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Jewish World Review Oct. 20, 2000 /21 Tishrei, 5761

Joseph Perkins

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Consumer Reports

No losers with Bush tax plan -- MOST AMERICANS do not count themselves among the ranks of taxpayers for whom Al Gore has so much contempt -- "the wealthiest 1 percent," as he referred to them during the first presidential debate; "the wealthiest of the wealthy," as he characterized them during the second.

Yet, they do not resent those who are.

They do not subscribe to the premise, inherent in the vice president's divisive class-warfare rhetoric, that the "rich" (which, according to Gore's definition, is anyone who earns $250,736 or more per year) have prospered at the expense of the poor and middle class.

That most Americans are above the class envy to which the vice president is shamelessly appealing is evident from their views on the estate tax, which falls heaviest on the "wealthiest of the wealthy."

While only 2 percent of families of those who die are subject to this confiscatory tax, 60 percent of Americans, according to a recent Gallup Poll, favor elimination of "all inheritance taxes on estates over $1 million."

Which brings us to Gore's attack on the proposal by George W. Bush to cut income taxes across the board. "(A) tax-cut plan that's so large, that would put us into such big deficits, that gives almost half the benefits to the wealthiest of the wealthy" is indefensible, the vice president asserts.

But as Bush retorted during the debate, "That's the kind of exaggeration" for which Gore has become famous.

The Texas governor proposes $1.3 trillion in tax relief over 10 years. With the federal government projected to post a $4.5 trillion budget surplus over that span, it is hard to see how returning less than a third of that sum to the taxpayers could produce "big deficits" as Gore claims.

That's the "fuzzy math" to which Bush alluded during the first debate.

Then there's the vice president's charge that "almost half" the Bush tax cut will go to the top 1 percent of taxpayers, a fiction based on figures supplied by the liberal Citizens for Tax Justice.

An analysis by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, which Gore himself has referenced on previous occasions, calculates that the top 1 percent will receive about one-fifth of the Bush tax cut. This hardly can be viewed as a giveaway to the "rich," given that this tiny cohort pays one-third of all the federal taxes.

Indeed, under the present tax regime, the more one earns, the more disproportionate one's tax burden. This was documented last week by Trace Gallagher of Fox News.

"A family of four that makes $50,000 a year pays about $3,700 in federal taxes," he reported. "You'd think the family of four that makes $100,000 would pay twice as much. Instead, they pay five times as much. A family that makes $200,000, 15 times as much.

"And if you work hard and long enough to make it into the 1 percent club, you can look forward to paying 20 times as much in taxes as the people who the vice president would like to give a tax cut."

Indeed, Gore proposes $620 billion in tax cuts over 10 years. But only certain categories of taxpayers stand to benefit.

For instance, the vice president offers a tax credit of up to $2,160 for families with a child in day care; a tax credit of up to $2,800 for a family with a child in college; a tax credit of up to $3,000 for families with a sick parent in a nursing home; and a federal match of up to $3,000 for a family breadwinner with a retirement savings plan.

But if you don't have a child in day care (if you're a mother who stays home with your child), if you don't have a kid in college, if you don't have an ailing parent in a nursing home, if you don't have an IRA (if, instead, you are enrolled in a company retirement plan), Gore doesn't deem you worthy of a tax cut. You don't get to share the benefit of the $4.5 trillion budget surplus to which your tax dollars have contributed. You are one of the 50 million Americans who, as Bush notes, are excluded by the vice president's tax cut plan.

The Bush plan is far more equitable. It discriminates neither for nor against the various categories of taxpayers; rather it cuts marginal tax rates across the board.

Yes, the top 1 percent would get a tax cut -- which is hardly unfair, considering that a family with roughly $250,000 in income pays not five times as much as a family with $50,000 in income, but 20 times as much. But the middle class would get a tax cut that is far more substantial in terms of proportion.

Indeed, a family of four earning $35,000 would receive a 100 percent tax cut under the Bush plan, dropping them entirely from the federal tax rolls. A similar-sized family bringing home $50,000 would get a 50 percent tax cut; a family earning $75,000 a 25 percent cut.

There is no loser under the Bush tax plan. No matter what Al Gore and his fellow class warriors argue to the contrary.

JWR periodic contributor Joseph Perkins is San Diego Union-Tribune columnist and a television commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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