Published on Monday, June 2, 2003 by the New York Times
The Reverse Robin Hood
by Bob Herbert
If you wanted a quintessential example of what the Bush administration and its legislative cronies are about, it was right there on the front page of The Times last Thursday:
"Tax Law Omits $400 Child Credit for Millions."
The fat cats will get their tax cuts. But in the new American plutocracy, there won't even be crumbs left over for the working folks at the bottom of the pyramid to scramble after.
When House and Senate negotiators met to put the finishing touches to President Bush's tax bill, they coldly deleted a provision that would have allowed millions of low-income working families to benefit from the bill's increased child tax credit.
It was a mean-spirited and wholly unnecessary act, a clear display of the current regime's outright hostility toward America's poor and working classes.
The negotiators eliminated a provision in the Senate version of the tax bill that would have extended benefits from the child tax credit to families with incomes between $10,500 and $26,625. This is not a small group. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the families that would have benefited include about 12 million children — one of every six kids in the U.S. under the age of 17.
While the tax bill will lavish hundreds of billions of dollars in benefits on people higher up the income scale, it leaves this group of working families very ignominiously behind.
And readers of yesterday's Times learned that another group of some eight million mostly low-income taxpayers — primarily single people without children — will also be left behind, getting no benefit at all from the president's tax cuts. Forget about trickle-down. The goal of this administration is to haul it up.
The provision to extend the tax credit to more low-income families was the work of Senator Blanche Lincoln, an Arkansas Democrat who noted that half of all taxpayers in her state had adjusted gross incomes of less than $20,000. The full Senate approved the provision, but the negotiators knocked it out at the last minute, behind closed doors.
While the most well-heeled Americans are happily inflating their bankrolls, there are families with a total of 16 million children at the low end of the income scale who, for one reason or another, won't get the help they should — their fair share — from this tax bill. About half of all African-American and Latino children get no benefit — or only a partial benefit — from the child tax credit, according to the Children's Defense Fund and an advocacy group called the Children's Research and Education Institute.
When the whistles were blown on the child-tax-credit outrage, Republican leaders were unable to give a coherent explanation for their action. Some tried to argue that they had to scrap the provision to keep the total cost of the tax bill from exceeding $350 billion over 10 years, their agreed-upon limit.
That was not true. For one thing, the $350 billion limit was a completely arbitrary and largely fictional figure. The true cost of the tax bill over 10 years will be closer to a trillion dollars than the deliberately deceptive $350 billion figure that the G.O.P. has chosen to use.
Senator Lincoln's provision, which would have offered a little help to so many people who need it, would have cost only $3.5 billion. Even within the phony $350 billion limit, a slight adjustment in a number of different windfalls for the very wealthy would have opened up sufficient room for this modest tax break.
But to really get a sense of the scandalous nature of this G.O.P. tax-cut scam, consider that the House and Senate negotiators also got rid of a number of measures in the Senate bill that would have saved billions of dollars by closing abusive corporate tax structures. The Center on Budget noted the following:
"As the Washington Post has reported, the Senate bill `included provisions to crack down on abusive corporate tax shelters, combat some accounting scams such as those pursued by Enron Corp., prevent U.S. companies from moving their headquarters to post office boxes in offshore tax havens such as Bermuda and limit grossly inflated deferred compensation plans for corporate executives.' "
The savings from those provisions would have been about $25 billion, much more than enough to cover the cost of Senator Lincoln's $3.5 billion attempt to give a bit of a break to several million working families.
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company