Saturday, March 12, 2005


Sat Mar 5, 7:59 PM ET
By David M. Shribman


Blame not the heartless Republicans nor the spendthrift Democrats for the deficit.

Just when you thought there was no chance left and right could agree on anything, when you thought the primary colors red and blue could defy the natural world (where they meld quite nicely, which is why we have the splendid color purple) and clash in the political world (where the two colors repel each other), we have the biggest, the gaudiest, the most perfidious secret political agreement of our time.

Let's face the truth: The Republicans and the Democrats are conspiring to create, to perpetuate and to luxuriate in the deficit.

These distinguished solons of both sides haven't actually gathered secretly in the Senate Caucus Room, nor sent secret plenipotentiaries to each side, nor even dispatched conciliatory cakes and Bibles to each other.

A few days ago, the revered ancient mariner, Alan Greenspan (news - web sites), intoned the predictable diagnosis that the budget deficit was "unsustainable," thereby ending yet another myth in the capital, the one that says that Washington listens to what the Federal Reserve (news - web sites) chairman says.

Just as the War of 1812 was Mr. Madison's war, the deficit of 2005 is Mr. Bush's deficit.

Because it's not their deficit, it's not their problem.

The bigger the deficit, the better their argument that the president is an irresponsible steward of the national economy, and (to borrow a phrase from the president's father, no stranger to the dangers of the deficit straits), the beauty thing is that the midterm congressional elections aren't that far away.

Extending the expiring tax cuts will account for $1.6 trillion growth in the deficit.

The last time the deficit was a big issue was in the Reagan-Bush years, when the Republicans held the White House and the Democrats still had some power on Capitol Hill.

One thing we know for sure: There won't be a deficit summit this time like the one the first President Bush (news - web sites) endorsed in 1990, the one that brought a tax increase and, it is easy to argue, the ascendancy of conservative insurgents and the end of the Bush presidency.

Bill Clinton (news - web sites) pushed through a deficit-reduction pact and lost control of the Congress.

The deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product was a lot higher in the Reagan years -- 6 percent of GDP (news - web sites) in 1983, as opposed to 3.6 percent last year.

In the 1980s and 1990s this was a meteorite somewhere out there in the cosmos, maybe heading our way, maybe not.

In the first decade of the 21st century, the meteor showers are visible to the human eye, and the only question is where the crater will be.

He knew many things, but most of all he knew one thing, the way tax politics works: "Don't tax you, don't tax me.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer

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