I'm no fan of George Bush, but lots of folks seem to be bashing him unfairly today (although, one might ask, what makes today any different than any other day)? For example, the New York Times says:
President Bush spoke out today against an increase in the gasoline tax, an idea that is being discussed as a potential part of a new Congressional plan to shore up the nation’s bridges after last week’s deadly collapse in Minneapolis.
Evil old anti-government conservative thinking that kills innocents, right? Wrong. Here's what Bush actually said:
You know, it's an interesting question about how Congress spends and prioritizes highway money. My suggestion would be that they revisit the process by which they spend gasoline money in the first place.
As you probably know, the Public Works Committee is the largest committee -- one of the largest committees in the House of Representatives. From my perspective, the way it seems to have worked is that each member on that committee gets to set his or her own priority first, and then whatever is left over is spent through a funding formula. That's not the right way to prioritize the people's money. So before we raise taxes which could affect economic growth, I would strongly urge the Congress to examine how they set priorities. And if bridges are a priority, let's make sure we set that priority first and foremost before we raise taxes.
In other words, what Bush said was, "let's get rid of earmarks like the one for the bridge to nowhere that waste highway spending before jacking up taxes." Which makes total sense. Back in 2000, a Heritage Foundation report stated that:
House Transportation Committee Chairman Bud Shuster (R-PA) claims that a $4.3 cent reduction in the gas tax will result in more than $7 billion in lost revenue that would otherwise go to states and local communities for planned infrastructure projects. But Congress and the President have wasted billions on questionable pork-barrel projects. In 1998, The Washington Post reported that Representative Shuster contributed to this waste with more than 130 projects worth $640 million for Pennsylvania, including $800,000 for renovating a train station in Gettysburg, and $7 million for a transportation museum as part of a proposed Allentown redevelopment project. In addition, Citizens Against Government Waste identified other pork projects, including $2.6 million to rehabilitate an historic train depot in San Bernadino, California, and $3 million for a parking garage in Peoria, Illinois. Washington wants to hold on to its billion-dollar golden goose called the gas tax so that a few powerful politicians can redistribute money from the pockets of the nation's hard-working motorists to support their own special interests.
If anything, it's worse now than ever. Yet, you don't get even a hint that this is what Bush was talking about until paragraph 6 and then it's largely obfuscated.
Second, Firedoglake is saying Bush wants to give corporations a new tax cut: "Yay! More Tax Cuts! This time for corporations!"
Wrong. Here's what Bush said today:
I also made it clear that we're at the very early stages of discussion and that in my own judgment, anything that would be submitted to Congress -- if submitted at all -- would have to be revenue neutral. And therefore, what we'd really be talking about is a simplification of a very complex tax code that might be able to lower rates and at the same time simplify the code, which is like shorthand for certain deductions would be taken away -- in other words, certain tax preferences in the code.
And here's what WaPo's Peter Baker reports Bush said on the same subject yesterday:
A "determinant factor" in deciding whether to go forward, he said, will be whether advisers can craft a revenue-neutral plan, neither raising nor decreasing overall taxes.
If the bill's revenue neutral, there is no net tax cut. What's puzzling is that Firedoglake blogger TeddySanFran linked Baker's story but failed to note the revenue neutrality point (although Baker admittedly buried the point deep in the article). C'mon people. Fight fair.
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