Conspiracy theory

President Bush told us a month ago in his State of the Union speech that he wants to make his tax cut permanent and, at the same time, promised to cut the deficit in half within five years. Now I am no economist; in fact, I wasn’t so great at math, but the figures just don’t add up. I switched around the networks and cable news outlets and I didn’t hear any of the pundits say the obvious — either the president and his staff need a refresher math course or, quite simply, he lied.

Yes, the Democrats did jump up and down and scream foul after the speech, but the news commentators treated their protests as just more partisan rhetoric in an election year. Besides, the Democrats have their own math problems. Only the ill-fated Howard Dean called the other Democratic candidates on their own fuzzy math. Except for Dean, all of the other hopefuls, including frontrunner John Kerry, have claimed that you can keep the middle-class part of the Bush tax cut and still dole out goodies like expanding healthcare for the uninsured.

Again, the political pundits weren’t listening, having already consigned Dean’s former candidacy to the scrap heap for his "I Have a Scream" speech, which they agreed in unison made him temperamentally "unfit" for the presidency. So while the media fretted about whether Dean was a kook, Janet’s bare boob and whether Bush was really AWOL when he served in the National Guard, it never asked the really important question about his phony budget.

Well, which was it? Does the president really think 2+2=100, or is he lying to get reelected? Although there are times when this president has shown symptoms of being intellectually challenged, you have to figure if he can’t add, Dick Cheney would be most willing to do it for him. Can we all agree, then, that the President was lying? Incidentally, does the word "lying" bother you in this context? Should we ask whether Mr. Bush was simply "fudging" the figures?

I believe the word "fudge" is totally inadequate to describe a trillion-dollar lie. "Fudge" is what a teenager does when he comes home after curfew and claims the SEPTA bus never showed up. What Bush did in his State of the Union speech was lie. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time that Bush lied in a State of the Union speech. Remember when he told us that Saddam was buying aluminum rods for his nuclear reactor? We know how that story turned out.

The really interesting question, then, is why did the President lie? He knows, just like his opponents, that the bill will come due just in time for your kids and your grandkids to pay for it. The fault, dear reader, is not in the stars, but in ourselves. Every astute politician knows that we crave our government goodies while we just as vehemently demand lower taxes.

It used to be that we could always trust Republicans with our money. Republicans were those annoying parents who dashed our fantasies with some common sense. Republicans balanced budgets, and they did it by being honest enough to tell us when we couldn’t afford something we dearly wanted. Democrats were branded as the tax-and-spend party. And then William Jefferson Clinton came along and, with the help of a Republican Congress and a sound economy and by moderately increasing the taxes for families earning more than $200,000, he balanced the budget and rid his party of the deficit albatross.

If Bill had been able to keep his pants zippered, his vice president would have ridden on his coattails into the White House and George W. would be lobbying to become the commissioner of baseball right about now. But all that was gone faster than you could say "Monica Lewinsky."

George W. Bush and his conservative cohorts came into the White House on a mission, and I don’t just mean invading Iraq. Some conservatives have long taken the view that the only way you can cut politically popular programs is to starve the government. The way you do that is to cut taxes, dry up revenues and force Congress to make the cuts. Oh, along the way, you can pretend that the tax cuts will actually increase revenue (wink, wink). The last president who actually believed that was Ronald Reagan, and he wound up increasing taxes before the deficit got out of hand.

Our deficit grows larger every time a new estimate is put out by the Congressional Budget Office. The President is made to appear like Nero fiddling while Rome burned. But wait, the new budget has arrived. In it are proposed cuts in Pell grants for students, nutritional programs for poor women, and even cuts in veterans benefits. This after the President promised us that we could have it all and still balance the budget and maybe even get to Mars. And this is just the beginning.

We’ve been had.