May 9, 2003

By Michael Strickland

Your Tax Dollars at Work

Now that the war in Iraq has loosened its grip on the nation's attention, other more mundane matters are again taking center stage: the Bush administration's tax cut proposal, for instance. For some time now, the administration has made clear its goal of eliminating federal taxes on dividends, and now such a plan—two of them, actually—is making its way through Congress.

Today, the House approved its version of the Bush administration's tax cut plan by a narrow margin. From a practical perspective, this doesn't mean much, since the Senate is working to approve a different version later this week. Once that happens, then the two legislative bodies will have to work with the White House to find a way to reconcile the two. Talk about the left hand not talking to the right.

Perhaps the most ridiculous aspect of these shenanigans is the fact that the Senate plan calls for taxes to be raised in order to cut taxes. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) held the deciding vote, and played her trump like a master bridge player. Only agreeing to support the tax cut plan if its cost didn't exceed $350 billion, she forced lawmakers to revamp, fine-tune, polish, push and shove their plan into a jury-rigged version that in reality costs $433 billion. By creatively crunching the numbers, they were able to make it cost $350 billion on the books—but only by raising taxes to pay for the $83 billion difference. Only in Washington could such logic make sense.

During my lunch break today, I turned on Fox News and caught the tail end of an editorial by Neil Cavuto. In two minutes' time, he expressed more common sense than has come out of our nation's capital in the past two years. In short, he asserted that most people, when confronted by a choice to either raise costs or cut services, would support cutting services. To borrow his example, if New Yorkers had to choose between bus prices rising 30 percent or bus routes being slashed 30 percent, most would go for the latter. Most would simply prefer to rearrange their lives as necessary to make up for the lesser services in order to avoid paying more, especially in these tight economic times.

Unfortunately, most of our elected officials don't understand such a practical mentality. I think the word "cut," no matter how it is used, does not exist in their vocabularies—except for, perhaps, "I want a cut of that."


©2003 Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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