The 1st 28 Questions For Kerry
By George F. Will
Sunday, February 15, 2004; Page B07
In the more than 250 days until Nov. 2, John Kerry can answer questions that
despite, or because of, all he has said so far. Such as:
Other than denoting your
disapproval, what does the
adjective mean in the phrase
"special interest"? Is the National
Education Association a special
interest? The AFL-CIO?
You abhor "special tax giveaways
for the privileged and special
interests." When supporting
billions in ethanol subsidies,
mostly for agribusinesses, did you
think about corn-growing,
Is the National Rifle Association a "special interest"? Is "special" a synonym
When you denounce "lobbyists" do you include those for Planned Parenthood and
Sierra Club? Is "liberal lobbyist" an oxymoron?
All the Americans affected by laws you pass -- that is, all Americans -- refuse
down and mind their own business so that you can mind their business for them.
they hire lobbyists to exercise their First Amendment right to "petition the
for a redress of grievances." Can you despise lobbyists without disparaging
You say the rich do not pay enough taxes. In 1979 the top 1 percent of earners
19.75 percent of income taxes. Today they pay 36.3 percent. How much is enough?
You say the federal government is not spending enough on education. President
has increased education spending 48 percent. How much is enough?
In January 1991, after Iraq extinguished Kuwait's sovereignty, you opposed
responding with force rather than economic sanctions. Have such sanctions ever
undone such aggression?
On Jan. 11, 1991, you said that going to war was abandoning "the theory of
deterrence." Was it not a tad late to deter Iraqi aggression?
The next day you said, "I do not believe our nation is prepared for war." How
unpreparedness subsequently manifest itself?
On Jan. 22, 1991, responding to a constituent opposed to the Persian Gulf War,
wrote "I share your concerns" and would have given sanctions more time. Nine
later, responding to a voter who favored the war, you wrote, "I have strongly
unequivocally supported President Bush's response to the crisis." Did you have
You say the Bush administration questions "the patriotism" of its critics. You
as president you will "appoint a U.S. trade representative who is an American
patriot." You mean the current representative, Robert Zoellick, is not a
You strongly praise former Treasury secretary Bob Rubin, who strongly supports
NAFTA and free trade. Have you changed your mind about him or about free trade
(as you have changed your mind about the No Child Left Behind Act, the 2002 war
resolution, the Patriot Act, etc.)?
You oppose immediate termination of U.S. involvement in Iraq, and you opposed
$87 billion to pay for involvement. Come again?
In 1994, the year after the first
attack on the World Trade
Center, you voted to cut $1
billion from counterterrorism
activities. In 1995 you proposed
a $1.5 billion cut in intelligence
funding. Are you now glad that
both proposals were defeated?
You favor civil unions but not
same-sex marriage. What is the
difference? What consequences
of gay marriage worry you? Your
state's highest court says marriage
is "an evolving paradigm." Do you
agree? You say you agree with what Dick Cheney said in 2000: States should have
right to "come to different conclusions" about same-sex marriage. Why, then,
you one of only 14 senators who opposed the Defense of Marriage Act, which
protects that right? Massachusetts opponents of the same-sex ruling are moving
referendum to amend the state constitution to define marriage as between a man
woman. How will you vote?
You favor full disclosure of political spending. Organized labor is fighting
regulations requiring full disclosure to union members of the political uses of
mandatory union dues. As president, would you rescind these regulations?
Praising McCain-Feingold restrictions on political contributions, you said:
reduces the power of the checkbook, and I will therefore support it." In
you saved your sagging campaign by writing it a $6.4 million check. Why is your
checkbook's unfettered freedom wholesome?
You deny that restricting campaign contributions restricts speech. How much of
$6.4 million did you spend on speech -- in the form of broadcast messages?
Billionaire George Soros says he will spend whatever is necessary to defeat
Bush. As one who believes -- well, who says -- there is "too much money" in
are you appalled?
There are 28 more questions where these 28 came from.
I saw that in this morning's paper. His tax numbers sounds like a serious
misquote of tax brackets, and are in violent disagreement with the numbers I
hear from more progressive sources.
It would be nice if the right and the left would actually try to cast the
debate in terms of how things affect me, my children and my (very
hypothetical) grandchildren instead of cherrypicking issues that are
flexible enough to be _really_ blown out of proportion and doing just that.
Oh well, enough of this, I'm off to listen to the next sound bite.
Yeah, I think Dr. Will pulled a little bit of a fast one here, implying that
the rich are paying more of their income in taxes. In fact, they're paying
less. And you don't need "more progressive sources." You only need IRS
Will said: "You say the rich do not pay enough taxes. In 1979 the top 1
percent of earners paid 19.75 percent of income taxes. Today they pay 36.3
percent. How much is enough?"
His figures are right as far as they go. But the tax rate on net taxable
income for the top 1% over those years dropped from roughly 28% to 25%,
while their total *share* of taxes increased as Will indicated. What that
means is that the top 1% got one whole hell of a lot richer during that
period. In fact, their percentage of income rose from about 5% of national
income to 9%. They're making almost twice as much money, relative to the
national average, as they were in 1979. And their tax rate declined as they
got wealthier. That's on *net taxable income*, remember. They do tend to
make a bit more than that in fact. <g>
I'm surprised at Dr. Will for playing this game. He doesn't usually go in
for that kind of stuff.
If you want to see these and some interesting, related figures, they're in
this IRS report:
Check graphs B, C, and D. Remember to add the "top .1%" to the "top .1-1%"
wherever actual dollars are concerned. The two groups are reported
separately, and the "top 1%" doesn't include the "top .1%."
It will get a lot worse. The top 1% got more than half the 2001 tax
cut. For 95% of us (up to about $100K/year) next is the last year of
our tax cut. From there on out it is actually an increase. The top 1%
keeps getting more all the way to 2010. For a real eye opener check
The same thing happened with the 2003 cut. Because it effected mostly
dividends and capital gains the vast majority went to the top 5% See
Then there is the deadly Alternative Minimum Tax that is going to trap
more and more families in the $50-$100K range.
Ed Huntress wrote:
I'm building a 45' cutter in strip/composite. Watch my progress (or lack
Who cares? Most people who haven't yet somnambulated into Heritage
Foundation drones. <g>
It used to be that the consensus in this country agreed that the very rich
benefited far more than average income earners from the institutions that
government enabled and regulated, including a banking and securities system
that was kept fairly honest; an educated populace of workers; protections
for their property and wealth; and so on. Then came Ronnie Reagan, and we
did a kind of flip backwards into old-world thinking, in which wealth was
equated with virtue, and the special treatment and special access that
accrued to wealth was dismissed and forgotten.
They've done one hell of a snow job on the population. The idea that taxes
for the rich should be reduced in the interest of "fairness" is the most
incredible example of self-delusion and suspended disbelief in modern
history. It didn't come cheap, of course. They built a very expensive
propaganda machine to make it all stick. And it's working.
Speaking of which, the word is that the guys down at Heritage could use a
few million extra for expenses. Why don't you write them a check? They're
doing good work, ya' know, getting the word out and all...
I don't give a hoot and feel that the opportunity to accrue wealth is part of
what stimulated this country & still does. Looks to me like they are paying
their way, along with operating business which produces jobs & taxes etc..
There will always be those "take from the rich & give to the poor" types.
Marx, et all would be proud of them :o).
Indeed it is. Opportunities to get rich are an important part of our
economic success and stature.
Well, when the tax on dividends drops to 0% in 2008, you may want to
reconsider what that really means...especially when *you're* still paying
taxes on the income you get for actually working.
Here's _my_ sound bite: Let's Privatize the National Debt !
You owe about $25K. I owe about $25K. Your wife: $25K. Each of your kids:
$25K. That's what the national debt will be, per capita, by the end of this
year. Now, maybe $25K per person is not that bad. Most of us have mortgages,
many of us have car loans, some of us have credit card balances, bigger than
that. But we have individual choice about those things.
The Republicans, who want to "privatize" Social Security, Medicare, education,
and practically everything else, on the grounds that "people make better
decisions about their _own_ money", will never suggest that maybe you should
have the same kind of choice about your share of the national debt as you have
about your mortgage, car loan, or credit card balance. Can you imagine why?
-- Tony P.
You mean, the government would still be free to run deficits? Sure. Except not
so free as now, because every person in the country would be able to see for
himself, in his end-of-year "privatized debt" statement, how much his
"outstanding balance" increased as a result of the deficit.
As a liberal, I am perfectly willing to let you print your own money, Ed.
I'm just not willing to sell you anything for it :-)
Seriously, I'm trying to decide, independent of political rhetoric, whether the
"national" debt is too big or not. Scaling it to human dimensions seems like a
plausible way to go about it. Hence my musings about "privatizing" it.
I had a run-in with Sean Hannity of FOX News last month at the NH primary. He
is certainly a prominent spokesman for the Right, and he mumbled the straight
party line: the debt is not the worst it's ever been compared to GDP. That was
in person. On the air, I notice, he has recently been paying lip service to the
notion that Republicans are spending way too much. So even the "fair and
balanced" folks are having a hard time with the debt question.
Well, we can all go back to barter, then. I'll give you two bushels of
rutabagas for one of your wooden ox yokes.
It's too big.
It's an interesting way to get people to think about it.
They're running into a conflict in their own philosophy. They're
conservatives, so they're supposed to be fiscal conservatives. But they're
beginning to notice that deficit spending produces the same contribution to
national debt whether it's the result of government spending or of tax cuts.
And, given that they have the presidency as well as the control of Congress,
they've awoken to the fact that they're the ones who are enacting both the
tax cuts and the new spending. So they're sort of hoist on their own petard.
The question of whether the debt is too large hinges on this (and I'm sure
you're aware of it, but sometimes it helps to put it simply into words): can
the stimulus provided by more additions to the national debt be great enough
to pay for the accumulated debt service? Most economics say, not in this
case, bubba. The Bushies say it can and it will.
It's not impossible. It just requires that our economy grow at rates that we
haven't seen in modern times, and that something doesn't break or implode
along the way. Conservatives normally would *never* bank on 5% or so growth,
because it would scare the spit out of them. To them, at least in their
traditional incarnation as conservatives, that's a rate (assuming it could
be achieved, which is another very big roll of the dice in itself) that will
lead inevitably to serious inflation, and there is nothing in history, even
our rather benign history of inflation control over the last couple of
decades, that suggests otherwise. The fact that we're currently letting the
dollar slide in order to take the political heat off of our official trade
policies adds to the problem, even while it's likely to temporarily boost
But to say that now would be heresy, because, having committed to big tax
cuts, the growth has to come in a big way or we're all screwed. Those
foreign investors who are buying US bonds are going to get antsy about
buying any more if the dollar's fall doesn't slow down in a real hurry. The
governments who are buying our 30-day Treasury bills are going to be less
enthusiastic about rolling them over unless we intervene on our own to halt
the dollar's slide. But we can't intervene before the election, or the
hiring may stop. Man, I'd like to have the Tagamet franchise for the US
Treasury Department. That guy Snow must be eating them like M&M's about now.
So all the chickens have been spanked and sent flying, and the RNC has its
fingers crossed that none of them will come home to roost before November
2nd. They're all going to be doing a Texas Two-step from now 'till then,
trying to scare those chickens away.
If and when it turns sour, we won't have to go back to living in caves, but
we'll have a big, leaden blanket hanging over our economy for a couple of
decades, which will make future growth very difficult and which will burden
the economy in other ways, as interest rates go up on the debt that's rolled
over. If you know how to dance, now would be a good time to warm up.
Polytechforum.com is a website by engineers for engineers. It is not affiliated with any of manufacturers or vendors discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.