The Republican Honesty Deficit

Security taxes (which both parties say shouldn't be used for current spending, though it is), will average about $1.35 trillion a year – or $450 billion a year less than just the "big 7" programs on which Republicans want to spend more.

The reduction in income taxes enacted under President Bush accounts for most of this gap.

Since the GOP thinks income tax rates should continually be reduced, they obviously believe we should fund government activities they support in one of two ways.

First, we can borrow huge amounts from our children (which is the GOP's present plan). Or, we can at some point raise payroll and other retirement taxes, which means funding government through taxes that impose a greater burden on lower- and middle-income citizens. The income tax, by contrast, is progressive.

Mathematically, these are the only options available, given that Republicans, rhetoric aside, aren't interested in cutting government spending.

This, then, is today's spectacle: "Family values" Republicans are sticking the kids with the bill for current spending while railing fraudulently against the "big government" they support.

Then they attack Democrats for offering the radical idea that we ought to pay for the spending we all agree we want (and that's before we even begin fighting about other things government might do – like cover the uninsured, or help poor children get better teachers).

If we had a functioning press corps – one that simply presented these facts again and again – the fiscal and moral fraud of the GOP position would be self-evident.

Instead, today's press corps chews endlessly over the political jockeying. "Does Bush have Democrats in a bind because they have to talk about repealing his tax cuts?" they ask, rather than laying out the facts that show that Bush's positions are an obvious hoax.

So much for our "adversarial" press! And because the White House knows top editors and producers will think that repeating these tougher questions and analyses would seem too "biased," they can count on "he-said, she-said" coverage to leave citizens confused.

This confusion is the Republican goal.

Is this Republican hoax really sustainable? As both political parties know, the answer largely depends on how the press views its responsibilities in the coming election cycle.

It's time for editors and producers to hammer home some basic civic facts instead of continuing their overwhelming – and lazy – emphasis on "the politics" of every debate.

© 2003 Matthew Miller

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Matt Miller

Senior Fellow