Jerking around taxpayers
Commentary by PAT MURPHY
In Hollywood’s early comedy films, one
reliable sight gag was the bureau drawers bit: when a slapstick comedian pushed
in an open top drawer, a closed bottom drawer would pop out and bop his shins.
And so it went--push one drawer, out pops
a closed drawer. Hilarious.
There’s something of an unamusing parallel
to that slapstick shtick in the wild gyrations of feast-or-famine government tax
schemes average taxpayers find themselves facing.
In Washington, President Bush wants to cut
taxes. But states--Idaho included--raise taxes. Cut taxes in Washington, raise
taxes in the statehouses--the old push in one bureau drawer, another pops open.
Bush’s initial request for a $700-plus
billion tax cut over 10 years seems doomed to a major trim, to perhaps $350
billion, with much of the average benefits to taxpayers wiped out by state tax
increases, such as Idaho’s planned one percent sales tax increase and doubled
Any tax cut Congress enacts will aggravate
budget problems for states (Idaho being one) whose income taxes are based on a
percentage of the federal income tax. Idaho presumably would have less income
tax revenue next year, forcing more painful, contentious legislative decisions
on how or if to fund state programs.
President Bush’s rosy predictions are
gilded with political hyperbole and pure hope. They’re even misleading. For
example, he promises 1.4 million "new" jobs through tax cuts. Does that mean
restoring 2 million jobs already lost since he became president and 1.4 million
new jobs added, for a total of 3.4 million jobs? Wow.
The president’s demagoguery about
government taxes--"it’s not the government’s money, it’s the people’s
money"--ignores another reality: government debt also is the people’s debt.
And the Bush White House is piling up
record new debt, after draining the treasury of a surplus: several trillion
dollars in estimated new debt over the next five years, whose annual interest
payments alone will be an enormous burden for taxpayers of generations to come
and a drain of dollars from productive use.
The president is a huge beneficiary of the
masterful conquest of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Critics have been muted.
So, these questions will hover over the
2004 presidential election.
Will the U.S. launch another preemptive
strike against an "evil" country and/or will terrorists attempt a major attack
on the American homeland before election day, which would give President Bush
more political armor as "wartime" commander-in-chief?
If not, would higher deficits and debt,
shrunken social programs affecting the neediest and most helpless, joblessness
of millions, perhaps a failed economic stimulus program and more restrictive,
authoritarian government in the name of homeland security make voters restive
about returning President Bush to office?
Finally, is there a Democrat in a thus far
unimpressive series of pre-campaign performances with enough commanding
qualities that can exploit voter doubts and unseat George W. Bush?