Thursday, October 30, 2003

And now, fiscal responsibility, Republican style. A new corporate tax bill is being designed according to the modern legislative process, in which the role of Congress seems to be to try to keep the lobbyists happy. All of the lobbyists:

U.S. manufacturers of bows and arrows are fleeing in droves for Korea and China," said Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin. The problem, he told members of the House Ways and Means Committee, is that American arrows are hit with a 12.4 percent excise tax, but imported arrows are not.

So it was that members of the tax-writing committee agreed to drop the excise tax on arrows, along with excise taxes for fishing tackle boxes and fish-finding devices that use sonar.

At some point, though, reductions in revenues must be met by reductions in expenditures. And while current budget deficit projections show that the Republicans aren't trying to make that happen anytime soon, they still want to make some gestures by cutting spending where they can -- which is a bit of a problem, since most federal spending is in entitlements of one sort or another, where they can't cut much without major political consequences. And so, the few genuinely discretionary items get mauled. John Ashcroft, for instance, says that the proposed budget will result in a prison system that's too brutal even for him to contemplate easily:

"We do not directly control the number of inmates that enter into our prison system," wrote Mr. Ashcroft. "An overall reduction of the magnitude included in the Senate bill — approximately $270 million below the request — would have a dramatic adverse impact on the staff and inmate safety at existing facilities."

Bear in mind that he's talking about a prison system in which a culture of systematic rape has been tolerated for years.

Also complaining, by the way, is Colin Powell at State -- but that could be justified as reducing redundancy. Rumsfeld at DOD has been trying to do Powell's job for quite some time now...


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