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It is finally Edward Kennedy's moment

By Vin Suprynowicz
web posted January 28, 2002

Sen. Edward Kennedy was once embarrassed by an interviewer asking why, precisely, he wanted to be president.

The senator from Massachusetts and Palm Beach has since pulled back from what once seemed a perpetual candidacy for the mantle of his two martyred brothers along with his party's top electoral nomination. But an argument can now be made that he might in fact make the perfect standard bearer for his party in 2004, possibly joined on the ticket by the junior senator from New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Why? Democrats running in more closely contested states, like Sen. Majority Leader Tom Daschle, tend to dilute their Democratic bona fides, careful to beat around the bush (sorry) in their criticism of the quite moderate tax cuts won by our new president last spring, realizing that allowing themselves to be seen calling for (what amount to) tax hikes during a recession -- the better to satisfy the appetites of their real constituency, the unionized Beltway bureaucrats -- might not play too well out on the hustings.

Sen. Edward Kennedy Sen. Hillary Clinton
Kennedy-Clinton for 2004

But the sinecure of an old liberal lion like Sen. Kennedy is so secure that he's set free to join Sen. Clinton in advancing the true Year 2002 Democratic Party agenda, without any undue concern for what "swing" voters may think.

Rather than allowing the tax cuts to go forward quickly enough to help the economy in the short term, Democrats last year managed to win a "gradual phase-in" of President Bush's modest tax rate cuts, with virtually none taking effect till 2005, and most of the impact back-loaded as late as 2010.

But no modern Democrat has ever stuck with a compromise for longer than it took to shake hands, of course. In a Jan. 16 speech at the National Press Club in Washington, Sen. Kennedy joined Sen. Clinton in calling for a "postponement" of $350 billion in scheduled tax cuts already approved, arguing of course that the cuts will benefit primarily "the rich," since Democrats define "the rich" as virtually anyone who pays taxes, rather than a net recipient of government handouts.

Explaining that the added federal revenues resulting from his tax hike would be used to expand the grip of the federal government over the education and health care industries, Sen. Kennedy has just pushed his party into "the killing fields for Democratic politicians," remarked a gleeful Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. "If the 2002 election is about raising taxes, we will have a Republican Senate."

But it was left to Stephen Moore of the Cato Institite, writing for the National Review online under the headline "See Ted Lie," to point out the real depth of the irony here.

"Sen. Ted Kennedy is arguably the biggest spending politician in the history of the United States," Moore points out. "There may be no member of Congress in either party whose spending initiatives are more responsible for our $4 trillion national debt than Ted Kennedy.

"For more than 30 years, Kennedy has been a major driving force in Congress for expansions in Medicare and Medicaid, food stamps, and public housing, and hundreds of other pricey federal programs that have caused a quadrupling in the size of the budget since Ted's father bought him a seat in the United States Senate. He cosponsored this year's dreadful education bill that will nearly double the federal education budget over the next five years."

Since the National Taxpayers Union has given Kennedy a lifetime "F" grade for his disservice to the taxpayers and his utter disregard for fiscal sanity, "There is more than a little irony in Ted Kennedy now giving holier-than-thou lectures about fiscal responsibility," Mr. Moore continues.

With what amounts to a new "trillion-dollar tax-hike scheme ... Kennedy seems to be making the nonsensical argument that if we increase the tax penalties on investment, business expansion, and job creation, we will get more investment, business expansion, and job creation."

But then Mr. Moore gets critical.

Although Sen. Kennedy managed to blast the Bush tax cuts Wednesday for causing the recession, eating up the surplus, and driving up interest rates and unemployment, the facts are:

-- Kennedy blames a tax cut -- 75 percent of which has not even taken effect yet, "for an economic downturn that began at least six months before the tax plan was even passed into law."

-- Kennedy says that tax cuts are causing higher interest rates when interest rates have fallen, not risen, during the Bush presidency.

-- Kennedy says the tax cut is responsible for the $150 billion reduction in the surplus in 2001, "but the only tax cut that has taken effect so far has been the $40 billion tax rebate, which was the Democrats' own idea." Tax-rate cuts can't possibly have caused the shrinkage of the deficit "because tax rates haven't been cut yet. (You have to wait till 2005 or so for those cuts.)"

Most pathetically, given that the only reason Sen. Kennedy is electorally bulletproof is because he bears the same last name as his martyred older brother John, all this "is certainly not John F. Kennedy economics," Mr.

Moore concludes. "It was almost exactly 40 years ago when President Kennedy called for a 30 percent across the board income-tax-rate cut," which actually cut taxes for "the rich" more than President Bush would.

"JFK argued that high tax rates were one of the primary deterrents to prosperity ... and argued that every American should receive a tax rate reduction, because 'a rising tide of prosperity will lift all boats.' JFK understood what his little brother can't comprehend: that when the rich face lower tax rates, they will save, invest, work, and hire more."

Run, Ted, run. Socialism can't survive you by long, anyway -- so why not take it down in a final blaze of glory?

Vin Suprynowicz , author of "Send in the Waco Killers," is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Subscribe to his monthly newsletter by sending $96 to Privacy Alert, 561 Keystone Ave., Suite 684, Reno, NV 89503 -- or dialing 775-348-8591.

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