PRESIDENT BUSH is dangerously out of touch with the American public.
Instead of listening to the elected people in his party most in touch with the average voter -- House Republicans -- he remains cloistered with aides who avoid action and favor blaming others for the nation's economic, and their boss' consequent political, woes.
House Republicans are increasingly frustrated with the White House's wait-and-see attitude on the economy. We hear our constituents' genuine concern abut their prosperity and sense resentment that the administration seems to show little regard for that concern. Unfortunately, our calls for quick action are rebuked by unelected officials like Richard Darman, the budget director, and John Sununu, the chief of staff, who advocate waiting for a more politically opportune moment to push for an economic growth package.
These are the same people who, when the House Republicans passed my "no new taxes" resolution during last year's budget summit, urged the president to accept a package that called for new taxes and to try to push it past us anyway.
Darman recently counseled the president to wait until the State of the Union address in January to announce an economic plan, saying this timing would be better because "in the general public's mind, there's a ritual, a rhythm of renewal . . . to the State of the Union."
For uttering such an absurd statement, he should be thrown from the front door of the White House the way unsavory characters were ejected from Texas saloons. What "general public" does he have in mind -- the general public in the White House cafeteria?
The real general public is more attuned to the prospect of a
bleak Christmas than to rituals so dear to Darman.
Just to see how much this "rhythm of renewal" exists in the American mind, I conducted an unscientific but objective telephone poll, asking 10 people at random one simple question: "When is the State of the Union address?"
Seven did not know: a Nebraska video store manager, an auto parts clerk in Missouri, a Pennsylvania financial planner, a San Francisco publicist, an out-of-work New Jersey car salesman, a Texas small-business owner and a Washington cashier. I'm willing to bet that the 70 percent of respondents to my poll who are not in rhythm with Darman's "general public" would closely match the results of a more scientific poll conducted across the land.
The House Republican conference a week ago today endorsed immediate enactment of a comprehensive growth plan, including partial restoration of passive-loss real-estate deductions to help bolster home values, a reduced capital gains rate, a repeal of job-killing excise taxes on boats, aircraft and jewelry and a bill allowing families to tap individual retirement accounts for first homes.
Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, recently sent a letter signed by 113 of the 166 House Republicans urging Speaker Tom Foley to keep Congress in session until such a pro-growth package is passed. Rep. Frank Wolf, Republican of Virginia, is seeking signatures for a similar letter urging President Bush to call Congress back if it adjourns without passing such legislation. The Democrats, meanwhile, seized the day by keeping Congress in session after the Thanksgiving holiday, presumably to craft their own package of tax cuts.
Regrettably, our message doesn't seem to be getting across at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. John Sununu recently lectured House Republicans that politics is "a matter of seasons" and that this not the right season for the president to go on television to push a growth package.
FTC It's no coincidence that the only person in the administration pressing for action, Jack Kemp, the housing secretary, was himself a House Republican less than four years ago. George Bush left the House more than 20 years ago, but he should remember how close a congressional seat is to the people back
home and heed our call now, rather than later.
Dick Armey, a Texas representative, is the ranking Republican
on the Congressional Joint Economic Committee.