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Jewish World Review March 24, 2000 /17 Adar II, 5760

Joseph Perkins

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Gotcha! Treasury Dept. spills the beans about Bubba's bull --

      "All that glisters is not gold."
--- William Shakespeare, "The Merchant of Venice"      

It is pretty much accepted wisdom that the 1990s were a golden decade of prosperity for the mass of Americans, thanks mostly to the inspired economic policies of William Jefferson Keynes, er, Clinton. Well, here's a news flash: The latest income figures from Clinton's Treasury Department reveal that the average working American was actually worse off in 1997 than in 1990, when George Herbert Walker (as opposed to W.) Bush was in the White House.

That's right. While individual incomes were 131 percent higher in 1997 than in 1990 -- a fact of which the American public is constantly reminded by the White House -- individual income taxes were actually 164 percent higher.

Individuals paid $80 billion more in taxes to the IRS in 1997 than they would have if they had been taxed at 1990 levels. What this means is that the average working guy and gal actually had a smaller take-home paycheck in 1997 than at the start of the decade.

You'd never know this from listening to President Clinton and his second-in-command, Al Gore. They pretend that everything's Kool-and-the-Gang on Main Street U.S.A., never letting on that the mass of working Americans have suffered diminished living standards on their watch.

The best way to reverse this trend -- presuming, of course, that Clinton and Gore truly are concerned that the average working guy and gal have lost ground since they've been in the White House -- is to reduce their tax burden, at least to the 1990 level. That would mean a rollback of the two big tax hikes imposed upon the American people during the previous decade: the first of which came in 1990 when Bush bowed to the wishes of the Democratic-controlled Congress, raising taxes a staggering $263 billion; the second of which came a mere three years later, when Clinton smote working Americans with an additional $275 billion in new taxes (with Vice President Gore casting the deciding vote).

Both the 1990 and 1993 tax hikes were necessary, defenders said, to whittle down the federal government's yearly deficits and eventually balance the budget.

Well, the government is no longer confronted with yearly deficits. And last year alone, the treasury raked in $115 billion in surplus tax revenue. At least some of that surplus revenue ought to be restored to taxpayers.

But the very last thing that Clinton or Gore want to do is return any more money to taxpayers than they have to -- no matter that many, if not most, working Americans are having a devil of a time covering their living expenses with their shrunken after-tax paychecks. Indeed, Clinton has threatened to veto any substantial tax-cut bill that the Republican Congress puts on his desk this year, inasmuch as his would-be successor Gore is out on the hustings demagoguing the tax-cut proposal put forward by Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush.

"Gov. Bush wants to bet America's prosperity on the same special-interest roulette that drove our economy into a ditch in the 1980s and early '90s," said Gore this week, stumping in Pennsylvania. Gore dishonestly claims that Bush is advocating "a $2.1 trillion tax scheme" that "exceeds the budget surplus by $1 trillion."

(The New York Times reports that the Texas governor's plan would cut taxes by $483 billion over five years.)

The GOP standard-bearer's plan could force him "to cut Medicare, health care and education, or drain money from the Social Security surplus," Gore warns.

By contrast, Gore proposes $250 billion over 10 years in "targeted" tax cuts, including deductions for non-elementary, non-secondary education (wouldn't want to offend the NEA), relief from the marriage penalty, deductions for retirement accounts (for folks without 401(k)s or IRAs) and a permanent R&D tax credit.

That $250-billion figure may sound generous to lay taxpayers, but the reality is that Gore's plan is downright stingy. The $25 billion a year in tax cuts he proposes wouldn't even make up half the $80 billion a year in higher taxes that working Americans are paying the federal treasury as a result of 1990 and 1993 tax hikes. So, then, if the Gore tax plan was enacted, the average working guy and gal would still have a smaller take-home paycheck than he or she did in 1990.

Yes, the past seven years with Mssrs. Clinton and Gore in the White House have been a period of overall economic growth. But when we measure prosperity by Joe and Mary Paycheck rather than Bill and Melinda Gates, we find that, indeed, all that glisters is not gold.

JWR periodic contributor Joseph Perkins is San Diego Union-Tribune columnist and a television commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


03/16/00: Al Gore's glaring hypocrisy
03/07/00: John McCain is a fraud
02/17/00: The only thing that will rein in NFL criminals is negative public opinion
01/27/00: Linking marriage and the income gap
01/12/00: Black blind obedience
12/21/99: Tripp's courage was punished
12/09/99: Politics gets in the way of food
12/02/99: Washington isn't speaking English
10/14/99: Using sexual harassment as a weapon
10/04/99: What about victims' rights?
09/17/99: Feel like you're being watched?
09/02/99: Our air traffic system is out of control
08/26/99: We need another Manhattan Project
08/13/99: Tempest in the PETA pot
08/05/99: Utilizing junk science for big payoffs

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