Tax-cut politics: "Robin Hood in Reverse"December 14, 2010 7:58 AM
When Barack Obama gets in trouble, he usually rallies with a rousing and passionate speech. But his compromising ways have turned him into just half the man we thought he was.
So as the hot talk in Washington turns to tax cuts, we don't get a passionate president fighting for the common man. We get tepid, measured political statements from a man too willing to give in to the rich.
Who's fighting for the middle class? Did you catch Sen. Bernie Sanders on C-SPAN last Friday?
If you saw any part of Sanders' nearly nine hour-long talk from the Senate floor, practically his "Ode to the Middle Class," you have to wonder why the president and Congress are on course to extend the Bush tax cuts at all.
Sanders is the minorities' minority, an outspoken independent in Congress from Vermont. In this fiscal crisis, he seems to be the only guy out there making any sense.
As he laid out the reasons why a tax cut extension is a bad deal for all Americans, he exposed how the plan borders on the immoral.
With the country $13.8 trillion in debt, how can the GOP live with itself--holding up expiring unemployment benefits for those with little--in exchange for extending tax cuts for those who already make way too much?
Who's thinking about the public good in that trade? Sanders calls it "Robin Hood in reverse."
Indeed, that the Bush tax cuts are expiring should be cause for celebration. The promised boost to the economy, based on the theory that tax favors to the rich would "trickle down" benefits to the rest of us, just hasn't worked.
As Sanders pointed out, in the eight years of the Bush Administration, the U.S. lost 600,000 private sector jobs. Only 1 million new jobs were created, and all in the government sector. The tax cuts to the rich gave us nothing.
Meanwhile, incomes for regular people dropped noticeably. The Bush years were disaster for the middle class, with median incomes dropping by nearly $2,200 and with over 8 million Americans sliding out of the middle and now into the ranks of the certifiably poor.
Even Asian Americans' income dropped. Over the Bush years, it's been dropping at 0.8 percent a year. Some will feel compelled to cite the high median income of Asian Americans. But the poverty rate among Asian Americans is still in double digits at 11.6 percent.
At the same time, the income of the wealthiest Americans more than doubled. Sanders put their income level at $345 million a year--each.
Naturally, the super-rich want a tax break in exchange for your expiring unemployment benefits.
The Bush years were also extremely bullish for the richest families' net worth. The wealthiest 400 families saw their overall wealth increase about $1 billion a piece.
In all, Sanders said the wealthiest 400 families amassed a collected net of $1.27 trillion.
They need a tax cut?
If you're in the vanishing middle you need more of one.
To be fair, the $858 billion tax deal on the table does provide some relief to middle to upper-middle class families.
Beyond the extension of unemployment benefits, which will cost $57 billion, the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation shows nearly $250 billion in cuts for the middle class. An adjustment to the alternative minimum tax intended to shield the middle class would cost $137 billion. A one-year cut in Social Security taxes would cost another $112 billion. But the latter cuts deep and threatens the effectiveness of that program for future generations.
But somehow it just doesn't add up, not compared to the breaks extremely wealthy individuals will see.
At a time when we should be considering how to raise revenue to offset our $13.8 trillion debt, we are adding $900 billion to that mountain and hoping for the miracle of trickle-down we know is not going to happen. It's an irresponsible gamble.
There could have been a better deal for the rest of us, if only we could have counted on the man who sold us on hope and change.