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Jewish World Review Jan. 25, 2003 / 12 Shevat, 5763

Betsy Hart

Betsy Hart
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Taxing rhetoric | Why is it that if the "rich" Smith family wants to keep more of the money which it has earned to spend as it sees fit, it is declared greedy by partisan Democrats, but if those partisan Democrats want to take the Smith family's money to spend on government programs as they see fit, that is somehow compassionate?

That question wasn't answered this week as, true to form, Democrats pounced on the president's just-released $670 billion dollar package of tax cuts as "favoring the rich."

Ah, but the Democrats have two problems here, aside from any merits of the president's plan: their definition of "rich," and more important, the fact that a majority of Americans don't care if the tax cuts benefit the wealthy.

Just who are the "rich" anyway? One might easily agree that the top 10 percent of American income earners is in that crowd. But according to the Internal Revenue Service and a new report by the Tax Foundation in Washington, D.C., that 10 percent includes any household with an annual income of $92,000. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that means a lot of two-earner families, with kids, headed by teachers, policemen, and blue-collar workers, who think of themselves as anything but rich. That may be because it's this group that pays a whopping 67 percent of all federal income taxes.

The top 25 percent of all earners, those who make over $55,000, pay 84 percent of all federal income taxes.

The top 50 percent of earners, by definition the "other-half," or those who make a little over $27,000 a year, pay an astounding 96 percent of all federal income taxes.

These then are the "rich."

OK, but what about those at the very top of the income scale? Aren't they getting a real break? Well that top 1 percent, those making over $313,000 a year, pay 37 percent of all federal income taxes. And that's way up from 1990, when the top 1 percent paid 25 percent of all federal income taxes.

In other words, it's impossible to provide any kind of meaningful tax cut without that cut going to the people who pay the taxes - and almost all of those people are the "rich," according to the liberal elite.

Which brings up the second problem the Democrats have. As CNN reported on Monday, a slight majority of Americans think the tax cuts do favor the "rich," (though "rich" was not defined) but so what? As CNN also reported, most Americans don't care. Maybe because mainstream Americans, in contrast to people in so many other countries in the world, don't mind the other guy being rich. In fact they might downright admire him. It's just that they would like to be rich too.

Whatever the reason, class-warfare rhetoric doesn't work. Successful Democrats know it and don't use it. Case in point: Bill Clinton.

What's amazing is only that while the class warfare argument has no merit, and is not a winning political strategy, still partisan Democrats are overwhelmingly attracted to it like bees to honey, or better yet like a two-year old to the cookie jar. They just can't help themselves.

Why are they the only ones in America who buy the class warfare line? Because unlike mainstream America, which includes so many Democrats, partisan Democrats really do resent the successful and the rich. Even though many of them, like senators and presidential contenders John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina ARE the rich. Perhaps they just feel guilty about it.

In any event, these are the folks who think that if the "rich" Smith family wants to keep more of its hard-earned $92,000 a year, or $55,000 a year, or even its $27,000 a year to spend as it sees fit, that's greed; but if Washington takes that hard-earned money from the Smiths, by force, to spend as it sees fit, somehow that's compassionate.

Huh? There's still no making sense of that riddle.

In contrast, President Bush has made the simple argument that everyone who pays taxes should get a tax cut.

Quite a distinction. No wonder the partisan Democrats seem to be the only ones who buy their own rhetoric.

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JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


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