Yes, but just where will our tax money go?

MIKE ROYKO

February 19, 1993|By MIKE ROYKO

Now we are going to be told about the need to "sacrifice," and how we must all do it.

Or maybe the operative word is "contribute," because some White House spin doctor decided "sacrifice" makes too many of us nervous.

Who knows, by the time President Clinton finishes his pitch, he might be talking about everybody just chipping in what they can spare.

"My fellow Americans, we are going to pass the plate, and I hope that in your hearts there is generosity and you will . . ."

No matter how he phrases it, what it comes down to is that he and Congress will put the arm on everybody except the poor, those who are part of the huge underground, "off the books" work force, and the fortunate individuals or industries that have bought and paid for a piece of a congressman.

Everybody else, though, is going to be nicked one way or another. The wealthy will be hit the hardest because they have it, and any self-respecting Democratic president figures they can spare more of it. The middle class will get hit because that's where most of the money is.

Should anyone be surprised? Are there those who actually believed that the former governor of the great state of Arkansas would lug his satchel of programs into the White House, run his finger down the big ledger, and say: "Ah, no problem. We cut a bit of this, trim a bit of that, shift that from here to there, or maybe there to here, and presto, I give you the miracle of tax relief for the middle class; investment in education, health and public works; and, as an added bonus, a reduction in the deficit. Gosh, this is a fun job."

If you believed that, you're probably putting your dentures under your pillow at night and waiting for a silver dollar to turn up in the morning.

And how will Americans feel about it? Obviously, those being hit the hardest -- couples making $100,000 and up -- will be unhappy. But they are a minority and most didn't vote for Clinton anyway. If anything, they wish there had been a "forgotten upper class," and that it was still forgotten.

The middle class will be grim. But it will form a big market for bumper stickers that say: "Don't blame me; I didn't vote for him."

Some of the poor might be pleased because they hope that anything extra coming out of the upper brackets might wind up in their pockets.

So that's settled. Anybody who has it is going to part with more of it. And all but the knee-jerkiest liberals will be unhappy.

The real problem isn't that Clinton and Congress are going to hit JTC us up for the money. It's where the money will go. And where the money that's already going has gone.

Clinton talks about "investments." I know a little about investments. And I thought it meant that I take my money and place it where it will provide a profit, a return.

That's different from plain old spending, which is when you buy something and eat it or drink it or drive it or stare at its screen. After a while, it's gone. You digest it or it falls apart or wears out and you have nothing to show but maybe a big gut or a junk-cluttered basement.

But Clinton keeps talking about investment when it sounds to me like he's describing spending.

For example, he says we should invest some billions on highways. That's not investing, that's spending. And it's goofy spending. Take it from me: I've driven from coast to coast, border to border. We have more than enough highways. Once you get out of the big cities, you can run it up 70 or 75, put it on cruise control, and go for hours.

So he should forget highways. And he should forget about any other "investment," meaning spending, that isn't absolutely necessary.

Which brings me to a constructive suggestion. It has to do with the role of the press. By press, I mean the stuff you read, not see on the tube. The TV people are too busy putting out mayhem fun and ego jabber to bother with genuine reporting.

The press should forget the usual Washington gossip, inner-circle power struggles and backbiting, and White House musical chairs.

Instead, it should concentrate on tracking where every taxpayer's nickel is being spent. And when it is being spent foolishly, that should be the news.

Forget about what Hillary Rodham wears. Or where Bill is jogging. Put on green eye shades and watch that ledger.

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