is like whiskey and car keys for the federal government, and so conservatives
should never tire of making the point that the federal government will
collect and spend 2.3 trillion dollars next fiscal year. If you
stop to look at the number and consider everything it has come to entail,
it really is the silliest thing ever: 2,300,000,000,000. It is
enough money that, had you the ability to stack it in one dollar bills,
you could reach the moon, once a year. And yet, if you have spent
even 30 random minutes listening to the (still ongoing) tax debate,
you have been led to believe that the federal government must spend
2.3 trillion dollars, or else the quality of American life will spiral
downward into unrecognizable chaos. Cats will be mating with dogs,
Blue Hairs will starve to death, children will go without vital services,
the Heavens Will Fall.
What the president wanted was 750 billion dollars in tax cuts over ten
years; what he got was 350 billion and a disastrous States aid rider.
It means the government has convinced itself it can squeak by on 35
billion less than 2.3 trillion. (Oh, however will it manage?!)
All told, the cut represents 1.5 percent of projected federal revenue
over the next decade, assuming that the projected numbers will remain
static, a virtual impossibility. (Hint: Projected federal revenues
never end up decreasing once collected and counted.) The good
news is that everyone paying federal income tax will get a cut.
(Huzzah, three cheers and so forth.) The bad news is, not everyone
pays federal income tax.
Immediately came the complaint that someone making 10,000 dollars per
year will not benefit from the plan, which sent the Congress to humming.
You cannot not give people a federal income tax rebate when the national
motto has settled into “Me, Too!,” and so their checks,
refunds for taxes they have not paid, will be delivered this summer.
(Surely the president will sign the thing; his veto stamp has collected
an inch of dust, and he does not possess the type of political courage
that says no to this sort of vote buying.) 10,000 Dollar a Year
Man simply cannot be excluded from the grand frivolity of rebate checks,
for goodness sake.
Comes the question: If someone works part time at McDonalds (McDonalds
always seems to be the popular workplace for these hypothetical people)
and earns 10,000 dollars, why should he not get a federal income tax
refund in the Bush plan? Because of old math; he does not actually
pay any federal income tax. By the time you factor in his yearly
federal refund with its earned income and child credits (and shame on
10,000 Dollar a Year Man if he has children and only works part time
at McDonalds), not only is he not paying federal income tax, he is coming
out ahead. And even this fails to factor in whatever ancillary
aid he may receive over the course of the year from, for example, food
stamps and Medicare. You cannot (okay, should not) give tax refunds
to people who pay no taxes. There is no sense in it. Luckily,
no one ever claimed the tax code worked sensibly.
Mort Kondracke was among the very first to say, But 10,000 Dollar a
Year Man does pay taxes, Social Security is one of them. Well
sure, but Social Security is a “set-aside benefit” one collects
later in life (and this is assuming rather brazenly that the program
will still exist later on in his life, or else it was all leeched away
for nothing), and even then he has received every penny he put into
the program within the first three years or so. After that, it
becomes welfare for the aged, in that incoming Social Security taxes
are not actually collected and “locked away” for future
distribution, but are used current day to pay the benefits of those
currently on the program, at a rate of something like 4 taxpayers to
1 Blue Hair. You can easily see why the program will fail one
day. (I would opt out of the godforsaken thing if only I knew
And so we resort to the familiar old argument, that tax cuts (as long
as they come from Republican minds) exist solely for the benefit of
their buddies, The Rich. (There are apparently no rich Democrats
who could benefit.) Of course they do. Any fair tax cut
would. The Rich carry the vast majority of the federal tax bill:
The top one percent paying 37.4 percent of the burden; the top five
percent paying 56.5 percent of the burden; the top ten percent paying
67.3 percent of the burden … and it goes on like this until you
get to the point where the top 50 percent of American wage earners pay
over 96 percent of the total federal income tax burden. There
are things holding down the poor, but The Rich is not one of them.
Brian S. Wise
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