Just Do What’s Right, Mr. President

Copley News Service, 06/27/2000

As much as I want to see a tax cut enacted this year, I’m coming to the conclusion that the price the president is demanding for his signature on a tax bill is just too steep to pay. Bill Clinton has said the only way he will sign a tax cut into law before he leaves office is in exchange for Congress’ passing a large new health-care entitlement program. That’s presidential extortion, and it’s no way to run a country.

The president should just do what’s right for the country and our economy with no strings or conditions attached. A tax-rate reduction is right for the country, and Clinton is wrong to attach Medicare strings to its enactment.

Even though he may be sincerely of the opinion that his prescription drug proposal also is right for the country, he is distinctly in the minority. His proposal is such a radical departure, and there is so much opposition to it, that the president should see himself honor-and duty-bound not to attempt to jam it down lawmakers’ throats during the waning days of his administration — especially if it means once again denying the country the tax rate reduction he promised as a candidate in 1992 and then reneged on in 1993.

It is remarkable that one of the president’s final acts is to keep the budget surplus in Washington, D.C., rather than send it back to the taxpayers who were overcharged to create it in the first place. Taxes are at an all-time high. Our tax code is a disgrace. Medicare is going broke and in desperate need of reform. And what does the president do? He pretends he “fixed” the tax code in 1993 with the biggest tax increase ever.

He holds a tax cut hostage to being allowed to expand a Medicare program already teetering on the brink of insolvency. He refuses even to consider the bipartisan recommendations of the Medicare Commission that he himself appointed to make suggestions on how to save the seniors’ health-care program from ruin — recommendations that would take care of the prescription drug problem in the only sensible fashion, i.e., incorporating prescription drugs as a part of comprehensive Medicare reform.

Instead, Clinton proposes grafting onto Medicare another Great Society-style, open-ended entitlement that would be guaranteed to accelerate Medicare’s slide into bankruptcy. And one can be sure that the focus-group-tested, $24-dollar-a-month premium he claims the prescription drug coverage will cost seniors is much too low to make the program financially viable.

The bottom line is that President Clinton’s proposed expansion of an already antiquated Medicare program is guaranteed to expand price controls and hasten the day when prescription drugs are rationed to seniors by the government. Ever since the president’s effort to nationalize America’s health-care system in one fell swoop was repudiated back in 1994, he has been trying to accomplish the same end piecemeal. As the clock runs down on his presidency, he has become desperate for something resembling a legacy other than consistently deceiving the American public and the world with bombing innocent civilians in Third-World countries. So, he is reverting to form and attempting to mousetrap the Congress the way he did five years ago when he petulantly shut down the federal government because he didn’t get his way in another showdown over priorities.

Remember back in 1995 when the president used his veto to close down the government in a fit of pique because Congress would not give him all the new spending he demanded? That was another form of extortion. Not only did he hold the entire capital city hostage during a blizzard (few other people in the country outside the Washington, D.C., area even knew the government had shut down), but he blatantly distorted the truth about who really caused the shutdown. I paraphrase the president: “I did not shut down this government, not a single time, never. Congress did, and I need to go back to work.” Since Bill Clinton is so masterful with words, and most of the country wasn’t paying much attention anyway, most people believed him that Congress, not he, had shut down the government.

Well, that was then, this is now. A lot of mendacity has flowed out of the White House since then, and the American public is now much more cognizant of the president’s artful dodging. When the tax cut doesn’t materialize this year, everyone will know who is to blame, Mr. President. You are. No ifs, ands or buts about it. And that’s a shame.