White House next election, and if we maintain the Republican Congress, we'll probably make some real progress in the direction of a truly balanced budget, and get some tax relief in the process. But we won't be truly free from the whims of some future spend-happy Congress until we state in the Constitution that the Congress can't spend money it doesn't have.
Still, if Republican leaders will keep pushing good, common sense ideas like this, they'll have a good chance in the 2000 elections.