The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on April 10, 2001 · Page 5
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 5

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Tuesday, April 10, 2001
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THE SAUNA JOURNAL TUESDAY, APRIL 10, 2001 A5 Tom BeU Editor & Publisher Opinions expressed on tiiis page are those of tlie identified writers. To join tfie conversation, write a letter to tlie.Journal at: P.O. Box 740 Salina, KS 67402 Fax: (785) 827-6363 E-mail: SJLeflers® saljournal.com Quote of the day "Programs never go away in •Washington, and that's one of the reasons the government is so big" Ari Fleischer White House spokesman, on the many proposed program cuts in President Bush's $1.96 trillion budget. T COMMENT What comes naturally THE ISSUE Iowa tries to ban campaign lies THEAR6UMBIIT What fun is politics without fibs? I owa makes a lot of money from politics. Every four years the Iowa caucuses mark the official beginning of presidential elections and the event draws media hounds like ants to a pjLcnic. The fanfare puts Iowa in the national spotlight for weeks, as candidates, their entourage and hordes of reporters spend millions of dollars on hotel rOoms, meals and campaign buttons. Also, the candidates buy local newspaper, television and radio advertising trying to influence the tiny number of residents who actually go to the caucuses and vote for delegates. In the 2000 caucuses Steve Forbes was the top spender, dropping $2 million, or $100 per vote. It's plain this political circus is good for business and good for Iowa. So why are they trying to mess up the system? Specifically, why did the Iowa House of Representatives pass a bill making it a crime to lie on the campaign trail? Fibs are as essential to politics as clouds are to rain, as popcorn is to movies, as wind is to a kite. Without lies you won't have a campaign, thus no candidates, thus no money Supporters say the ban wUl increase civility and decrease telephone "push polls," where callers fake a survey to spread falsehoods. Push poUs are an irritating and misleading tool used by both parties. But in trying to legislate away these and other campaign dirty tricks, Iowa lawmakers are forgetting two things: 1.) Free speech rights granted under the First Amendment 2.) Campaign money The Iowa Senate will consider the bill this month. There's a good chance it will pass the Senate and be signed into law by the governor If that happens Kansas can exploit this silliness by replacing Iowa as the starting point for the nation's presidential campaign, grabbing all that fast money that drops from candidates' pockets. All we have to do is promise these politicians they can do what comes naturally — Tom Bell Editor & Publisher From flimflam to fraud The Republican tax-cut scam has hit a new low T "^he move by House Republicans to bump the administration's repeal of the estate tax to 2011 shifts President Bush's tax-cut program from a mere political ^ flimflam into TOM TEEPEN Cox News Service outright fraud. The point of the dodge is to keep the Bush tax cut over 10 years within the $1.6 trillion limit the president set. By booting the estate tax repeal ahead, beyond the 10- • year line, the short-term costs of the tax cut are lowered from the $662 billion the Joint Tax Committee had estimated to $186 billion. But the cost in the next decade explodes to $1.3 trillion, according the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. And all of this — is why? To spare Americans a "death" tax, as the new lingo has it, that keeps them from passing the fruit of their hard work to their children and that finds the government — chuckling like the stock villain with Little Nell lashed to the railroad tracks — gleefully confiscating family farms. After all, what could be meaner of the evil federal government than taxing death itself? These would be very good points, if any of them were true. None is. Take those disappearing family farms. As the New York Times recently reported, data from the Internal Revenue Service shows no working family farms taxed out of business in 1999. (A relatively few large ranches, some probably hobbies for the rich, did get nicked.) The American Farm Bureau Federation, though it supports the estate tax repeal, concedes it knows of no family farm, not one, lost to estate taxes. And, of course, the "death" tax is no such thing. The bogeyman term is the creation of a politics that has a vested interest in doing away the estate levy — a mix of rich guys and anti-tax, anti-government ideologues. The flrst $675,000 of an inheritance is not taxed — already scheduled to go to $1 million in '06 — and couples can leave $1.34 million before triggering the tax. Ninety-eight percent of us die without paying a dime. The estate tax is paid only by the richest 2 percent and even then, although its rates can go up to 55 percent, the average bite is 25 percent — hardly con­ fiscatory The real objective of the Bush tax-cut package is to accomplish the long-time right- wing goal of defunding the government. The idea is to so lower federal revenues and to so run up military spending that in time discretionary domestic spending — the social programs that work at the common good — will be squeezed out. Thus Bush's decision to defer his promised boosts in military spending until the tax cuts are in place, so that the combined effect on other spending is masked. Thus, too, a tax program that lavishes its big benefits on the rich and is back-loaded, so its real costs are hidden in the out years. The difference between this sort of politics and a sidewalk shell game is, at best, subtle. T VISIONS OF KANSAS Our senators champion corruption Roberts and Brownback are ready to sell democracy to the highest bidder D uring his 1996 presidential run, former Sen. Bob Dole repeatedly asked "Where is the outrage?" in referring to the fund-raising scandals and other abuses of the Clinton administration. Sadly, the country ignored Dole and reelected the sleaziest, most venal president in Ameri- * ; can history Today, Kansans should be asked a slightly different form of Dole's question: Where is the outrage toward the state's two U.S. senators who last week voted against reforming the nation's corrupt political financing system? In opposing the McCain- Feingold measure. Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts sanctioned the * legalized bribery that has turned Congress into an Ottoman bazaar — a souk on the Potomac where political influence is sold like Turkish carpets. The votes of Roberts and Brownback mark one of the lowest points in Kansas political history. Long respected for its heritage of reform — White, Landon, Carlson, Eisenhower, Kassebaum — Kansas is now burdened with two U.S. senators who have become embarrassments to people who prize integrity in public life. • LIBERTIES DAVID AWBREY for the Salina JournaL Brownback is especially disappointing. A few years ago, a Bill Meyers special on PBS detailed massive financial abuses in Brownback's 1996 campaign and the senator became a poster boy for the evils of the present system. Rather than seek redemption by supporting the McCain-Feingold proposal to clean up politics, Brownback reaffirmed his national reputation as an ethically compromised politician. From now on, whenever 1 hear Brownback complain about smutty television shows and movies, I will ask myself: Which is the greater moral danger to American society juvenile potty jokes on TV sitcoms or a U.S. senator selling his office to wealthy contributors? Likewise, whenever I hear ex-marine Roberts wax patriotic about America's veterans, I will ask myself: Did my Uncle Joe die during the Battle of the Bulge so a U.S. senator could enjoy the rewards of a decadent Congress — the high life of corporate jets, lobbyist favors and taxpayer-financed perks? In her book, "The Corruption of American Politics," journalist Elizabeth Drew documents the damage senators like Brownback and Roberts have done to the country Partly because of current fundraising practices, the public has lost most of its faith in government. "Lack of trust creates the risk of susceptibility to demagoguery or of abuses of the democratic process," Drew warns. Indeed, having grown up in the era of Bill Clinton and congressional vote-auctioning, young Americans today tend to be incredibly cynical about national politics. For many other Americans, especially those without the cash to play the game, Washington represents something profoundly wrong in the American body politic —- a cancerous growth of money, privilege and arrogance that separates leaders from the daily lives of average people. Moreover, Drew calls senators like Roberts and Brownback "deliberate liars' when they say that meaningful campaign finance reform threatens basic freedoms. Besides, by supporting the flag-burning amendment that would overturn a landmark Supreme Court free-speech ruling, neither senator has a legitimate claim as a First Amendment champion. True believ ers defend freedom at the margins. It takes no courage to pocket hundreds of thou sands of dollars from contributors and in sist that it is all part of open democratic debate. America is in great danger of becominjj an oligarchy where the richest individuals and corporations twist the congresssional agenda to advance their narrow financial interests. If you don't believe that, consider the dire plight of the small-family farmer in Kansas under Roberts' 1996 Freedom td Farm Act, which is leading to virtually monopolistic control of U.S. agriculture by the very same corporations that are among the senator's largest contributors. But, like Dole in 1996,1 hear no outrage. I hear only the cry of the rug merchant as Roberts and Brownback sell democracy to the highest bidder. Crouching Bushes, Hidden Dynasty Cold Warriors of Little Bush's White House are more fragile than they look W ASHINGTON — The Chinese may not feel superior to us in terms of economic power or fancy weapons. But when it comes to dynasties, the Middle Kingdom brooks no rivals. That is why the Celestial Empire decided to administer *" a lesson to the Kennebunk Empire. When you are ruled by dynasties for 4,000 years, a family that produces two American presidents ruling for a mere four years and a couple of months is about as significant as a single stone in the Great Wall. To the Chinese, the Bushes are a puny dynasty. ^ The Bushes have hardly any old vases. Sure, they have a few ancient terra cotta warriors in the imperial court, but no known eunuchs or concubines. How can the dusty Crawford ranch compare to the ornate Summer Palace gardens of delight? How can the Vision Thing match up to the Mandate of Heaven? The Chinese custom of the kowtow — prostrating oneself before the emperor — supposedly went out with Mao. But the Chinese were determined to make the man they call "Xiao Bushi" — translated as "Bush Jr." or "Little Bush" — kowtow. They have always liked his little dynasty and expected to get along well with the son MAUREEN DOWD The New York Times of the pragmatic first Bush emperor, who lived in China and tried to learn its ways. "The father of President Bush, Bush Sr., came over to China many, many times and had many meetings with me," President Jiang Zemin of China told The Washington Post two weeks ago. "We believe Bush Sr. will definitely push Bush Jr to bring U.S.-China relations to a new level." Big Bush often found himself in embarrassing spots with the Chinese. As the U.N. ambassador in 1971, he was leading an emotional fight to keep Taiwan from being expelled from the U.N., even as Henry Kissinger was making the first secret overtures toward Beijing, promising that President Richard Nixon's goal was to have Taiwan expelled. (The Chinese press wrote that Bush's frenetic debating style resembled "ants on a hot pan.") As president. Bush was hit with Tianan­ men Square. Nixon counseled him, "Don't disrupt the relationship," and Kissinger defended the Chinese leaders. But friends of Big Bush, Patrick Tyler writes in "A Great Wall," worried that he was too sentimental toward Deng Xiaoping and too unemotional about the slaughtered students. His son was caught last week in a similar vise, trying to be obsequious enough to China to win the release of the crew members and keep the relationship on track while voicin'g American anger over the detention. W. devoted one paragraph of his autobiography to his six-week trip to China after college to visit his parents when his father was envoy to Beijing. He wrote nothing about Chinese culture. He merely noted that the Chinese dressed alike — "drab" — and rode bikes that looked alike. He played Frisbee and jogged. The trip made him applaud free markets and long for Midland. Before his inauguration, W. seemed to be seriously pondering China for the first time. Asked by The New York Times' David Sanger if he was more concerned about a weak China or a strong China, the president-elect replied: "I'm trying to figure out if your question is a trick question." Even before the U.S. spy plane was quarantined, the Chinese, like the Russians and Europeans, found the new Bush team less yin, more yang, less nuanced, more blunt. Rummy and his even more hawkish deputy Wolfy — who were kept in the background last week — managed to bring the Chinese and Russians closer together by dissing them both. Russia's power is no longer super, they say, so now we must put the new threat, China, in our crosshairs. The Chinese must have mused, as Emperor Kangxi of the Qing dynasty wrote: "The arrogant dragon will have cause to repent." China was willing to escalate the spy plane episode to signal how strongly it may react if Little Bush sells destroyers with Aegis radar to Taiwan, as conservatives demand. The older dynasty understood the psychological Art of War, intending to rattle the little dynasty diminishing Xiao Bushi before the conservative (but fickle) base he has so assiduously catered to. "President Bush has revealed weakness. And he has revealed fear," write Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan in The Weekly Standard, insisting Taiwan get its destroyers. Like the terra-cotta warriors of Xian, the Cold Warriors of Little Bush are more fragile than they look. DOONESBURY FLASHBACKS By G.B. TRUDEAU m /r OUF. BEST &JY! THei!a,sois7Atzr- WTAUC/hl&IO C/. MB THATHB UmPMB- NCfrONL .YA$HI&E/mOY- 5RANPA &7HBHUSemP SOA&APEUOiU VOYA6eR.ON ePACBSHlP

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