Rep. Dick Gephardt (D.-Mo.), who is running for President, told a labor union gathering in New York City April 23 that he would repeal the 2001 Bush tax cut to help pay for a nationalized health-care plan.
“[L]egislation repealing the Bush tax cuts and using the money to pay for universal access to health care will be the first bill I send to Congress as President of the United States,” said Gephardt. He even claimed that his plan would be an economic boon-and that tax cuts had been a bust. “This is the right way to stimulate the economy,” he said, “not knee-jerk tax cuts that do nothing but pay off George Bushs wealthy campaign contributors while killing economic growth.”
This declaration put other Democrats on the spot. Do they support Gephardt? Do they want their top issue in 2004 to be a crusade to raise taxes? HUMAN EVENTS Assistant Editor David Freddoso visited the House of Representatives to ask members of both parties whether they agreed with Gephardt on repealing the 2001 tax cut.
Congressman Gephardts idea last week was to repeal the 2001 tax cuts. Do you agree with that idea?
Rep. Cass Ballenger (R.-N.C.): (Laughs.) No way. Actually, the greatest thing about tax cuts is it takes the money away from us and gives it to the people. If you repeal those tax cuts then weve got it. And Im not saying pork-barrel politics rules this place, but it comes awful close to it. But just think how, if we divided that money up by 435, just think what we might do-something dangerous. No, Id rather just that people had their money to spend themselves.
He also said that the tax cut hurt the economy, “killed economic growth.”
Ballenger: How in the hell does he rationalize that? I mean, Im a businessman myself, Ive got 250 employees back home. And every one of them may not have gotten more than 25 or 30 bucks, but how did that stunt the economy? I mean, I cant see his rationalization there.
Congressman Gephardt wants to repeal the 2001 tax cuts. Do you agree with that?
Rep. Henry Brown (R.-S.C.): No, absolutely not. The tax cuts were two-fold. No. 1, to give people back some of their money. And No. 2, to stimulate the economy. And we still have a problem with the economy. Weve got some 6% of our people out of work, and so weve got to find some employment for those people. And I think thats an economic stimulus package.
Congressman Gephardt last week proposed to repeal the 2001 tax cut. Do you agree with that?
Rep. Danny Davis (D.-Ill.): Oh, yeah, I agree with that wholeheartedly.
He also said that the tax cut had hurt the economy. Do you agree?
Davis: Well, I think it has, as a matter of fact. I believe that the way to stimulate the economy is to put money in the pockets of people at the bottom of the ladder, rather than those at the top. If you want to stimulate the economy, put some money in the guys pocket whos got to go to the grocery store and get some Pampers for his baby, get a gallon of milk, go to the barber shop, the lady whos got to go to the beauty shop. You put money in the hands of consumers who are going to spend it. It goes up, not comes down.
How would you propose putting money in their hands?
Davis: Well, you can do a lot of things. You can raise the minimum wage, you can create some work opportunities so that people can actually work. You can put money into rebuilding the infrastructure of the country. You can build some affordable housing. I mean, if you build affordable housing, youve got carpenters working, youve got masons working, youve got bricklayers working. Youve got to do things that help the rank-and-file‚?¶.
Congressman Gephardt wants to repeal the 2001 tax cuts. Do you agree?
Rep. Jeff Flake (R.-Ariz.): No. Not at all. We ought to accelerate them, its a better policy.
Even if the money is used to give health care to everybody in the country?
Flake: Even if. What we need is more market forces in health care to hold down costs and improve quality. A government takeover of this, or just a government-forced insurance coverage-this would actually force even the smallest businesses to offer coverage. Thats just not something you want to do if you want to grow the economy. If you want to improve the health-care system, allow people to use their own money.
Gephardt also said that the tax cut “killed economic growth.”
Flake: Id like to know where he studied economics.
Congressman Gephardt said that we should repeal the 2001 tax cuts. Would you agree to do that?
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D.-Ariz.): I certainly dont think we should be doing any more tax cuts, and I havent really given much thought to the repeal part. The position Ive staked out, since I wasnt here for the other part of it [in 2001], was just not to any this time. And thats how Im going to vote. But I havent given much thought to Gephardts idea.
Dick Gephardt says first of all, repeal the 2001 tax cut, second, universal health care plan. Do you agree with the first part, should we repeal the tax cut?
And the health care plan?
Kucinich: Im evaluating all of the other candidates health care plans, and Ill have a statement at a later date.
Congressman Gephardt last week announced his plan-he wanted to repeal recent tax cuts and use the money to implement a universal health care plan for Americans. Do you agree with him that we should repeal the tax cuts that were passed in 2001?
Rep. Denise Majette (D.-Ga.): I think that in order to stimulate the economy we need to make the investment in our children and do the things we have already committed to do and give tax cuts to those individuals who really do need it, and who will be able to funnel that money back into the economy. And we need to make a greater investment in small businesses, which is really the backbone of our economy . . .
So you wouldnt want to repeal the tax cuts-but would you be in favor of more tax cuts, as the Presidents proposing now?
Majette: I think we really need to look at the deficit situation we have…. Its just not fiscally responsible to give tax cuts to people who dont need them. We need to make sure were placing priorities and emphasis on the areas that will help to stimulate the economy and take care of the people at home and abroad.
Congressmen Gephardt is running for president, and last week he said he wanted to repeal the 2001 tax cuts. Do you agree?
Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D.-Calif.): Well, I certainly think that we need to look at that, because we recognize now that we have done something differently in 2003 that we werent doing in 2001, and thats a war. And so the funding that weve had to come up with naturally has to come from someplace. And that someplace has to be the budget, and the budget has to be carefully looked at now that were having to do supplementals with reference to the war. And so Im not suggesting it yet, but I think that is one of the areas that we need to revisit.
With respect to the economy, would you agree with Gephardt that the tax cut has “killed economic growth?”
Millender-McDonald: Well, you know what? Im not sure whether the tax cut has killed or enhanced. I mean, thats really a question we all have, is whether a tax cut will enhance the economy. And at this juncture, Im not really sure whether it has killed the economy. I just know that it is stagnant-the economy is stagnant-and at this point, I think the verdict is still out as to what this tax cut will do.
Congressmen Gephardt has proposed repealing the 2001 tax cuts. Do you agree?
Rep. Mike Pence (R.-Ind.): Terrible idea. I dont think eroding the value of the pension of senior citizens is in any way in the interests of working Americans. And thats what repealing the tax cuts will do.