The Moment of Truth — July 7, 2001

Bush’s Tax Cut Is Not EVEN

Hi, I’m mejeffdorchen, and welcome to the Moment of Truth, the one blip on the media radar screen that dares to chirp out that the biggest celebrity news this week is: the guy behind the counter at the yogurt shop looks just like Raoul Julia.

Okay, people are supposed to be starting to get their $300 tax rebate checks pretty soon. Everybody gets $300. From the richest rich guy to the poorest poor gal. $300 flat rebate. Unless you’ve been working for so little money that you haven’t paid any taxes in a while, you’ll be getting a check for $300.

Okay, okay. This rebate is from the tax cut, yeah? The big tax cut? Now let me ask a question nobody seems to be asking. If Bush originally wanted a three trillion dollar tax cut, and if, let’s say on the high side of estimation there are 3 hundred million taxpayers - which there aren’t, that’s way too high, but just for the sake of argument let’s overestimate, just to give Bush a fighting chance against the indictment I am about to throw out there.

Now, if a three trillion dollar tax cut were divided evenly between 3 hundred million people, you know how much each person would get? $10,000. Everybody would get $10,000. From the richest rich guy to the poorest poor gal. $10,000 flat rebate. Unless you’d been working for so little money that you hadn’t paid any taxes in a while, you’d be getting a check for $10,000.

Or would you? I know that the 150 pounds of pot I smoked in my junior and senior years of high school punched a lot of holes in whichever of my organs is in charge of memory, but I just don’t remember George W Bush promising to give every taxpayer in the US $10,000. Cuz if he had, that would’ve been really big news. And if he had, I would’ve been in favor of it. Because I need $10,000 to fund my little subversive projects. And I bet you he would’ve had outrageous public support. I bet you no one would’ve dared gainsay that man, that man with that plan, had that man had that plan. Had that man had that plan, to give each and every taxpayer $10,000 flat rebate, he would’ve been unassailable. That plan, had that man had it, would’ve saled through congress like a poor man into heaven.

So why didn’t he promise a flat $10,000 tax rebate? I mean, when he was proposing his three trillion dollar tax cut? Well, before we explore that question, let’s ask this one: Now, I don’t know how much his tax cut had shrunk by the time it passed. I’d stopped paying attention because I didn’t want it to pass in any form whatsoever, so I decided to focus my attention on more positive things, like that Jefford’s guy screwing over the GOP by jumping ship. Which might not have happened if Bush had promised everyone $10,000. I mean, I’m not saying it definitely wouldn’t have happened, but it might not have. That’s all I’m saying about that.

What I’m asking is, did they shrink his tax cut down to 90 billion? Cuz if they did, then I guess that’s all we can get, under this flat rebate plan, is $300.

Oh, wait a minute. I remember now. The new tax cut is a $1.35 trillion reduction in taxes over the next 10 years. So, fudging a lot of the numbers as I admittedly am, the least we should get is a $432.50 rebate - every year for the next ten years. Flat rebate for 3 hundred million people would be about 4,325 bucks, were a tax cut of $1.35 trillion over ten years divided equally.

So lemme ask you this: what’s gonna happen to my 4,025 bucks in the next ten years? Am I gonna get it? No? Why not? Is it gonna be spent on schools, hospitals, roads? No, it’s a tax cut, not a spending plan. The whole point is to give the taxpayers back their money cuz they’re the best judges of how to spend it.

Well, apparently we’re only the best judges of how to spend less than 10% of our own money. Who’s getting the rest of that cash? Well, it’s all very complicated. See, there’s this whole complicated plan whereby some people will pay less and less taxes, little by little, over the next ten years. Like, an unmarried person like me, with no kids, will pay like at most fifty bucks less each year for the next ten years. So there’s, let’s say, 500 of the missing $4,025. So now we just gotta account for the other $3,525 that I would’ve gotten if the idea had been a flat tax rebate.

Now let me just admit here that, while I would’ve supported every taxpayer being given 10,000 bucks, I still believe that’s cheating the poor like crazy. Because, while some claim that the rich pay a “disproportionate” amount of tax in this country, those claimers fail to take into account the flat taxes that poor people and rich people both pay the same amount on. Sales tax, for one. If an unmarried mother of four making minimum wage buys a box of trash bags, she pays the same amount of tax as the richest guy in the country. Not just the same percentage, THE SAME AMOUNT. When she rides public transportation, again, SHE PAYS THE SAME AMOUNT as richie rich, or even well-to-do Walter, or middle-class Marvin. When she pays a toll on a toll road, when she pays tax on a gallon of gas, when she pays a parking ticket - in fact, when she pays for anything, because the profit margin on any item is the same whether a rich person or a poor person buys it, and a profit is just another form of tax that producers, those who govern the economy, demand from citizens.

So to give back a flat rebate would be almost fair. Except that the rich benefit so much more than the poor do from the things their taxes buy - rich people use the courts and the cops more, for example, and end up with more profit at the end of those uses than poor people do, since poor people, when they “use” the courts or the cops, usually end up fined or in jail or beat up or dead. So, to actually make a tax cut fair, it would have to be at least flat - to make up for all the flat taxes - if not progressive, meaning that poor people would get MORE of a tax cut and rich people LESS.

That’s why we came up with the progressive tax system in the first place, the mechanism that some claim causes the rich to pay a disproportionate amount of tax. Of course, when it all shakes out, the rich could pay three quarters of their income in tax and merely resent it, while the working poor pay at least twenty percent of their income and really really need that money back. When it all shakes out, no one even figures in what “benefit” means. A rich person takes his stockbroker to court, using the court system to try to regain the investment he lost due to his stockbroker’s bad advice. In the end, let’s say, he ends up with money. Now, a poor person, using the courts also, to try to defend herself against a trumped up charge the cops have brought against her, not only doesn’t end up with no money. It is not that she receives no benefit. She ends up in jail. This, though it has no dollar sign attached to it, is negative benefit. And even the dollar amount that could be calculated in loss of income would not come near reflecting the negative benefit a person derives from being in jail.

Yes, I’m gonna fall back on the old liberal statistics about black people and poor people disproportionately in jail and the stagnation of wages in the midst of record profits and increasing control by the wealthy of every facet of life. Because when it comes to taxes, figuring in all the benefits of every kind the rich get and all the gouging of every kind the poor are subjected to - I’m speaking of the currencies of possibility, justice, respect, comfort, physical, emotional and psychological safety, ability to travel, to choose one’s home, to choose a mode of making money, one’s ability to make one’s opinions heard in public and felt in public policy - no kind of tax cut - or spending plan, for that matter - that anyone in power in Washington could plausibly be expected to offer during the next ten years could come close to being fair, if fairness were even an objective of the Washington powers.

So, what happened to my $3,525? Obviously, that question doesn’t even begin to address the theft that’s going on. That’s like someone on the Titanic bumming out cuz a sudden jolt made him spill his drink. It just ain’t lookin’ at the big picture.

Confucius said, “To be wealthy and honored in an unjust society is a disgrace.” Hey, Confucius, who you tellin’?

And you, listener, whom will you tell?

I’m mejeffdorchen and this has been the Moment of Truth.