THE 2004 BUDGET….The Los Angeles Times gets it pretty much right in its lead editorial today about President Bush’s 2004 budget:

A flat-out retreat from the idea that the Internal Revenue Service should take from the rich at a higher rate than from the poor, the budget contains a two-pronged attack on the progressive tax code that would basically end taxation on investment income. For starters, it would let individuals off the hook for taxes on corporate dividend income.

In addition, Bush has floated the idea of creating “lifetime savings accounts.” A family of four could stash up to $30,000 a year in the accounts, plus $15,000 more in new tax-free retirement savings.

….As the proposal stands, a corporate attorney could dip into her lifetime savings account to, say, add a sauna to her weight room and still not need to worry about retirement funds. However, a custodian might well deplete his meager savings each time he had to replace a dead refrigerator or the head gasket on his Chevy and could wind up broke at 65.

….Tightening the money spent on a handful of important programs isn’t going to keep the country from plummeting into trillion-dollar deficits. To avoid the economic abyss, Washington must resist the urge to pass a raft of tax cuts that would further enrich the wealthy while starving the government.

There have been a long succession of “boy genius” political advisors to presidents, and most of them don’t last more than two or three years. I think Karl Rove has finally overreached, and this budget may be his Waterloo. Let’s hope so, anyway.

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