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What To Do About the Bush Tax Cuts November 12, 2010

Posted by Mary W. Matthews in Politics.
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It has been clear for a long time that the Greedy Oil Plutocrats have a plan: They want to privatize and profit-ize every government function possible. As just one example out of many, older Americans can remember when military personnel “did KP,” painted, scrubbed, cooked, maintained and repaired equipment, and performed other essential functions themselves. Now Halliburton and its various subsidiaries enjoy no-bid contracts to perform these essential functions, at vast expense to the taxpayer — and vast profit to GOP “have-mores.”

Americans have also finally begun to notice that the United States is no longer a democracy. Where GOP have-mores used to own or control 51 percent of the U.S. economy, the top 2 percent now owns or controls more than 84 percent of the economy. The 2010 election was won not by the Replutocrats but by the wealthy individuals and corporations who now own the United States — for example, Exxon, Rupert Murdoch, the Koch brothers, Halliburton, the Coors family, etc. These wealthy “have-mores” poured countless millions of secret Citizens United dollars into attacking Democrats, and now they claim that this secret sabotaging of our political system is proof of their “mandate” to continue their course toward corporate fascism.

The GOP’s major strategy, which they have been pursuing with great enthusiasm since 1980, is to lower taxes on the wealthy; run up enormous deficits by spending like drunken frat boys; and then claim the nation can no longer afford Social Security, Medicare, health care reform, financial reform, unemployment benefits, Aid to Families With Dependent Children, or any other social safety net. Jimmy Carter lowered the national debt. Ronald Reagan came close to doubling the national debt; between them, Reagan and George H.W. Bush tripled the national debt. Bill Clinton decreased the national debt and balanced the budget, handing on a budget SURPLUS to his successor. George W. Bush single-handedly more than doubled the national debt and turned a modest surplus into a $1.43 trillion deficit.

When Jimmy Carter left office, the national debt stood at $1.963 trillion (in 2009 dollars). When George W. Bush’s final budget year — 2009 — was done, the national debt stood at $12.311 trillion. Republican presidents and Republican Congresses are exclusively responsible for more than sextupling the national debt in 20 years of misrule.

The GOP managed to destroy welfare during the Clinton administration, and their current plan is clearly to claim that the staggering deficit created by George W. Bush requires (a) making the Bush tax gifts to the wealthy permanent (after all, they worked SO well 2001-10, especially in 2008!), and (b) eliminating any law, regulation, or social justice program that stands in the way of this GOP looting. It is no coincidence that repealing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is near the top of the Replutocrats’ agenda during the next two years — most especially, the protection of consumers from the have-mores’ rapacity.

Let us be clear: the GOP is promising that making the Bush tax gifts to the wealthy permanent, without paying for them or offsetting their costs in any way, will have no deleterious effects on the economy. The chart below, created by the Congressional Budget Office in 2008, illustrates what will happen to the national debt if the GOP gets its way:

As I write these words, the Obama administration is looking and sounding as though it is planning on caving in to Replutocrat demands to make the Bush tax gifts to the wealthy permanent — no matter that they will add $700 billion to the national debt; no matter that they will “require” cuts in social-justice programs like Social Security and Medicare. Democrats appear not to be able to notice that “compromise” is not between left and right any more. “Compromise” is between far-right and ultra-ultra-ultra-far-right. If you lost your job so that GOP have-mores could get richer, well, that’s your fault; you’re obviously a lazy parasite.

The Democrats ought to allow the Bush tax cuts to lapse. Ordinary families will pay five to 29 dollars more per year, true — or one to five cups of coffee from Starbuck’s. But the top 2 percent will return to the tax rate they remained wealthy paying during tax year 2000, an idea that is wholly unacceptable to the GOP economic looters. (Democrats ought to return the top tax bracket to 50 percent, where it was for most of the reign of Saint Ronald the Infallible, but that’s hardly realistic today.)

Here’s the other chart voters should keep in mind:

In other words, the Greedy Oil Plutocrats deeply desire to continue transforming the United States, formerly a democracy, into a nation wholly owned and operated by GOP have-mores, in which citizens are deliberately kept ignorant through charter schools that teach GOP dogma, “intelligent design,” and American exceptionalism, through the highly efficient propaganda mechanisms of Fox News and hate radio, and through religious adherence to Rove talking points.

Here is what President Obama and the Democrats ought to do now, before the end of the year:

(1) Offer to make the Bush tax cuts permanent for everyone who nets less than one million dollars a year, provided that everyone who nets a million or more returns to a top tax rate of 39.6 percent — the same tax rate they remained wealthy paying a mere ten years ago.

(2) Tax the winnings of hedge fund managers as gambling income, rather than capital gains. Hedge fund managers are NOT investing capital in organizations that provide goods and/or services; they are placing wagers on the performance of other people’s money. The 25 top hedge fund managers controlled close to $520 billion at the end of 2009. Why exactly should they pay less in income taxes than their secretaries pay?

(3) Remove the cap on FICA earnings. Right now, most citizens are compelled to contribute 7.65 percent of their income to FICA: 6.2 percent to Social Security, and 1.45 percent to Medicare. But those who make more than $106,800 per year pay dramatically less; for example, someone who makes $213,600 pays only 3.1 percent in FICA taxes. How is this fair?

Above all, the Democrats ought to pound the message home repeatedly that they are offering simple, FAIR remedies to the GOP’s looting, its destruction of the middle class, and its systematic transfer of wealth from your pocket and mine into theirs. If the GOP stands firm on its insistence that the only “compromise” they will accept is total Democratic capitulation, Democrats should make sure that American citizens understand that their misery is due exclusively to GOP intransigence.

Allowing Bush’s tax gifts to the wealthy to expire does NOT constitute a tax “increase”; it merely returns taxes to what they used to be. Returning the top tax rate to Nixon levels (77 percent) or even Eisenhower levels (91 percent) would be a significant step toward economic fairness. Oh, well. . .

Before the end of 2010, Mr. Obama and the Democrats ought to offer this deal to the Greedy Oil Plutocrats. The Replutocrats will naturally shriek “class warfare!”, and they will encourage their dupes, the Fox News and hate radio True Believers, to scream it too.

It is true, there is class warfare being pursued in the United States. It is a war of the GOP have-mores on the bottom 98 percent of the population — and right now, the have-mores are winning handily.

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Comments»

1. Linda G. - November 12, 2010

Thanks – great article. Hope they listen to you and Paul Krugman NOW. I’m retweeting this and posting it at: http://www.facebook.com/getoutdemvotes. Please visit and consider LIKE-ing the page.

2. Craig - November 12, 2010

“Saint Ronald the Infallible”…

I like this. Whenever I hear someone praising Reagan, I ask: “do you mean the Ronald Reagan who gave Saddam Hussein the chemical weapons he was accused of using and still possessing 20-some years later as a reason to invade Iraq?”

3. Craig - November 12, 2010

I like your three points, with two comments:

point 2: does Buffet really pay “less” than his secretary in tax, or does he pay a significantly lower *percentage* of his income? I’m often frustrated with the frequent misunderstanding (and/or deliberate confusion on the part of some) of the distinction between “how many $$” one pays in taxes and the *percentage* of income one pays in taxes.

point 3: related to the comment above: I had to do the math to see that you had factored in the difference between marginal rates and amount paid. You were right, of course, but few people are when it comes to these things, and I believe they might be better-educated if one confronted them each time such statistics were raised with the importance of distinguishing between the two.

4. Bruce Appleton - November 15, 2010

Mother Mary: Brilliant…but then again, I’ve come to expect that from you.

My additional comment departs on a tangent that you bring up in the first paragraph: doing KP. Military people traditionally did the support stuff — you call it “essential functions” — themselves. Mostly unglamorous & time-consuming, it included building their own infrastructure, such as digging their own latrines, and it was delegated to the lowest-ranking people.

I contend that “privatizing” (no pun intended) military functions removes the psychological effect of having a stake in the process, and thus the outcome. Doing away with the military draft is another part of this bigger picture, and I say this as a Viet Nam-era draft card-burner. Rest assured that the magnetic “Support our Troops” Republicans and their Tea-Bagging co-conspirators, who so fervently wave their Chinese-made American flags purchased at Mall*Wart, take comfort in knowing that their offspring will not be required to serve in some hell-hole, fighting an undeclared “war.” Who knows, maybe it enables them to care less when tax-cutting affects our nation’s defense, too.

Knowing that we don’t have a personal stake in the effort promotes apathy. Privatizing, outsourcing & tax-cutting are all part of psychological distancing.

Sacrifice does just the opposite. Whatever happened to the slogans “Buy Bonds” and “Underwrite Country’s Might,” once considered patriotic? Perhaps it isn’t so peculiar that the Tea-Baggers are willing to sacrifice someone else’s kid, but not their own money.


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