Just eight traumatic, nerve-wracking days after the insidious Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that killed some 5,000 people, The Wall Street Journal editorial page was urging President Bush and congressional Republicans to ram their rightward-tilting agenda through because, "the bloody attacks have created a unique political moment when Americans of all stars and stripes are uniting behind their president."
Nice of them to wrap their crassly profiteering sentiment in the language of patriotism, but it was political opportunism at its worst.
For a brief moment following Sept. 11, it seemed as if GOP leaders in Washington were going to remain above such partisan lunacy. But with last week's narrow House passage of an irresponsible "economic stimulus" bill hawked by crafty Republican leaders, such hopes have now blown away like so much smoke and dust.
With very little attempt even to disguise what they were up to, House leaders, including Majority Leader Dick Armey and Majority Whip Tom DeLay, managed to cobble together a bare two-vote majority (seven conscientious Republicans voted "nay") to pass a tax-cut package that would do zip for average Americans while heaping billions on some of the nation's largest corporations.
The "stimulus" bill is counter-intuitively loaded with retroactive and permanent tax cuts, while the $2.3 billion earmarked for unemployed workers is a temporary cap-doffing made under duress so the bill wouldn't seem quite such an obvious plundering.
Supporters blathered that the tax cuts would help out small businesses, but the numbers tell a different tale: some $1.4 billion to IBM, $800 million to General Motors and $670 million to General Electric and huge amounts to other, similar "small" businesses. How much of that will wind up in the hands of laid-off workers or new hires, as opposed to those of jittery stockholders? Likely very little. And don't forget, this follows Bush's $2-trillion (that's the low-end estimate) tax cuts from earlier this year.
Even Bush's own Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neill (no liberal, he), gagged on the bill, dismissing it as "show business" designed to prove to fat-cat GOP contributors that their boys on The Hill are serious about bowing in homage to big business. Even Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has warned repeatedly against willy-nilly tax cutting.
But Bush, reprising an unsettling propensity for stabbing his own people in the back, quickly sent out his spokesman to say he was "very pleased" with the package. Privately, House GOP leaders say they crafted the outrageous bill in hopes of improving their bargaining position with the Democrat-led Senate.
That may be, but the fact is, Armey, DeLay, Bush and their ilk would keel over and die happy if they could hand these giveaways to those who need it least in a time of crisis. After all, the GOP leadership is slave to ideology, as their outlandish resistance to federalizing airport security if that isn't the very definition of a federal function, what is? demonstrates.
The Journal (which urged not only tax cuts, but immediate Arctic drilling, hustling conservative judges before the Senate and other conservative goodies on Sept. 19) may think an orgy for corporations and the well-to-do in wartime (which we're in, as Bush keeps reminding us) a swell idea, but history says "not so fast": Neither the House nor Senate has ever passed such an enormous tax cut during wartime.
Americans should be outraged at this opportunism, and should protest, but they shouldn't be surprised. As stuck as GOP ideologues have become, we're we wouldn't be surprised to learn that some think the way to bring Osama bin Laden to heel ... is to give him a tax cut.
Copyright 2001 The Daily Camera.