Democrats and Republicans agree that the federal income tax must be reformed. They even agree on some common goals.
When the Chicago City Council began its re-districting process last fall, the city was braced for a showdown between the Latino and black caucuses. What it was not expecting, however, was the persistence of a tiny band of Polish-American activists with a long list of complaints: There were potholes in the dominantly Polish neighborhood of Avondale that had gone unfixed for months; it was nearly impossible to get permits to work in all of the different wards that contained Polish-speakers; none of their aldermen staffed a Polish speaker.
In the course of following the health care debate, in which millions upon millions of dollars have been spent to persuade Democrats to tailor their legislation to the interests of various components of the health care industry, one thought may have occurred to you: Is Tony Coelho making any money off of this? Coelho, if you don't know, is an innovator at pushing the boundary between politics, special interests, and the mutual profit thereof.
If George W. Bush's Social Security reform fails, people may look back at January 18 as the day the wheels really started to come off. That was the afternoon House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas pronounced Bush's plan a "dead horse" that Congress would not pass. Thomas also suggested that any changes to Social Security would involve elaborate tax reform of the sort that can take more than a year, far longer than the few weeks the White House is hoping to devote to Social Security.
At about noon on March 4, a few hours before he announced he was retiring from the Senate, Majority Leader George Mitchell put in a call to Tom Daschle. "He just wanted to let me know his plans," Daschle says. Daschle was on Mitchell's heads-up list for good reason. As co-chair with Mitchell of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, the South Dakota Democrat is one of Mitchell's closest allies. Even so, Mitchell's decision "came as a complete surprise," Daschle says.
"Let me begin," says White House aide David Dreyer, "by contesting the premises of your question." It's a windless evening in November, and Dreyer is in his West Wing office, listening to a new recording of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier and defending the role of Tony Coelho, for whom Dreyer once worked, in the Democrats' electoral debacle. "First," he says, "Tony was not the party chair. He was never, to my knowledge, actually in the dnc building. Second, the role of party chair in a midterm election is relatively unimportant anyhow.
At the end of October a huge red, white and blue envelope from a group called U.S. Term Limits arrived in the mail. "Fellow American," it began, " most members of Congress view their job as guaranteed for life. The average rate for incumbent congressmen over the last decade has been almost 98 percent. why? Because it is almost impossible for a challenger to come anywhere near matching an incumbent's campaign war chest!... term limits is the greatest movement of the twentieth century!" That was last month.
It was a black day in 1985 when Dan Rostenkowski was seduced by respectability. I didn't think so at the time. Like other advocates of tax reform, I was delighted when the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee abandoned a lifetime of Chicago machine politics and Washington interest group hackery. His famous "write Rosty" TV address, endorsing reform efforts, won him plaudits for his high-mindedness and bipartisanship from which he apparently has never recovered. Now Rostenkowski stands as perhaps the principal obstacle to Democratic efforts to seize the political offensive with a tax