Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

EDITORIAL>>Holiday spirit missing in D.C.

Christmas in the Year of Our Lord 2005 in Washington, D.C., finds little children, the sick, the meek and the poor in spirit more out of fashion than ever before in our nation’s capital.

The disciples are decidedly out of fashion, too, having been replaced by the less sentimental Grover Norquist and Ayn Rand.

Working into the night Wednesday, the Senate voted 51-50 for legislation that was called a deficit-reduction package because over five years it will reduce federal spending in a few programs by $39.7 billion, a trifle over 2 percent of the projected deficits over that period.

It would come out of what — corporate subsidies, investor entitlements, defense procurement?

No, it will primarily come from the neediest Americans: the elderly, the disabled and those who depend on Medicaid for their treatment and medicine. Some $12.6 billion would come from loan guarantees that help kids from working families go to college.

The Senate at least eliminated far more punitive measures against the poor and elderly that Tom DeLay’s House of Representatives had crafted and that President Bush wanted.

Still, enough Republicans refused to go along with the cuts that Vice President Cheney had to cut short his celebratory tour of the war zones so that he could cast a tie-breaking vote for the reconciliation bill.

Sen. Bill Frist, the majority leader, said the bill was a down-payment on the Republican promise to curb deficit spending.

The package was put together to blunt criticism that the GOP had become the party of deficits and fiscal doom.
Soon we will see very quietly the fruits of its work in our neighborhoods.

But don’t expect to see the deficit shrink. That is because of the other half of Congress’ seasonal blessings upon the country. To avoid the obvious judgment that the government was taking from the poor and giving to the rich, the Republican leadership separated a $70 billion package of tax cuts for corporations and well-to-do Americans, including future reductions in tax rates on stock dividends and other investment profits. They will pass it after the first of the year. Cheney’s vote may be needed then, too.

The net result by 2010 will be not a deficit reduction of $39.7 billion but an additional $30.3 billion of debt.

Senators Blanche Lincoln, who has sometimes shown a fondness for tax cuts for the super-rich, and Mark Pryor were targeted by the Republicans, but both voted against the fake deficit plan. Lincoln said she did not want people with disabilities and children to foot the bill for big tax cuts for the wealthy.

May the blessings of the season be upon them.