Reexplaining a Broken Tax Pledge

THE Bush campaign team is out in force here to reexplain 1990 - the year of the broken tax pledge.

The president tried to do the right thing to solve the deficit problem, the argument runs, but Democrats failed to deliver as promised.

If the economy were more robust, said senior campaign adviser Charles Black, people would be complimenting the president "for having had the courage to break the tax pledge and get the deficit down.... But it didn't work out that way."

Mr. Black spoke at a Monitor breakfast for reporters this week. Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady joined the defense of the deal as well. "If you think the deficit is big now, how would you like it to be $500 billion bigger?" asked Mr. Brady, saying the agreement cut that amount from the projected deficits over five years.

But make no mistake, President Bush would not do it again.

The Democratic leadership that struck the deal with Bush did not deliver on its end, Brady said. When the deal actually emerged from the "congressional meat grinder," it had "less spending cuts and more taxes. And that's obviously a mistake."

Both Black and Brady challenge the integrity of the Democrats surrounding the deal.

Why did the White House go along and sign the deal anyway?

The Gulf war, said Brady. By that time, Iraq had overrun Kuwait, and the United States was leading a diplomatic confrontation, with war on the horizon. The White House needed as much concord with Congress as possible so that budget politics did not ensnare support for the UN resolutions against Iraq.

The Democrats today are using a horse-trader tactic common in business, he said: talking down the merchandise to get it cheaper. The merchandise is the economy, and the Democrats want to run it. "They've talked down our workers. They've talked down our industry. They've talked down our ability to compete," he said, "because they want to steal our future."

The truth, he said, is that American exports are growing faster than those of either Japan or Germany and American industry is in a strong competitive position.

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