Republicans Can't Seem to Give It Away

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Anybody want a trillion dollars? Just when the Republican party thought it had something that would be an easy sell to the public –- tax cuts –- it once again finds itself flummoxed by the fickle American public. Having found it hard to put up a unified front on anything –- abortion, gun control, whether Kosovo was a good or bad thing –- it believed it had an issue that had "GOP" written all over it. Trent Lott and the Republicans have decided they want to give it all to you. The problem is, you don’t seem to want it.

"It’s just not polling that well," says TIME White House correspondent Jay Branegan. "Republicans on Capitol Hill seem to want it more than anybody else." Blame the bull market for making folks feel they can spare a dime for Bill Clinton’s "first things first" list of needy government programs such as Social Security and Medicare; blame the Democrats for convincing lunch-bucket voters that the GOP is only taking care of the rich. "Democrats have been successful in saying that broad-based cuts disproportionately benefit the well-off," says Branegan. "Of course, they never mention that it’s because rich people pay more taxes in the first place." Still, the GOP is going to keep on trying, hoping to drown all that out with one big "ka-ching!" After paying some homage to Social Security and Medicare, Republicans will make a $1 trillion tax-cut package the raw meat of this year’s budget. Clinton says he’ll veto, probably by August. Then the GOP can either compromise –- there is a lot of money to go around, after all –- or call the whole thing off and slug it out in the 2000 election. Free advice: Shutting the government down over this won't play well in Peoria.