Jewish World Review Oct. 11, 2000 / 12 Tishrei, 5761
Fuzzy math = dirty politics
I'M SURE Al Gore's barb at the wealthiest 1 percent was
focus group-tested. But did his choreographers tell the
group he was going to say it 10 times? I wonder what
kinds of people are attracted to such gratuitous
Many Bush supporters, while generally quite pleased with
Bush's performance, were a bit frustrated at his failure to
respond to Gore's repeated charge that Bush's tax cut
proposal disproportionately benefits the wealthiest 1
percent of the people.
"Under Governor Bush's tax cut proposal," said Gore,
"he would spend more money on tax cuts for the
wealthiest 1 percent than all of the new spending that he
proposes for education, health care, prescription drugs
and national defense, combined."
No money will be "spent" on tax cuts, as Gore alleges.
Tax cuts are not spending. This is more than just
semantics. But Gore carefully chose that terminology to
create the impression that tax cuts will return monies
already paid to the government. That is absolutely false.
The government doesn't refund excess revenues to the
people; it either spends them on programs or applies
them to the national debt (or interest on it).
These surpluses the candidates are discussing are
projected surpluses. They haven't yet been paid into the
treasury. Bush's tax cut will keep a portion of those
moneys from being paid into the treasury in the first
place. Since the government will never receive those
monies it will not be able to spend them; it can't spend
money it never receives.
Contrary to Gore's claim in the debate, he doesn't believe
the projected surpluses are the people's money. He
believes they are the government's money that should be
spent as he deems appropriate. And under his plan, he
certainly deems it appropriate to spend it all and more.
The reason Gore chooses to characterize the projected
surpluses as having already been received, and the tax
cuts as spending, is that it allows him to play demagogic
games with the numbers. We must understand Bush's
$1.3 trillion tax cut not as money being returned by the
government, but money that it will never collect. That
being understood, Bush cannot possibly be spending
money on tax cuts, much less more than he is spending
on those programs to which Gore referred.
To make his point, Gore should have said, "Under Bush's
tax cut proposal, total projected revenues from the
wealthiest one percent will be reduced by more than the
amount he is proposing to spend for education, health
care, prescription drugs and national defense combined."
But that still would have been grossly inaccurate.
Reducing the top two brackets from 39.6 percent and 36
percent to 33 percent will generate only $149 billion of
Bush's $1.3 trillion tax cut. Those brackets include the
top 2 percent. The number ($149 billion) would be even
smaller for the top 1 percent. Bush plans to spend almost
twice that amount ($270 billion) on prescription drugs,
Medicare reform, education and defense, not including
missile defense, which he plans to develop.
Of course the taxpayers who earn the most money pay
the most in taxes, so a tax rate reduction will naturally
result in them saving more actual dollars than those in
lower income brackets. But under Bush's plan the
wealthiest will receive the least percentage reduction and
would pay a higher overall share of the taxes.
A reduction from 39.6 percent to 33 percent, for
example, constitutes a 16.67 percent real reduction,
whereas a reduction from 15 percent to 10 percent
constitutes a 33.3 percent real reduction. When you
consider the child tax credit for applicable families, the
lower income producer gets an even greater
For a family of four, those making $35,000 would get a
100 percent cut in their income tax; those making
$50,000 would get a 50 percent cut; those making
$75,000 would get a 25 percent cut. Those earning over
$100,000 would get an average cut of 10 percent and
their share of the total federal income taxes being paid
would increase from 62 percent to 64 percent.
Bush's tax plan is not skewed in favor of the wealthy, but
of the middle and lower income groups. Gore is fully
aware of that. Shame on him for distorting the figures to
support his divisive class warfare strategy. Talk about
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