A Message That Doesn't Add Up

War Cost, Dollar, Expense, Soldier, Money, Iraq
We must first have a little disclosure. When the president first talked up cutting taxes, it was just fine by me, to be absolutely selfish about it. I would benefit more than most from a tax cut.

But that was before 9/11, and when the administration's tax plan was formally introduced last week, the whole thing seemed unreal to me. Here we are about to go to war, but first we're going to cut taxes? I've never heard of a country that did that.

And when the secretary of defense told Congress later in the week that it would be impossible to estimate the cost of a war, if there is one, the idea of cutting taxes moved from unreal to the category of preposterous.

Now, I'm no economist, but I think I do know something about communicating. And the most important message the administration is trying to drive home these days is that Saddam Hussein poses a grave threat that must be eliminated. I happen to agree with that; others don't.

But the administration is hurting its case when it tells us in one breath that the threat of terrorism is so great we must all rush out and buy duct tape, then tells us later that we can go ahead and conduct business as usual and still defeat it; that getting rid of Saddam can be done so easily and cheaply that there's no need to postpone a tax cut that was designed long before Saddam was seen as such a threat.

That is not a mixed message; it's a message that simply does not add up. Nor, if we go to war, does it make much sense to leave the bill for our children.

We need to set some priorities here. First defeat terrorism, then worry about a tax cut.