Feb. 26, 2001 at 21:51 CST
queries: Who pays? And what will it cost?
AUSTIN -- A character in the `The Red Fox' observed that all
government comes down to three questions:
* "Who benefits, who profits?"
* "Who rules the
* "What the hell will they do to us
The "Who benefits?" part of President Bush's proposed
tax cut has been thoroughly examined. Even the dimmest of us have
got the point that it's a tax cut for the very rich with a little
sop thrown in for some of the rest of us. According to the Citizens
for Tax Justice, the poorest 20 percent of taxpayers receive on
average a $15 tax cut the first year and $37 by 2004.
percent of taxpayers in the middle of the income distribution scale
get an average of $170 in tax cuts, rising to $409 in
The average cut to the top 1 percent of taxpayers would
be $13,469 in 2002 and $31,201 in 2004. The Bush plan gives 43
percent of all the tax relief to the richest 1 percent of the
Few of us seem to be alert to the other shoe here.
The counterpart of "Who benefits?" is "Who pays?"
obvious that shifting an immense amount of the tax burden off the
very wealthy puts more of it on the rest of us. What you get is a
shift in the proportional burden of taxation from the rich to the
In the curious logic of the Republican Party,
anyone who points out this blatant act of class warfare is accused
of "fomenting class warfare." As you may have noticed, rich people
are not staggering under their burden of taxation -- there are more
of them, and they're richer than ever. If this is what the right
calls "redistribution of wealth," it's working fine right now to
pump money from the poor to the rich.
The further question
that almost no one has addressed is: "What does this thing actually
One of the hardest and most important questions in
government is: "How much does it cost to not do it?" It's real easy
to find out how much a program -- say, a children's vaccination
campaign -- costs. But what does it cost not to do it? We wouldn't
know until there was an epidemic of diphtheria or polio, would
What does it cost to cut community policing? How many
more lives are rotting away in prison for more than it costs to send
them to Harvard?
What does it cost to skimp on prenatal care?
What does it cost not to have preschool for children? We know who
benefits from this tax cut, but who really pays for it?
of the silliest arguments that you hear during these fights is:
"We're not cutting spending! We're only slowing the rate of growth
in spending." That means they're cutting spending.
gets played all the time. "See? In last year's budget there was only
$100 million for children's health care, and this year we have $101
million. That's an increase!" No, it's not. If you know that the
program will have to serve 5 percent more children this year than it
did last, that's not an increase -- it's a cut.
Look at the
cost of Bush's tax cut in terms of what could otherwise be paid for.
According to Citizens for Tax Justice, after 10 years, when the Bush
cuts have fully kicked in, the cut for the richest 1 percent will
total $774 billion.
That just happens to be more than the
$736 billion needed to provide a high-quality prescription drug
plan, and that $736 billion is over and above the inadequate plan
proposed by Bush.
Of the actual cuts proposed by Bush, the
Energy Department's fuel efficiency and renewable fuels program will
be cut 22 percent. Given the number of Texas oilmen in this
administration, we should have expected it, but talk about
This is who rules the rulers? Reliance on
fossil fuels is poisoning the Earth, and this guy wants to cut off
research into alternatives. The implications of that decision alone
The conservative mantra on tax cuts is: "It's
your money." Yes, it is, and it's your national debt too. You have
to help fund government because it's the price of living in a
If you think you would have been better
off being born in Rwanda, good luck. With government, as with much
else in life, you get what you pay for, and you pay for real
Molly Ivins is a columnist for the `Star-Telegram.'
You can reach her at 1005 Congress Ave., Suite 920, Austin, TX
78701; (512) 476-8908; or email@example.com.