I don’t have any of the figures in front of me, however the Democratic line runs something like this:
1 - Yes we have a surplus.
2 - That surplus mostly comes from Social Security and Medicare, and only a small piece of it, if any, comes from the operations of the Federal Government ex these two programs.
3 - Given that, a tax cut will eat into the trust funds of these two programs at precisely the time that we should be building up surpluses to pay for the retirement of the Baby Boomers.
4 - Finally, a tax cut will increase payments on interest on the debt, and it has to be remembered here that these compound, so that the benefits of paying off the debt faster compound in the same way as when you prepay your mortgage.
The Republican line is as follows (not a Republican, and I didn’t vote for the man, but I do agree with Bush on the need for a tax cut, if not on the structure of it, which I believe gives me some small amount of objectivity. In my own mind, of course.):
1 - Any surplus is an indication of overpayment of taxes.
2 - To the extent that there is an overpayment, this is unnecessarily slowing down the economy.
3 - Therefore, given that the economy is currently slowing down, a tax cut is indicated in order to get it going again.
IzzyR and others, feel free to add to the Republican line obviously, as it appears that’s the side you’re on.
Myself, I have my own reasons for being for the tax cut, to wit:
1 - The Clinton tax increase was needed to get rid of the deficit.
2 - It did its job, beautifully. The reason why was simple: since the economy was already on the road to recovery when the increase was voted in, it added to the revenues that otherwise would have been paid in, thereby rapidly decreasing the deficit, until, by today, there is no more deficit.
3 - While it’s true, as the Democrats contend, that there is no real surplus outside of Medicare and Social Security, it’s also true that if the economy slides into a recession, the future surpluses will disappear anyway. So, paradoxically, if you want the budget to be in surplus, you have to take the chance on a tax cut to get the economy rolling again and get the budget into surplus. It may not work, but it’s a chance that IMO is worth taking.
There’s a lot of small details that go into why I think this way, but this post is long enough by now.