FactCheck.org has a report concerning charges and countercharges in the NJ gubernatorial race between Jon Corzine and Doug Forrester. The report is disturbing. Not because Forrester, the Republican candidate demagogues the tax issue. After all, we're used to that from Republicans. No, the troubling aspect of the "debate" is that Corzine allows Forrester to succeed because Corzine tries to beat Forrester at Forrester's own game rather than making a strong argument that supports Corzine's own votes on tax issues.
Corzine's voting record on tax issues is one of voting in favor of motions, amendments, etc., that would blunt the basic thrust of the Republican tax program which was (and is) to cut taxes for the wealthy (except when the goal of cutting taxes for the wealthy interferes with the Republican goal of cutting taxes for the extremely wealthy). Thus, Corzine voted for a proposal that:
[W]ould have provided an average tax cut of $569 per household in 2003, while the plan approved by Senate Republicans would have averaged $692 per household . . . . And – for those making more than $1 million per year – the Corzine cut would have been only $815 on average, while the version favored by Senate Republicans produced an average cut of $73,790.On the estate tax front, Corzine supported an increase in the lifetime credit equivalency to $3 Million, but opposed outright repeal of the estate tax.
Corzine's record, then, can fairly be described as one in which he opposed tax cuts for the extemely well-off, but in which he favored tax cuts for working people, the middle class, and even some who might reasonably be called upper class.
Of course, Forrester's ads attack Corzine's efforts to oppose giveaways to the wealthy as votes in favor of raising taxes. Rather than hitting Forrester's attack head-on, Corzine argues that he actually voted to lower taxes. Thus he allows the debate to be framed as one in which the voters must choose which candidate is most in favor of cutting taxes. The "debate," such as it is, quickly devolves into a shouting match.
Perhaps it is Pollyanish of me, but I believe that American voters are capable of understanding a real debate, not a psuedo-debate that is nothing more than a string of soundbites. I believe that candidates for public office can articulate real arguments, detailing how public monies can be used responsibly and, just as importantly, favoring cutting (and raising) taxes in ways that are equitable. Thus, Corzine should, without equivocation, say that all tax cuts are not equal. Tax cuts that are extraordinarily regressive are bad. Those that increase progressivity are good, but only insofar as there is enough money raised via taxes to pay for the essential government services that we need.
In other words, engage in argument, not mere contradiction.