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Spare Us Idiot Tax Cuts
Published on Monday, November 5, 2001 in the Boulder Daily Camera
Spare Us Idiot Tax Cuts
by Molly Ivins
 
AUSTIN, Texas — I don't see how we can call the House "economic stimulus" package anything but war-profiteering. The bill is a disgrace, and the usual suspects from Texas — Tom Delay and Dick Armey — hold large responsibility for it.

What happened here, while we were all being exposed to anthrax-scare 24-7, is that corporate hitchhikers, who got left out of the earlier tax-cut package in favor of rich people, moved right in for the kill in the name of patriotism and economic stimulus.

The bill provides big tax cuts for big, profitable corporations — IBM, General Motors and General Electric get a total of $3.27 billion in immediate tax rebate checks. A total of $25 billion in immediate tax rebates goes to large, profitable corporations, according to Citizens for Tax Justice. That's twice as much instant rebates to profitable corporations as the House, by two votes, decided to give the 37 million low-income families who didn't qualify for the original tax rebate.

Forty-one percent of the new tax cuts go to the richest 1 percent of taxpayers, while the only 7 percent goes to the bottom 60 percent, according to the analysis by Tax Justice. Even more eye-popping cuts, relative to size, go to a whole slew of Texas corporations, including TXU, ChevronTexaco, Enron, etc. Dirty work at the crossroads — or, more accurately, like the refrain of the country song, "Dead skunk in the middle of the road, stinkin' to high heaven."

For those who have forgotten where we started with the tax cuts, the first round, passed in May, was heavily tilted to benefit the rich and — surprise! — did not provide the needed economic stimulus. Even the Democrats' notion of a $300 rebate for "everybody" meant only everybody who made more than about $33,000 a year. That left out a whole lot of somebodies.

The problem is that four out of five Americans pay more in payroll taxes than they do in income taxes, so an income-tax cut by definition favors the wealthy. The particularly obnoxious feature of the Republican "economic stimulus package" is that it is aimed at precisely the wrong people. Not only does it, again, unfairly benefit the wealthy, but it leaves out, again, precisely the people who will promptly spend whatever they get, thus actually providing economic stimulus.

This bill contains so many bad ideas, it's hard to count them all. It would repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax, which discourages corporations from looking for tax loopholes and shelters. Reducing the capital gains tax — now there's a dandy. Three-fourths of the proceeds from that little sweetheart go the wealthiest 1 percent, and it costs the treasury $10 billion a year.

President Bush wanted an economic stimulus plan of between $50 billion and $75 billion. This one will cost well over $212 billion. "The largest corporate tax loophole under current law — accelerated depreciation — would be almost doubled, at an estimated cost of $109 billion over the next three years," says Tax Justice. Incredibly enough, the Senate Republican bill is even more grotesquely skewed to benefit corporations and the wealthy, at a total cost of $220 billion. More than half the proposed Senate cuts would go the richest 1 percent; only 6 percent would go to the bottom 60 percent.

One of the many troubling aspects of the Republican bills is that rather than providing an extension of health insurance benefits for the unemployed, they propose instead to let states shift money from the federal program designed to provide health insurance for poor children to insurance for the newly unemployed. Bush himself signed off on this proposal. That's just great — let's take money away from poor kids to help those impacted by terrorist attacks. What a great choice.

Of course, the Senate D's are putting together a completely different package. But R's are using an old legislative trick. There is hell's own pressure on the Democrats to cooperate and to compromise these days: No one wants to hear Congress squabble in the middle of a national emergency. This thing will be compromised out, but when you start by putting a ton of weight (or idiot tax cuts) on one side of the see-saw, what happens is you wind up with half of those idiot cuts and none of the useful ones.

At this rate, we're going to look up from the war against terrorism to find both our civil liberties and economic justice long gone. Long term, that's a lot scarier than anthrax.

Speak up, people; speak out. The only way to stop something this big and bad is for the people themselves to put pressure on Congress. This is just as much a matter of patriotism as enlisting in the Marines.

Copyright 2001 The Daily Camera.

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