How will we pay for the runaway budget train?

Friday, February 14, 2003 at 1:00am

With war on the horizon and massive government spending proposed by both Democrats and Republicans, there is no question that President Bush's new budget is a runaway train. Record deficits are in the air.

Bush is rightly expanding the war on terror to confront chronic villains overseas, but here at home he is practicing a "Burger King" budgetary policy: "Have It Your Way."

Want subsidized medical care? The government is with you. How about cheaper prescription drugs? Sounds good. Money to fight AIDS in Africa? Bush has the checkbook out. High-tech military stuff? All day long.

The problem is that the war on terror has depressed the economy, and the only way out of the recession is for Americans to spend more money. But most Americans are tapped out. The average American is $8,000 in debt, not including his mortgage obligation. So the only way most of us can spend money is for somebody to give us some more. That's why the president wants to cut federal income taxes.

But if you cut tax revenue, you can't pay the enormous bills the federal government is running up. So what's the solution?

First of all, the American working person simply cannot pay any more taxes. The government is now taxing just about everything. The list of federal, state and local taxes is staggering. The everyday American simply does not have any more to give.

That's because in many places housing costs are horrendous. My father paid about 20 percent of his take-home pay to the bank holding the mortgage. Now, housing costs are double that for many of us. Just to purchase a small home in places like Los Angeles, New York, Boston and San Francisco often costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. And then, of course, there are the property taxes.

Because of the housing situation and the largesse of our leaders, many American workers are living from paycheck to paycheck. Cutting taxes is essential for millions of Americans in order to have a decent life.

Bush, I believe, sees the government as a force for social good but also as an out-of-control elephant, trampling the ability of Americans to improve themselves economically. This schizophrenia will not work in the long run. If taxes do go down, the government must get its spending under control. Cutting waste and fraud in federal programs would save the country billions each year.

Finally, that old giveaway guy Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) would have you believe that the rich should bear more of the tax burden. Well, I am one of the rich guys Kennedy is talking about. But unlike him, I wasn't born into money. I worked my butt off for it and took risks he could never understand.

Right now my tax "burden" is more than 50 percent. Kennedy and others want that to rise. I say let's hold the line at half. Just like the Kennedy clan, I'd like the O'Reilly family to have some security in the future. I'm not real keen on handing over any more dough to a system that will not even drug test Americans receiving entitlement checks in the mail.

Kennedy sees me as mean and cruel. I see Kennedy as a man who wants quasi-socialism at my expense so he can appear to be compassionate as he sails off the coast of Massachusetts. His trust fund has been in a lockbox for decades. I'd like my descendants to have that advantage, too, Teddy boy.

In this time of war all Americans should sacrifice, and if the government needs more money out of my wallet, I will fork it over and shut up. But this country was founded on the principle that honest achievement would be rewarded, not confiscated. If we want to be Sweden, let's vote on it. If we want to stay America, let's get real about taxes and government spending.

TV news anchor Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show The O'Reilly Factor.

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