Consistency Is the Hobgoblin of Little Minds

Chatterbox’s Friday fax pile included a message from the National Association of Manufacturers headlined, “NAM to Lawmakers: Choose Broad Reform of Medicare Over Clinton’s Piecemeal Approach.” The flier criticized the president’s “well-meaning but patchwork approach,” which would make “an already costly and complicated system even more expensive and complex.” Hmm. It seems to Chatterbox those lines might have come straight from Hillary Rodham Clinton’s playbook back in 1994 when she was pushing her plan to revamp the nation’s health-care system from top to bottom. Wasn’t it corporate America that led the charge against the first lady’s plan, on the grounds that a revolutionary overhaul of one-seventh of the economy was unwise, if not un-American? Are the freedom-loving makers of the nation’s goods now yearning to resuscitate her regional health-care alliances, mandatory controls on cost, quality, and diversity of practitioners and myriad advisory boards and watchdogs?

In the same fax pile, Chatterbox found a press release quoting House Ways and Means Committee chairman Bill Archer (R-Tex) saying, “Let’s Bury the Death Tax Once and for All.” But as any good supply-sider knows, revenue raising is at best an incidental side effect of tax policy. The real reason to raise or lower taxes is to “incentivize” behavior. If you wish to discourage something (say, cigarette smoking), you tax the bejeezus out of it. If you wish to encourage something (say, the educating of children, or the realization of capital gains), you lower the tax on it. And if you can’t get enough of something, you cut the tax to zero. Given this, Chatterbox concludes that Archer and his 196 Republican and 26 Democratic co-sponsors wish to encourage the supply of death. In the face of the current 55 percent tax rate on large estates, it’s no wonder that most well-heeled Americans spend so much time and money avoiding the meeting with their Maker. With the prospect of Mr. Archer’s zero tax rate, millions more Americans will decide to cash in their chips secure in the knowledge that Uncle Sam will not put his paw in the proceeds. Has the pro-life movement heard about this?