The Republican party is supposed to be the party of fiscal responsibility. That's one of the things I really like about the GOP. But somehow, things have gone seriously wrong. The deficit spending is out of control. Bush did not veto a single spending bill.
OK. Fiscal responsibility is not so much about lowering budgets per se as mich as it is about balancing budgets. But Bush hasn't done that at all. Instead, he keeps increasing spending and lowering taxes. That just doesn't make any sense.
And now we get to a huge beef for me: taxes.
Bush has made it a stated goal that he is going to cut taxes every year that he is in office, regardless of circumstance. What kind of policy is that? It certainly isn't a principled one unless "tax cuts" is a principle. Look--tax cuts are not always wise. Sometimes, yes. Always? No. (Unless you are a Libertarian who thinks that all taxes are immoral by nature.)
Tax cuts are great if the tax burden is too high. But there was no evidence that it was too high. The Clinton boom years were evidence that the economy can do just fine with taxes at the Clinton levels. The tax burden was not too high and it did not need to be cut as a matter of general fiscal health.
OK, getting beyond "tax cuts no matter what", we come to "tax cuts for the rich". Yes, I know, Bush cut taxes for everyone. I'm not ignoring that. And yes I'm aware that when you cut taxes for everyone, the rich benefit the most because they were the ones paying the most to begin with. I'm not talking about that kind of "tax cuts for the rich". I'm talking about a redistribution of the tax burden from one section of society to another. That is to say, I'm talking about when one group pays a larger percentage of overall taxes than before due to changes in the tax law.
To the extent that the burden has shifted off the poor and onto the middle class, that's great. Progressive taxation is a very good thing. And make no mistake about it, Bush has done this. The poor pay a smaller percentage of all taxes collected than before. That's great. However, to the extent that the tax burden has shifted off the rich and onto the middle class, that's not so good. And make no mistake about it, that has happened too. You cannot make the argument that the rich were being overtaxed before; prior to Bush, the top 5% of earners earned 33% of all income, and paid 40% of all taxes (this includes all taxes, not just income tax). That's barely more than a flat tax. Since the cuts, which have shifted the burden off the rich to some extent, (and remember that the rich have been getting richer while the middle class and the poor are bringing home less real income than four years ago), the top 5% of earners are now earning more than 33% of all income and paying less than 40% of all taxes. Which is to say that they are now near or at a flat tax level, or possibly even in regressive taxation levels.
Bush likes to cut various non-income taxes calling them "double taxation". That sounds reasonable until you realize that after you have an income tax, every other tax counts as double taxation. His logic and actions are in accord here--Bush wants to cut all taxes besides the income tax. And as Edwards points out, that means that the only people who will get taxed are the people who work for their money. Everyone who gets their income from investments, or dividends, or inheritance, they won't get taxed at all. That is not the correct way to encourage hard work.
Bush treats tax cuts like they are some sort of magic wand. But tax cuts can't balance the budget. Tax cuts can't reduce the deficit. Bush's blind faith in the power of tax cuts and his unrestrained spending make him an unacceptable choice for president.