Jewish World Review Jan. 10, 2003 / 7 Shevat, 5763
Debra J. Saunders
Bush is cleaving too closely to the Clinton playbook
THE DEMOCRATS are right. There is a class of
Americans that doesn't pay its fair share, or anything
approaching its fair share, of federal taxes. And now
that group is about to get another tax break, thanks
to President Bush's proposed stimulus package.
But the Democrats are wrong as to who that group
is. The group that doesn't pay close to its fair share
is the bottom half of American workers who
collectively paid less than 4 percent of federal income
taxes in 2000.
Citizens for Tax Justice complains that the proposed
Bush tax cuts -- which would reduce federal income
taxes and eliminate taxes on stock dividends -- will
net $289 for the average taxpayer this year, but more
than $30,000 for the top 1 percent of taxpayers.
Director Robert S. McIntyre complained that Bush
apparently believes "the rich don't have enough
Of course, the reason the Bush plan doesn't give
more tax relief to low- income Americans is that they
don't pay much, if any, in income taxes. That's even
true of middle-income Americans.
The top 25 percent of American earners paid 84
percent of federal income taxes in 2000; the top 1
percent paid 37.4 percent.
As R. Glenn Hubbard, chairman of the president's
Council on Economic Advisers, explained in a
speech last month, "the income tax is paid almost
entirely by the relatively well-to-do."
And while the left bemoans that richies have been
getting too big a break in income taxes in recent
years, the percentage of federal income taxes they
pay has grown steadily since 1970, when the top 1
percent of taxpayers paid 16. 7 percent of the income
The House Dems' idea of fairness? An instant tax
"rebate" of $300 per taxpayer. Said former Reagan
and Bush economic adviser Martin Anderson, "The
Democrats call it a tax credit, but it's (often) neither.
They simply say that if you're not paying taxes, we'll
give you money." That description, Anderson noted,
fits giving $300 to people who don't pay income
taxes, and also the Earned Income Tax Credit
supported by many Republicans as well.
Am I suggesting that America raise taxes on poor
and middle-income earners? Of course not. I wouldn't
want to join the ranks of those who raise families on
$30,000 or less, and who do pay payroll, excise and
But I can't endorse a "rebate" that will drive up the
number of voters who can clamor for bigger
government, more programs and more "rebates,"
secure in the knowledge that only other people will
have to pay for them.
The Bush plan would eliminate the dividend tax, end
the marriage penalty, increase child tax credits and
lower taxes in all brackets. A married couple earning
$40,000 with two kids would pay a mere $45 a year
in federal taxes, according to an analysis the
accounting firm Deloitte & Touche performed for the
New York Times.
If one parent loses a job and is deemed "likely to
exhaust" unemployment benefits, Plan Bush would
set aside $3,000 for training and support services. If
mom or dad gets a job, Plan Bush would give to the
parent what's left of the $3,000 as a "re-employment
William Niskanen, chairman of the Libertarian Cato
Institute, dismissed the Bushies' "Personal
Re-employment Accounts" as "show business" and
predicts they'll fail because they weren't thought
No lie. On a conference call, Commerce Secretary
Don Evans explained that the plan was "innovative"
because "in the past, whenever you find a job, your
unemployment benefits are cut off."
Bingo, and that's because employed people don't
need unemployment checks.
If anything, Bush is cleaving too closely to the
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© 2000, Creators Syndicate