Tax Cuts for Greedy Bastards
by Molly Ivins
SF Chronicle, 2/14/1
Let me apologize. It's not as though I didn't know that this
is Defense Spending Week and that all of us in the media are supposed
to follow the new Bush administrations lead and speak of nothing
But here I am, out of step again, still stuck on Tax Cut,
which was last week's assigned topic. I believe no one has sufficiently
celebrated our new treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill.
Last week, O'Neill was front and center on the chat shows,
giving select interviews, pushing that dandy Bush tax cut. In
the immortal words of the Prince of Darkness, columnist Robert
Novak, "This is about income redistribution."
How true it is. This tax cut is beautifully designed and carefully
crafted to redistribute wealth from the poor to the rich. But
O'Neill does not like people who point this out. He is firm on
this; he suspects us of populism.
"I don't believe this society should still be operating
with a robber baron premise as the basis for how we discuss public
policy," he told the Washington Post. "I think it is
really corrosive to have this argument about the rich and the
poor. It's not worthy of where we are in our development as a
O'Neill made $59 million last year as the CEO of Alcoa, the
giant aluminum company, so he is in tune with the average Bubba-and
we can safely assume that he speaks for us all.
I am particularly fond of the O'Neillian argument that anyone
who points out that this tax cut redistributes wealth from the
poor to the rich is guilty of class warfare.
Passing a tax cut that gives 42.5 percent of the cut to the
wealthiest 1 percent of the citizens is, in fact, class warfare.
One cannot even make the pathetic argument that since the
rich pay more in taxes, they should get a bigger cut, as though
the principle of progressive taxation were a foreign concept.
The top 1 percent of taxpayers pays 21 percent of all federal
taxes but will get 43 percent of the tax cut. If you do the math,
that is more than twice their share.
I am so sorry that O'Neill is upset by people who refer to
the corporate aristocracy in this country as "robber barons."
That is rude, isn't it?
Personally, I prefer to call them greedy bastards, and to
point out that there is absolutely no limit to their insatiable
greed. In 1990, the average pay of a CEO was 80 times that of
the average worker. By 1999, it was 485 times that of the average
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, under
the Bush plan, 12 million lower-and moderate-income families,
supporting 24 million children, get absolutely nothing out of
this tax cut.
Here's the Catch-22: 74 percent of American taxpayers pay
more in payroll taxes (such as Social Security) than they do in
income taxes. A $26,000-a-year couple with two kids would have
their income tax liability eliminated, thus saving exactly $20,
but they would still be paying $2,689 in payroll taxes.
According to the Wall Street Journal, a noted organ of class
warfare, a middle management couple with two kids making $180,000
a year would get a $2,000 tax break. The $18,000-a-year worker
with a wife and two kids would get nothing.
This is unfair, unjust and wrong. It is class warfare waged
by the robber baron rich against everybody else. It stinks.
Molly Ivins is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram