Earth to Air Force One: 129 years ago, the telegraph made possible instantaneous communication across the continent, so watch what you say.
Two weeks after President Bush said in Washington that the first deficit-reduction deal was "balanced" and "fair," he said in Hawaii that the revision of it (he supported passage of the revision) made him "gag" and demonstrates why voters should throw out the rascally Democrats.
Deal II does increase taxes and spending even more than Deal I would have. But Bush supported both, whereas House Republicans opposed both by a better than 2-to-1 margin. Republican candidates trying to unseat Democratic incumbents are nearly unanimous against both deals. The Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank, says people should ask if it is worth paying 5 more cents for a gallon of gasoline so the government can spend:
Twenty-eight-and-a-half million on salary increases for congressional members and staff (devouring the tax increase on 570 million gallons of gasoline), $1 million to study bicycling and walking and an additional $50,000 for a staffer to oversee the study, $500,000 for a tribute to Lawrence Welk, $100,000 for research on soybean-based ink, $100,000 to study the sand on Waikiki Beach, a $3.6 million urban-gardening program, $205,000 for a Cleveland theater, $50,000 for seedless grape research in Arkansas, and so on and on and on and on and... .
The famous $84,000 study on why people fall in love and a $2,500 study on the causes of rudeness on the tennis court are in the past. But the Heritage Foundation's list of less-than-vital spending covers about 25 pages, and the list is not exhaustive. Many of the spending programs might be defensible were the budget in surplus. But few of the programs are remotely necessary, so none belongs in a budget that has been served up slathered in the budget-makers' self-serving rhetoric about the need for taxpayers to "sacrifice" to solve the nation's "crisis."
What the nation needs is an argument about what constitutes a proper federal-government undertaking. That argument might be advanced by, of all things, negative campaign commercials. Such commercials may denounce incumbents for casting votes for programs the incumbents knew nothing about.
Slabs of pork are packed into the 13 huge appropriations bills that are not only unwieldy but also generally unread other than by a few members and committee staffs.
Of course such negative ads will be magnificently hypocritical. Every challenger using them against an incumbent will know that his district hardly has an aversion to its own pork.
Entitlement programs, not pork, are the principal reason why domestic spending will increase $245 billion (6 percent annually -- not counting the real cost of the savings-and-loan bailout) during the five-year life of the deficit-reduction deal. But pork is not insignificant, monetarily or symbolically, when the government in its "austerity" is planning to spend an additional $1.75 for every $1 of new taxes.
The commander in chief and scourge of contemporary Hitlers says about domestic policy: The Democrats made me do it (raise taxes). Actually, an exploding deficit called his bluff. Republicans could not come up with a serious deficit-reduction package that did not contain either tax increases or politically suicidal spending cuts.
Today Americans believe they cannot trust a syllable a politician says about taxes. That is why New Jersey is so furious about its new Democratic governor, Jim Florio. Elected last November, he is now the nation's second-least popular governor (second to Massachusetts' Dukakis).
Poor fellow, he did what many Democrats now advocate. He raised taxes on everybody, but especially the rich, doubling the top rate and calling the program "fairness." The reaction has been so violent that Ron Brown, the Democrats' chairman, is brazenly denying the bald truth, which is that Florio did not tell the truth.
Asked on network television about Florio, Brown bristled: "When you look at the way Jim Florio has moved, and that is to be honest with the people of New Jersey, and George Bush has moved, and that is to be duplicitous in his explanation of what has happened, I'll take Jim Florio any time."
Network questioner: "He did, however, campaign saying that he saw no need for tax increases, did he not?"
Brown: "He certainly did not say that."
Well. What Florio said was: "I reject the premise that we need new taxes" (5/21/89). "I have no intention of raising any tax" (10/15/89). "I see no need for new taxes" (10/30/89).
Odd. You would think television, even more than the telegraph, would inhibit Brown and Bush from playing so fast and loose with facts. That it does not inhibit them shows what they think of their audience, you.