July 9, 2001
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On April 16, 2001, I reported on the exciting new tax cuts and even a rebate that George W. Bush so proudly promised us, to give back some money to those who deserve it (and at the same time, stimulate the economy.) Here we are, three months later, a time to reflect on the 225th anniversary of the birth of our nation and give thanks for the Freedoms for which our forefathers fought. One of my favorite Freedoms (after Freedom of Speech, of course) is the Freedom of our President to Mislead the Public and Sugar Coat a Significant Tax Cut for the Wealthy by Simultaneously Throwing a Few Bones to the Middle Class American People to Keep Them Content and Quiet. I know, I know, it's not exactly spelled out like that in the Constitution, but trust me; it's there in the fine print.
Way back then, back in April or so, Mr. Bush told us that each family would get at least $1600, "real and practical help" that would pay the average mortgage for almost two months, or pay for a year's tuition at a community college, or pay the gasoline cost for two cars for a year, or buy an average family 24 months worth of electric power. Better yet, that money would help pay down that credit card debt which is restricting us from increasing our spending! It wasn't exactly to be. Blame the president if you must; blame the Senate, as he does.
Anyway, if way back then, counting on that $1600, you had done as I recommended and purchased 45 shares of Lockheed Martin, your portfolio would have increased by $23.15 in three months. If you had ignored my advice and spent that $1600 on 26 shares of Microsoft, you would have made $116 (who would have predicted the Microsoft anti-trust outcome?) And if you did as Mr. Bush would have liked you to do, that is, spend, spend, spend that $1600 before you even got it, thereby stimulating the economy, well, you're simply further down in the hole.
But help is on its way, and the actual tax cut has already taken effect. For the top four tax brackets, that is. The 95 million people in the 15% bracket (i.e., the largest group) will have to settle on their little rebate for the time being. Individuals will get up to $300; couples up to $600. "Most families can look forward to a $600 tax rebate, before they have to pay the September back-to-school bills," said Mr. Bush enthusiastically, failing to mention the points he had raised before -- the other $1000 and the mortgage and expensive electricity and the economy and all.
"We recognize loud and clear the surplus is not the government's money. The surplus is the people's money and we ought to trust them with their own money....We cut taxes for every income taxpayer. We target nobody in, we target nobody out," said Mr. Bush. Well, not exactly nobody was targeted out, whatever that means. Where is the relief for the people who don't make enough money to pay taxes, and why can't the surplus be their money, too?
"For most Americans, the post-2001 Bush tax cuts offer little gain, but lots of pain," said Robert S. McIntyre, director of Citizens for Tax Justice. "That's because most people will get little more in tax reductions after the first year, while losing large amounts in public services as the remaining upper-income tax cuts are phased in." So when all is said and done, a large surplus that could have made a significant difference in its entirety will have little impact when carved into small and insignificant pieces. May as well have just thrown it into the defense budget. So here's an alternate idea: When you receive your tax rebate check, write on the back "For deposit only into a fund to help provide health insurance for the 43 million people who are without." Forward your check to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C., 20500, Attention: George W. Bush.
Another option is to cash the check and donate the money to a local food bank, the Children's Defense Fund, United Way or UNICEF. (Don't send the IRS check directly to them, and try to avoid the faith-based organizations, otherwise W. will claim extra credit for implementing his tax refund plan, making all of us citizens feel so warm and fuzzy thereby increasing philanthropy.)
Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Read the fine print. And always, always, consider the source. God Bless America.
Jan Baughman is a scientist in the Biotech Industry. When Jan does not travel around the world on behalf of the company where she manages a clinical research department, she spends most of her time devouring books like candies and relaxing over the preparation of the finest recipes in Northern California. She started writing at a very young age when she found this mode of expression easier than having to answer the perpetually boring and conservative chit-chat around her. Jan's sense of observation is directly related to her sense of humor. She is a founding member and co-editor of Swans, and brings to the site wit and a lightness of being.
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Other "Only in America" commentaries by Jan Baughman
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The Best System on Earth (if You Can Afford it) (7/10/00)
Hypocrisy Without Limitation (11/20/00)
Lucky to be an American - or, What it Means to Not Live in Sudan (05/14/01)