George Herbert Walker Bush has obviously never read the memoirs of Harry S Truman or Hubert Humphrey, and Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) has. Had the very capable gentleman who now serves as president read these memoirs he would have avoided the weeks of contretemps that he has suffered in budget negotiations, and with Gingrich at his side he might now be leading Republican challengers to victory against incumbent Democrats all over the country. Yet because President Bush is a gentleman, he has had his "no new taxes" policy and much of his Reaganite allure denied him. He is headed for a terrible midterm defeat.
In the memoirs of Truman and Humphrey, our gentlemanly president would discover why he has just been taken to the cleaners by the Democrats and perhaps why his most useful lieutenant on Capitol Hill is Gingrich, the Republican whip who led the brassy Republican revolt against the Washington establishment's budget deal of a couple of weeks back. Truman, at ease in retirement, and Humphrey, honored and loved at the end of a distinguished career, both wrote memoirs containing much good sense and many interesting observations; but never does either man pass up an opportunity for partisan sniping. Neither commits the ultimate faux pas as a successful Democrat to leave on record a generous reference to any living member of the loyal opposition. Newt Gingrich will someday write similar memoirs, or he will not be true to his political instincts.
He will also not remain the asset to the republic that he now is. He is a defender of the wisdom of the 1980s. In Washington he is the defender of the taxpayers' 1980s tax cuts. Thus he is our staunch champion of economic growth. He recognizes that only economic growth can diminish the size of the deficit as a percentage of gross national product -- which is all that can be hoped for in balancing the budget, given the prodigal ways of Washington's establishment. Gingrich is also one of the few Republicans capable of emulating what is best in the Democratic politicoes. I have in mind the Democrats' edifying ardor for eye-gouges, blows below the belt -- and venomous partisanship. The Democrats are our nation's most professional politicians. I admire them.
Gingrich has made the astute observation that a Democrat rises with the sun and contemplates the many ways he can bring mischief to Republicans. The Republican contemplates what he can do to govern. Bush has been duly concerned about the growing deficit, but he made the mistake of believing that the Democrats would compromise on their lust to spend if he would compromise on his pious promises against higher taxes. The Democrats have compromised nothing. We know that the president has joined with the Democrats in support of deficit-reduction agreements and raised taxes. What very few Americans know is that these agreements do not cut spending. The original deal that Gingrich killed would have allowed an 8 percent increase in spending from fiscal 1990 to fiscal 1991, an increase far in excess of inflation. As Ronald Reagan learned in 1982, Democrats are biologically incapable of spending cuts.
A major reason for the federal deficit is the swarm of voracious lobbyists feasting off budget bills. When tax rates are high, the lobbyists are particularly successful in arranging exemptions for special interests. Consequently upper-income earners pay less in taxes, and the middle classes pay more. When Ronald Reagan lowered marginal tax rates in 1981 and 1986, these exemptions lost value or were pared back. Hence, through the 1980s there was a shift in actual tax burden away from the middle class to the rich. The day the budget negotiators began negotiating higher taxes the lobbyists converged on the negotiators, and the exemptions and subsidies spread like viruses.
Sen. George Mitchell's constituents in the boat-building industry got theirs. Sen. Bob Dole's constituents in the aircraft industry were remembered. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen's supporters in the oil patch, Sen. Pat Moynihan's friends in the arts, all the wheelers and dealers have returned to raise the cost of government for the middle class. There is nothing new here, save the arrival of Gingrich and his rebels. They oppose taxes, favor growth and promise to gouge and rabbit-punch their way to victory over the Washington establishment. Bush should wish them well.
1990, King Features Syndicate, Inc.