Supply-Side Tax Rebates? - September 10, 2003

Times Watch for September 10, 2003

Supply-Side Tax Rebates?

In his Sunday business story Selling One (or More) for the Gipper, Danny Hakim interviews David Stockman, President Reagans budget director. Stockman, who became a liberal favorite after turning against the Reagan Revolution, seems now to be turning back: He was absolutely right on defense, and I was totally wrong, Mr. Stockman said of Mr. Reagan. The deficit was ballooning and anything I could cut I was for cutting. He was a hundred percent right because that is what brought the Soviet Union down, that is what ended and purged the world of the scourge of Communism, that is what really allowed for the flowering of liberal democracies in the 90's, he said. In Mr. Stockman's view, it also allowed for lower military spending in future years.

Stockman reflects on the Reagan Administrations philosophy of supply-side economics: When Mr. Reagan decided to tap Mr. Stockman, his John Anderson stand-in, as budget chief, supply-side theory got its shot at the big time. We were considered like kooks, he said. What do you mean low tax rates are going to do any good? What do you mean capital gains shouldn't be taxed? What do you mean that if you provide powerful incentives for risk taking that you will get an acceleration in technology?

Reporter Hakim then makes this odd aside: Judging from the $400 tax refund checks that the Bush administration has been sending, it is not just a kooky theory anymore-though many Democrats would beg to differ. Actually, the tax refund checks are the opposite of supply-side economics; they actually represent demand-side, Keynesian economics, with the goal of getting consumers to spend money, as opposed to the supply-side view of cutting taxes on the wealthy to spur investment.

Its also hard to believe the Democrats consider the tax refund kooky, since it was their idea in the first place (one Bush co-opted for his tax plan).

For the rest of Danny Hakims interview with Reagans budget director David Stockman, click here.

Times Bias Goes Nuclear

Walter Sullivans front-page obituary Wednesday for Edward Teller, father of the H-bomb, is titled: Edward Teller, Is Dead at 95; Fierce Architect of H-Bomb. (Note: the Times breaks new ground with that headline; the phrase Fierce Architect is apparently original to the Times.)

Sullivan opens: Few, if any, physicists of this century have generated such heated debate as Edward Teller. Much of it centered on his decade-long effort to produce the hydrogen bomb, his ardent promotion of nuclear weapons in general, his deep suspicion of Soviet intentions and his opposition to curtailment of nuclear testing. His frustrations in seeking to win support for development of the hydrogen bomb led to his testimony that helped deprive J. Robert Oppenheimer, who directed the development of the first atomic bomb, of his security clearance. The result in much of the scientific community was a backlash against Dr. Teller that clouded the rest of his life.

Sullivan later describes the controversy in loaded terms: A large part of the scientific community, dismayed at the witch-hunting of the McCarthy era, aware of long-standing friction between Dr. Teller and Dr. Oppenheimer, and loyal to the leader of the original atomic bomb project, turned its back on Dr. Teller. (A recent book, "Brotherhood of the Bomb, by historian Gregg Herken, claims that Oppenheimer, head of the Los Alamos laboratory, was a Communist Party member in the late 30s and early 40s.)

The Washington Posts obituary of Teller manages a more neutral view, both in content-no allegations of witch-hunting-and headline: Edward Teller, Father of the H-Bomb, Dies at 95.

For the rest of the Times obituary to Teller, click here.

Antiquated Alabama Rejects Tax Hike

Wednesdays story by David Halbfinger, Alabama Voters Crush Tax Plan Sought by Governor, tells how Alabama voters by a 2-1 margin rejected a tax hike favored by Republican Gov. Bob Riley. Halbfinger implies Alabamas No vote on Rileys daring tax hike proposal leaves the states antiquated finances stuck in a previous century: Mr. Riley's background as a congressman and acolyte of Newt Gingrich, who had never voted to raise taxes, cast a national spotlight on Alabama's fiscal crisis, even as other Republican governors from Georgia to Nevada have turned to tax increases to keep afloat. None, though, was as daring as Mr. Riley, who sought to bring his state's antiquated finances into the 21st century in one fell swoop.

Halbfinger adds: Mr. Riley decided to tackle not just the budget, but also the whole tax structure. Rather than ask for a tax increase just to plug a deficit, he reasoned, he ought to deliver something big in the bargain, like a dramatically improved school system. But as the D.C. school system shows, higher taxes and increased spending dont automatically equal dramatic improvements in public education.

For the rest of David Halbfingers story on Alabamas tax vote, click here.

Estrada Questions Unasked

A Wednesday editorial, Straight Talk on Judicial Nominees, defends Senate Democrats opposition to Bush federal judgeship nominee, Miguel Estrada, who recently withdrew his name from consideration. The Times editorial states as fact: Mr. Estrada would not answer senators questions. But as Robert Alt notes on National Review Online, that might be because the senators wouldnt ask him any: First, [Senate opponents] alleged that he failed to answer their questions. But Estrada answered all the questions that he felt would not violate the canons of judicial ethics. He then offered to answer any questions the senators had in follow-up, but very few even bothered to submit questions.

For the rest of the Times editorial on Estrada, click here.