The Ethical Spectacle, May 1995, http://www.spectacle.org

Deficit Heroes

Twenty-seven Republican Congresspeople opposed the mass hysteria for tax cuts by asking that they be deferred until they can be linked to specific reductions in the national deficit.

In the general sordidness and noise of Congress, it is difficult to point to anything that is not an act of self-interest. It occurs to me that these twenty-seven Congresspeople may be worthy of recognition: unlike Speaker Gingrich and the rest of the Contract Republicans, they did not take the easy way out.

As I have said elsewhere, promising a tax cut and deficit reduction simultaneously is like promising weight loss without dieting or exercise. Tax cuts are wildly popular, and it is likely that these 27 Republicans had very little to lose if they joined in the general hysteria and called for them. I suspect that these politicians were nagged by that kernel of conscience, the voice that tells you you will like yourself better if you don't rush madly toward something that makes no sense.

I only know the names of three of them, but here they are: Michael Castle of Delaware, Fred Upton of Michigan and Bill Martini of New Jersey, leaders of the "deficit hawks." In the end, their efforts came to nothing; Mr. Gingrich promised a vague link between tax cuts and the deficit, with a committee annually reviewing the deficit to make sure that today's tax cuts had not increased it, and supposedly taking action if necessary. Still, symptoms of real conscience in Congress are rare. So thanks, gentlemen, for your concern.