THE BLOG
03/17/2006 12:56 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Tax Cuts and the Republican Legacy

I am just back from Washington, where I attended the Arts Advocacy Day events that were sponsored by Americans for the Arts. As was the case during my last appearance there, the diligent work of Bob Lynch, Nina Ozlu and the staff of Americans for the Arts continues to foster a climate where Republican and Democrat alike can show their support for federal funding of the arts. At the Arts breakfast on Tuesday, Congressman Jim Leach was the honoree. Leach, an Iowa Republican, is a great supporter of the arts in Congress and of museums in particular. All supporters of federally funded arts programs owe a debt of gratitude not only to Jim Leach, but to Chris Shays (R-CT) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY), who are the co-chairs of the Congressional Arts caucus.

In 1994, the Gingrich gang sought to zero out the NEA. They nearly did. But wiser, cooler heads in the Senate, as well as the House, prevailed. The NEA was saved from extinction in 1997. And it has slowly climbed its way toward its pre-Gingrich budget levels since.

During my trip to Washington, however, walking the halls of Congress to lobby both Republicans and Democrats alike over specific issues involving the NEA's budget, you get the sense that even some of the most cynical and hardbitten members of Congress believe that the Bush administration and their lapdogs in the GOP Congressional leadership are about to drive the ship right into the iceberg. They are worried. They are pained. They are even terrified, and not in any way I have ever encountered in my past visits there.

I asked a veteran Democratic member of Congress what they thought we were facing in terms of the fate of all social programming, not just the arts, in the coming budget. That member told me that three things hang over the Congressional budget process right now, but only one is a real problem. "The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan we can handle, budget-wise. The rebuilding of the Gulf region after Katrina can be done. But it's the tax cuts that will kill us," she told me. "These people want to make these cuts permanent. And that will mean the death of all entitlements in the budget. That will mean the death of a great deal of our social programming." As another member told me later that day, "Defend the seas and deliver the mail. That's all these guys want to pay for. Literally."

Well...better make that defend the seas, deliver the mail and give Halliburton a lot of no bid contracts.

If you ever want to get a clear and determinative view of how our government works, and why, go to Washington. Go and see your Congressman or Congresswoman. Sit down with them and ask them why the richest nation on earth can't afford dance classes for little girls in underserved rural parts of this country that are affected by the NEA's budget. And beyond the issue of NEA funding, ask them who these tax cuts are serving? Who are they hurting? What, to the extent that any of them can reasonably defend these cuts, are their real purpose? Is their purpose to starve social programming in this, the "greatest country on earth?"

Prominent, veteran members of Congress tell me that, yes, that is their purpose. These tax cuts are not only to make Bush's wealthiest supporters richer, they are intended to hurt less powerful Americans by killing many of the social programs they depend on. That is the legacy of this Republican-controlled Congress. To hurt those who aren't wealthy enough to write Bush-Cheney a big check. I urge all Americans to keep that in mind during this election cycle. A Republican-controlled Congress is killing important social programs that we all depend on, so that Bush's friends can avoid paying a reasonable share of their taxes.

Help end these horrible and corrupt times in this country. Give your contributions to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.