Today marks the 10th anniversary of former President George W. Bush signing into law his 2001 tax cuts (he passed a second round in 2003). While doing so, Bush promised prosperity and growth, but the nation got neither.
The cost of these budget-busting 2001 and 2003 tax cuts was, as estimated by Citizens for Tax Justice, roughly $2.5 trillion through 2010. But America didn’t have to go down this route of cutting taxes and hoping for growth to miraculously appear. There were other policy options available to policymakers.
ThinkProgress, using data on various social spending projects from the National Priorities Project — which does these calculations for the cost of the Iraq and Afghan wars — has estimated ten other possible policies we could’ve paid for at the same $2.5 trillion price of the Bush tax cuts. While not all of these policies are currently performed by the federal government, they do represent an accurate calculation of the monetary tradeoffs, and each one individually would cost the same as the Bush tax cuts. Here are ten alternatives we could’ve pursued instead:
- Give 122.7 Million Children Low-Income Health Care Every Year For Ten Years
- Give 49.2 Million People Access To Low-Income Healthcare Every Year For Ten Years
- Provide 43.1 Million Students With Pell Grants Worth $5,500 Every Year For Ten Years
- Provide 31.5 Million Head Start Slots For Children Every Year For Ten Years
- Provide VA Care For 30.7 Million Military Veterans Every Year For Ten Years
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- Provide 30.4 Million Scholarships For University Students Every Year For Ten Years
- Hire 4.19 Million Firefighters Every Year For Ten Years
- Hire 3.67 Million Elementary School Teachers Every Year For Ten Years
- Hire 3.6 Million Police Officers Every Year For Ten Years
- Retrofit 144.6 Million Households For Wind Power Every Year For Ten Years
- Retrofit 54.2 Million Households For Solar Photovoltaic Energy Every Year For Ten Years
The tradeoffs paint a stark picture. For the same price as the Bush tax cuts, which did little to help the economy, we could’ve sent tens of millions of students to college, retrofitted every household in America with the capacity to generate alternative energy, hired millions of firefighters and police officers, effectively ended our national shame of having kids who lack health care coverage, or put millions of more teachers into classrooms. But instead, Congress passed budget-breaking tax cuts, and then went on to pass even more in 2003. In 2010, Congress then went on to renew the Bush tax cuts for an additional two years, and the political will for the sort of public investments listed above appears to have dried up.