Fuzzy math = dirty politics

Posted: Oct 11, 2000 12:00 AM
I'm sure Al Gore's barb at the wealthiest 1 percent was focus group-tested. But did his choreographers tell the group he was going to say it 10 times? I wonder what kinds of people are attracted to such gratuitous hate-speech anyway. Many Bush supporters, while generally quite pleased with Bush's performance, were a bit frustrated at his failure to respond to Gore's repeated charge that Bush's tax cut proposal disproportionately benefits the wealthiest 1 percent of the people. "Under Governor Bush's tax cut proposal," said Gore, "he would spend more money on tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent than all of the new spending that he proposes for education, health care, prescription drugs and national defense, combined." No money will be "spent" on tax cuts, as Gore alleges. Tax cuts are not spending. This is more than just semantics. But Gore carefully chose that terminology to create the impression that tax cuts will return monies already paid to the government. That is absolutely false. The government doesn't refund excess revenues to the people; it either spends them on programs or applies them to the national debt (or interest on it). These surpluses the candidates are discussing are projected surpluses. They haven't yet been paid into the treasury. Bush's tax cut will keep a portion of those moneys from being paid into the treasury in the first place. Since the government will never receive those monies it will not be able to spend them; it can't spend money it never receives. Contrary to Gore's claim in the debate, he doesn't believe the projected surpluses are the people's money. He believes they are the government's money that should be spent as he deems appropriate. And under his plan, he certainly deems it appropriate to spend it all and more. The reason Gore chooses to characterize the projected surpluses as having already been received, and the tax cuts as spending, is that it allows him to play demagogic games with the numbers. We must understand Bush's $1.3 trillion tax cut not as money being returned by the government, but money that it will never collect. That being understood, Bush cannot possibly be spending money on tax cuts, much less more than he is spending on those programs to which Gore referred. To make his point, Gore should have said, "Under Bush's tax cut proposal, total projected revenues from the wealthiest one percent will be reduced by more than the amount he is proposing to spend for education, health care, prescription drugs and national defense combined." But that still would have been grossly inaccurate. Reducing the top two brackets from 39.6 percent and 36 percent to 33 percent will generate only $149 billion of Bush's $1.3 trillion tax cut. Those brackets include the top 2 percent. The number ($149 billion) would be even smaller for the top 1 percent. Bush plans to spend almost twice that amount ($270 billion) on prescription drugs, Medicare reform, education and defense, not including missile defense, which he plans to develop. Of course the taxpayers who earn the most money pay the most in taxes, so a tax rate reduction will naturally result in them saving more actual dollars than those in lower income brackets. But under Bush's plan the wealthiest will receive the least percentage reduction and would pay a higher overall share of the taxes. A reduction from 39.6 percent to 33 percent, for example, constitutes a 16.67 percent real reduction, whereas a reduction from 15 percent to 10 percent constitutes a 33.3 percent real reduction. When you consider the child tax credit for applicable families, the lower income producer gets an even greater proportionate reduction. For a family of four, those making $35,000 would get a 100 percent cut in their income tax; those making $50,000 would get a 50 percent cut; those making $75,000 would get a 25 percent cut. Those earning over $100,000 would get an average cut of 10 percent and their share of the total federal income taxes being paid would increase from 62 percent to 64 percent. Bush's tax plan is not skewed in favor of the wealthy, but of the middle and lower income groups. Gore is fully aware of that. Shame on him for distorting the figures to support his divisive class warfare strategy. Talk about dirty campaigning.