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What the Hell Are They Thinking?

April 14th, 2005

Do Republicans believe that any tax cut is a good thing?

In the 1980’s, rich people got substantial tax cuts, only to see them rise moderately in the 90’s; in the past four years, under Bush, it’s been cut after cut after cut, primarily aimed at rich people. And now yet another: House Republicans passed a repeal of the Estate Tax, with Senate Republicans primed to sweep the bill through just as unanimously among their brethren. Of course, they posit the bill as being aimed at small businesses and small farmers, but we all know that this is utter bullshit: only a few hundred such entities are effected by the tax each year. Democrats tried to counter-offer a raising of the ceiling of the tax, which would have changed the current $1.5 million exemption (up from $1 million in 2001 when Bush cut the tax then) to $3.5 million, shielding all but 0.3% of Americans, i.e. the very rich–but Republicans overwhelmingly rejected the alternate offer.

And despite their claimed concern for small businesses and farmers, they did not take the plainly obvious route of exempting just small businesses and farmers. The reason, of course, is obvious: this is not a tax cut for small businesses and farmers. It’s a tax bill for (surprise!) the super-wealthy. The Walton family, for instance, were big Bush and GOP contributors, and they have been pushing relentlessly for the tax cut. By themselves, they will save tens of billions of dollars on top of the many tens of billions they will already get. This is the “small business” that the bill is truly aimed at. The Waltons spent $3.2 million on lobbying and campaign contributions to Republicans, and they weren’t alone; other rich people spent similar amounts on buying off the GOP. And this is where my disgust for politics is often deepest: not just that politicians can be so easily bought, but that they can be bought so cheap. The Walton’s $3.2 million will net them tens of billions of dollars (probably more than half of their $84 billion estate), a payback of 10,000 to 1 or more for each dollar spent on bribes. Halliburton and Microsoft similarly profited massively from relatively small amounts spent on lobbying and contributions. And who gets to pay these super-rich people the billions that Republicans are giving them?

The repeal of the Estate Tax will add $290 billion dollars to the deficit over the next ten years, and will chiefly benefit people like the Waltons. Amy Sullivan put it best:

So, to sum up: Actual prescription drug relief? There’s no money. Armor to protect our troops? There’s no money. The funds to back up the mandated reforms of No Child Left Behind? There’s no money. Doing away with a tax on super rich kids? Plenty o’ cash to spare.

Remember how Bush is such a big supporter of No Child Left Behind, how it makes him the “Education President”? Well, he is unwilling to fully fund the program, or even to reasonably fund it. In the past four years, NCLB has been underfunded by $27 to $29 billion. It might be underfunded by as much as $12 billion in 2006. Even under the most liberal estimates, the Estate Tax cut for the super-rich will cost much more than that; even the Democratic compromise would leave leave enough to fund NCLB and more.

But the GOP apparently feels that the Walton kids trump education. Kids from lower income families can just eat dust, as far as the GOP is concerned–we just don’t have the cash. But they’re willing to spend far, far more on the children of the super-rich. How disgusting is that? How “fair” is that?

And how pathetic will the average American be for supporting the tax cut simply because it’s a tax cut? How completely bereft of intelligence will American voters be if they support the candidates and the party that endlessly pushes for more sops to the wealthy when the budget crisis is still at fever pitch and their own services suffer? When I ask the question, “What the hell are they thinking?” I’m not talking about the GOP. I know what they’re thinking, and they’re doing what seems best for their own power and control. The people who I can’t figure out are the conservative and all to often centrist voters who actually buy into the bullshit and drink the national-debt Kool-aid.

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