LSJ Commentary by Sen. Kenneth Blais ~~~
Recently, the newly elected head of Maine's Democrats set a new tone for her party. Dorothy Melanson was widely quoted as saying: "It's time to put all of our energy into fighting our real opponents: George W. Bush and all the rest of his gang, both in Washington and here in Maine."As if on cue the very next day, the first volley of name-calling and blustery rhetoric was launched in the pages of the Sun Journal, by the current pit-bull of Maine Democrats, freshman State Senator Ethan Strimling (D-Portland).Senator Strimling, some will recall, established his anti-Bush credentials in the Legislature under the guise of a highly controversial anti-war resolution. His partisan attempt to score political points at the expense of the Maine people was roundly criticized and ultimately defeated in the State Senate.Sen. Strimling's incendiary rhetoric in this newspaper echoes the outrageous claims he made in regard to the Iraq conflict. From predictions of "massive" U.S. casualties in Iraq we now move to predictions of "massive" federal deficits that will allegedly result from the President's recently passed economic growth plan. Sen. Strimling chooses to ignore the economic impact that 9/11 had on our economy and blames the current federal deficit on the President. But the Congressional Budget Office says even if there had been no tax cut in 2001, there still would be a deficit today.The tax-cut Congress approved late last month amounts to $350 billion over ten years while the Congressional Budget Office predicts the government will collect more than $28,600 billion in that same ten years. In other words, the "cost" of the tax cut is just over 1% of projected revenue "” hardly a budget buster.The best way to eliminate the deficit is to stimulate the economy, increase revenue by putting more people to work, and reduce spending. The President's economic program is designed to do just that. Here are just five examples of the many provisions of the President's plan that will benefit Maine, and Maine's low-income families:Â· First and foremost is the $20 billion in state aid -- $116 million of which comes to Maine. Much of this money will be spent on social services that aid low-income families and individuals. This money is in the bill thanks to Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Senator Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska).Â· Second, the tax bill changes the 10% income tax bracket to apply to individuals earning $7,000 and families earning $14,000. Many of these families are now in the 15% tax bracket. This one change provides $11.9 billion to low-income individuals and families. Â· Third, all individuals and families who have dependent children will qualify for the increase in the child credit from $600 to $1000. Any family with at least $16,000 of income is likely to benefit from this. This one provision provides $32.5 billion to families.Â· Fourth, the stimulus bill contains $13 billion for "refundable" portions of the tax cut. This is money that will be given to filers who owe ZERO taxes. (This money will enable low-income families to receive the increase in the child credit from $600 to $1000).
Â· Fifth, all married couples benefit from provisions softening the marriage penalty, including low-income married couples who would be pushed into the 15% tax bracket instead of the 10% bracket without these changes. This provision lowers taxes by $35.1 billion.In addition to reducing the impact of the marriage penalty, the President's economic plan also helps seniors by eliminating the double taxation of dividends earned by stockholders. More than half of taxable dividends go to America's elderly.A study by the Council of Economic Advisors indicates the dividend provision alone will result in creation of some 430,000 new jobs in 2004, with overall job creation due to the plan pegged at nearly 900,000 new jobs by the end of 2004.Maine stands to benefit from that kind of job creation, and Maine families will benefit immediately from the provisions outlined above. President Bush and Sen. Collins deserve thanks for their efforts on behalf of our nation and on behalf of hardworking Maine families.There's a chilling transparency to Sen. Strimling's strident gloom and doom predictions that suggest he's more interested in making the President look bad then he is in getting our economy back on track. The words of the state's top Democrat seem to confirm it. Political rhetoric that places political advantage over public policy is good for no one. Maine's Democrats would do well to tame the activist Senator from Portland.