Kill the Messenger

Commentary by Pete du Pont

Host intro: when the messenger fails, do we blame the message? Commentator Pete du Pont of the National Center for Policy Analysis says that's the way it works in Washington. And he worries a good message isn't getting a fair shake.

Steve Forbes backed the flat tax and failed to get the republican nomination. The Washington interpretation: nobody wants a flat tax. The facts: polls show continuing support for fundamental tax reform.

Bob dole backed a 15 percent tax cut. He lost. The Washington interpretation: tax cuts are bad. The facts: see Steve Forbes.

Conservatives need to reject Washington's interpretation. Tax cuts are historically the best issue they've ever had. By giving up on flattening or reducing taxes, conservatives have unilaterally disarmed.

A December Harris poll showed 30 percent of Americans said federal taxes are much too high, and 40 percent called them somewhat too high. People will respond to an articulate tax cut plan.

Conservatives are making some decent gestures: cutting capital gains and estate taxes, and liberalizing IRAs. What's missing is an overarching vision of what the whole system ought to look like. Conservatives need to define it, then push for reforms in that direction. It ought to be something like the flat tax proposed by Dick Armey or the Kemp tax commission on which I served. If we ever make the big changes, we'd see that gestures don't help much. Big tax cuts do.

Those are my ideas. And at the NCPA, we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont, and I'll see you tomorrow.

Host outro: Thursday, Pete du Pont manages just one cheer for a liberal about-face on health care reforms.