And this week, sixteen months into his Administration, the President advised a fund-raising gathering to blame the Democrats for the economic mess the Republicans have created. On the other side, some Democrats suggest we should do nothing and simply wait for the economy and the Administration to collapse. I disagree with that as sharply as I disagree with those Republicans who are intent primarily on finding a political exit. As the only Senator up for re-election in 1982 who voted against the Reagan tax cut, I believe we do have an obligation to offer an economic alternative. Along with a number of my colleagues in the Senate, I tried to do so last year. I believe our suggestions then are even more urgent now, for we face a budget crisis of unprecedented size. It is a painful irony that the President who came to power on a promise to provide jobs and balance the budget has given us the highest unemployment since the Depression and the highest deficits in history. If we do nothing, the deficits will soar to staggering levels to over $200 billion in the next three years, triple the size of any previous deficit in any previous Administration. Now Democrats have sometimes been accused of being big spenders but this is ridiculous. Nor is it an anwer to suggest that we amend the Constitution to require a balanced budget, but not until sometime in the future, after this Administration leaves office. That is what President Reagan has done; it is the budgetary equivalent of St. Augustine’s prayer of long ago: “Oh, God, save me from my sins but not yet.” I favor a balanced budget, but I reject this transparent constitutional quick-fix. The amendment they are offering is the constitutional equivalent in the 1980s of the prohibition amendment in the 1920s. It won’t work, and it may well make all our economic problems worse. I hope that Congress, or at least the state legislatures, will have the common sense to defeat this , uncommon scheme by the Republicans to turn their voodoo economics into voodoo constitutional laws. There may not be a unanimous consensus on a Democratic economic alternative but I can outline a Democratic alternative on taxes and spending to cut the federal deficit in half over the next three years, and can make a balanced budget possible by 1986 or 1987. First, on the revenue side, we should revise the excessive and unfair tax cuts enacted last year. We should repeal indexing and defer the third year of the Kemp-Roth tax cut. We must close the most flagrant loopholes which make no economic sense of fairness. None of us oppose tax deductions for energy exploration but the oil companies did not need last year’s tax giveaway of $33 billion. I do not oppose reasonable provisions for corporate leasing of tax incentives, but last year’s leasing rules have become food stamps for the richest enterprises. They are a social safety net for the least needy in our society. And I continue to favor equitable and effective incentives to help reindustrialize America. That was a central position of my 1980 campaign; it is an urgent matter for the nation now. But I de not believe we should give the same incentive for land speculation as for steel modernization. We must target tax incentives or we will only be given away federal revenues without gaining economic growth. We must also repeal the improvident and indiscriminate depreciation provisions that will create a negative income tax for many industries later in this decade. We can modify corporate tax policy to make it both fairer and more effective. The changes will eliminate some windfalls, but they can enhance economic growth. In particular, if would be unfair to leave unjustified loopholes untouched and to leave the third year of the tax cut intact, and then try to balance the budget on the backs of average citizens, the needy, the elderly, and the middle class. The President has now demanded a $40 billion cut in Social Security. I will oppose it. We need address long range problems in the Social Security system but those problems must not become a pretext for savaging the elderly, in order to salvage the Reagan tax cut for the truly wealthy. Second, we must make an honest effort, in both domestic and defense policy, to restrain the growth of federal spending. One area where cuts can prudently be made is the one area where increases have been so profligately approved. By the Administration’s own reckoning, military spending in 1985 alone will more than equal all federal spending from the ratification of the Constitution until 1945. We can strengthen our national defense without impaling our economy on wasteful goldplated weapons systems like the MX missile and the B-1 bomber. And a bilateral nuclear weapons freeze with the Soviet Union could save $100 billion over the next five years, and bring us greater national security in the bargain. But those of us who share this view must be careful not to make ourselves a mirror image of the Administration, which mindlessly seems to favor indefensible defense increases and indiscriminate domestic cuts. We must insist on the efficiency of both military and domestic programs. If a program such as health planning grants fails, then we should alter it or abolish it. The measure of a program should not be purpose alone, but its actual productivity. We should develop measures of productivity for example, to reward job training efforts that are the most successful in placing trainees in jobs. And those that are least successful should be abolished. For progressives to be credible, we must defend social justice but we must oppose faltering programs. Our purpose is not action for its own sake, or regulation or deregulation for its own sake, but enduring values of progress, compassion, and an end to discrimination. We must be willing to set clear and measurable standards and to enforce them. Many states and cities do it and so can Washington. In many cases, we can judge a program’s worth in part by whether local communities and private investors will pay a fair share of the bill for it. Above all else, we must not confuse our programs with our principles. In closing, let me express my personal admiration for all of you who joined in the work of the Center for National Policy a year ago, when the progressive future seemed difficult and dark. Since then, the battle has sometimes been lonely. But you did not abandon the struggle. You know that we need new ideas and new faces but that we also need the backbone to stand for ideals in which we have always believed, and which are at isssue today as much as in the past ideals of hope, opportunity and equality. There are those who say that our vision is out of style and that it is time to be fashionable, non-committal, and evasive. But I reply: We must never be willing to cut our convictions to fit the fashion of reaction. No fight worth waging was ever won by quietly surrendering or by trying to join the other side. This year, and in the years to come, progressives must be a continuing center of creativity, a tireless force for moving America forward. We must be, as Democrats have been at our best, an advocate for the average man and woman, a voice for the voiceless, a party for the powerless, a source of strength for those who suffer and are weak. On their behalf, I will conduct my own 1982 campaign. For their sake, I intend to seek and to win re-election to the United States Senate. And from that place, I will continue to demand that for all those whose cause has been the commitment of the Democratic Party, our conscience shall not fail, our convictions shall not tire, our courage shall not dim, and our work shall continue until our common dream comes true in this land and in the life of all the world. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21
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