We've all heard the story about George Washington and the cherry tree. Here's another myth: Sen. George Voinovich is a tightwad, a fiscal conservative trying to thwart George W. Bush's huge tax cut for the rich and balance the federal budget.
While we commend Mr. Voinovich for his difficult stand against the fiscally destructive Bush tax extravaganza, all the stories describing the former Ohio governor as a careful guardian of the taxpayers' wallet are lapping a bit too high up the myth-o-meter.
Yes, he did sell a state airplane and, yes, he has a reputation for personal parsimony, but when George Voinovich was governor, from 1991 to 1999, state spending rose sharply - more than twice the rate of inflation.
The state budget he signed for fiscal 1999 was nearly 50 percent larger than state spending when he took office eight years earlier.
Now the ex-governor is being lionized by some for attempting to limit the President to a tax cut of only - only - $350 billion, less than half of Mr. Bush's original proposal to Congress. But it's still a staggeringly large sum - enough money to run the state of Ohio for almost 15 years at the current rate of spending. No matter what the President said last week during his trip to Canton, there is nothing “little bitty” about $350 billion, or $550 billion, his magnanimous compromise position.
And for what? Most of the tax breaks Mr. Bush has put forward would go to upper-income Americans, and they would come too late to create jobs or otherwise stimulate the economy. Even Mr. Voinovich agrees any stimulus is necessary immediately, not next year.
The effect of huge tax cuts on the federal deficit cannot be dismissed either, since the government now faces a $400 billion budget deficit for this year alone, plus more than a decade of deep red ink because of the 2001 tax cuts.
Notably, none of the deficit projections floating around includes costs that will mount from the war in Iraq. Those bills will come in for years.
The extra, hidden cost of deficits, never mentioned by the White House, is interest the government will have to pay for borrowing ever more money to cover the deficits. For example, the 10-year cost of the full $726 million tax cut Mr. Bush originally proposed would balloon to nearly $1 trillion when interest costs are added.
This is money that won't be available to ensure that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and a host of other life-saving programs that have benefited tens of millions of Americans will be around when they're needed.
If George Voinovich really were the “deficit hawk” he claims to be, he wouldn't be party to an unwise tax cut of any size.