If you make $1-million or more, President Bush and House Republicans
want to give you a very happy holiday season. They know what a burden carrying
three homes and fueling eight cars must be, and they're out to lighten the load.
The tax cuts being pushed by House leaders would reduce your tax bill on average
by nearly $51,000.
Break out those champagne wishes and caviar dreams. The donor class
is getting what it paid for.
Anyone who wonders whether there is really any difference between the Democratic
and Republican parties should look at the buzz of activity in Congress just
before Thanksgiving break. The season of sharing with those less fortunate took
a turn in Republican hands. It's now a Leona Helmsley yacht party where $100
bills are used to light celebratory cigars while the little people serve the
drinks and pay the taxes.
The $50-billion "deficit reduction" package that passed the House
saves money by constraining spending for things like child support enforcement,
student loans, and health care and food stamps for the working poor. It is a
royal raspberry to struggling families, a vote that said, "Sorry buddy,
you're on your own."
The vote was 217-215, with every Democrat voting against the measure and only
14 Republicans joining them. Meanwhile, the benefits of a $56-billion tax cut
package sponsored by the House Republican leadership (a plan that wipes away
every penny of that ballyhooed deficit reduction) would inure primarily to this
nation's richest citizens. Under it, the top 1 percent of earners would reap
about 51 percent of the tax cuts.
Among other things, the plan would extend until 2010 the capital gains and
dividend tax cuts passed in 2003 and set to expire in 2008.
That original expiration date was a ruse (as is this new proposed one). It
was a way to make something manifestly irresponsible look less so. Everyone
knew that the president and congressional conservatives would be back to renew
those cuts and eventually try to make them permanent, even if every penny had
to be snatched from programs for the nation's hungry or borrowed from Asian
This coldhearted trade-off between budget cuts for the poor and tax cuts for
the rich - or at least its appearance - was too much even for some Republicans.
The leadership responded by separating the budget and tax cut vote by a few
weeks. The tax cuts will be taken up after the House reconvenes Tuesday.
I give some credit to Republicans in the Senate who put aside, for now, the
investor tax cuts in exchange for a tax cut package that would provide one year's
relief to millions of upper middle-class families about to be unfairly caught
by the alternative minimum tax. This needs fixing, and for more than one year.
The differing versions will have to be worked out. But the Republican leadership
would like all the tax cuts to pass.
I understand the need to make deficit reduction a national priority, and maybe
that means slowing the growth of some of the programs that assist the working
poor. But then reduce the deficit . Don't claim you're doing that and then turn
around and give the savings to the Hiltons, the Gateses and the Waltons.
The administration's worst misstep has not been the Iraq war, or undermining
stem cell research, or putting pillagers in charge of federal lands, or crumpling
the Bill of Rights into a ball and drop-kicking it into the ocean. It has been
the tax cuts that benefit the wealthy and relieve corporate America of its tax
responsibilities while ballooning the deficit. This has accomplished two things
that Republicans seem to relish. It has further stratified our society into
haves and have nots, concentrating wealth in a way this country hasn't seen
since the Gilded Age; and it has made it unlikely that we will be able to keep
our promises of a social safety net.
From the founding of this nation to the year George W. Bush was elected president,
we amassed a debt of $5.6-trillion. Bush is on track to nearly double it by
the time he leaves office in 2009.
After this raider is through, there will not be much money left for anything
helpful or progressive. We are the world's most prodigious borrower, and one
day those debts will be called. When that happens, the money that goes to subsidize
university education for smart and talented middle-class kids won't be there,
and neither will the money that pays for school lunches for poor children. Maybe
the great geysers at Yellowstone will have to be brought to you by Alka-Seltzer
as a way to keep the park open.
This is not good stewardship. Republicans are choosing tax cuts for
millionaires over food stamps for the needy. I do not recognize this as an American
value. My country has been hijacked.