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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of April 30 - May 6, 2003

Opinion Columns

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 tobacco tax.

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?


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.