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 administration's lead and speak of nothing but defense. Here I am, out of step again, still stuck on Tax Cut, which was last week's assigned topic. I don't even have White House permission to be out of step, singing off the wrong page in the wrong pew.
On the other hand, I believe no one has sufficiently celebrated our new Treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill. Fellow citizens, we have a prize on our hands. This man is going to enrich our national life like nobody's business.
Last week, during Tax Cut Week, O'Neill was front and center on the chat shows, giving interviews to select print outlets, pushing that dandy Bush tax cut - the solution to all our problems, the finest thing since Elvis. 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 country."
On yet another chat show, O'Neill pronounced that some people's dreadful flogging of the very dead class-warfare horse "demonstrates their detachment from real life."
O'Neill is a man who knows from real life. He 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 - which, if you do the math, 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, average CEO pay was 80 times that of the average worker. By 1999, it was 485 times that of the average worker.
Rich folk are feeling picked on. I have nothing against rich people; I hope to become one myself. But I'll be darned if I want to pay more in taxes than they do.
President Bush holds a news conference with his "tax families" purporting to show that a $25,000-a-year waitress with two kids benefits from this tax cut. But according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, under the Bush plan, 12 million lower- and middle-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 (Social Security and Medicare) 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, but the $18,000-a-year worker with 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.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram