A Tax Cut for Every Problem


(This post is a repost from before the election, but it warrants repeating due to the current debate about spending versus tax cuts for economic stimulus.)

John McCain used to be more honest about tax policy. He voted against the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy. He knew at the time, as most people would agree, you can’t reduce taxes on those most able to pay while dramatically increasing federal spending on a war, during a time in which real incomes of the non-rich (almost all) Americans) are falling. He knew that trickle-down economics was no more valid than any other plumbing analogy is to economics (the feces-rolls-downhill theory of capital gains tax, and the don’t flush a tampoon (Zappa) theory of finance regulation come to mind.)

I respect the conservative aims of efficiency in Federal government. No one wants a wasteful bureaucracy, or a disfunctional policy apparatus that encourages favoritism over rationalism. I also respect the tax ideal that people should not be overburdened by taxation, and that taxation should not discourage ambition or innovation. But when these ambitions are placed above national security, economic security, and the PROGRESS of our nation, I have to object.

There is a degree of intellectual laziness, or, at times, outright intellectual dishonesty, when tax cuts are proposed as the blanket solution to all problems; social, economic, or otherwise (other than military or law enforcement).

Let’s carry this philosophy to its logical conclusion: (Note, for those who don’t know me, this is serious sarcasm)

Education: Forget class size, funding shortages, funding inequities, lack of competitive salaries, lack of counselors, flawed evaluation systems, and poor working conditions in inner city schools. The problem with education is the tax burden on teachers. If we lower their taxes, say, with a $500 tax credit for the $2000 materials they buy out of pocket, our education woes will be solved. (Believe it or not, there are dozens of bills in congress proposed by Republicans that promise so much.)

Energy and Climate Change: The reason why we’re so dependent on foreign oil is because of taxes on oil companies. These companies, which have done everything they can to fight the emergence of alternative domestic energy sources could really use a tax cut. If only their tax burden was lower, they would shift massive dollars from R&D and oil exploration to building a new clean, green domestic energy supply, based on wind, solar, and geothermal energy! Less taxes and no global warming!

Manufacturing: Forget that American manufacturers abandoned their commitment to innovation in products and replaced it with innovation in finance, let’s give American based corporations a tax cut (those few that actually haven’t offshored their base of operations due to loopholes, and pay no taxes already). After all, if GM wasn’t paying so much in corporate taxes, they might have put some money into R&D to make cars that could actually compete in a market in which values fuel efficient vehicles. Ok, so they did pour billions of dollars into trying to change the market through advertising, legal action, and lobbying to ensure that their environmental destruction machines could remain on the market long enough to drive them into bankruptcy. But heck, let’s cut their taxes anyway.

Housing and Jobs: Let’s cut capital gains tax. That way, when your house forecloses, you won’t have to pay, umm. wait. uh. OK, but rich people will benefit from a capital gains tax cut. Let’s also cut income tax on the wealthy, so they don’t have to foreclose on their dozens of investment properties that they’re renting to you. They might need a haircut or a shoeshine, so you’re in luck, you’ll get a trickle down job. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to get a job unplugging their clogged plumbing (who flushed that?).

We’ll also benefit from the hope that we’ll gain, that someday, we just might be rich enough to not have to pay our fair share anymore!

My point is, instead of studying the real causes and potential solutions to complex issues, we find too often that conservatives are willing to let the markets solve problems, while simultaneously crafting market conditions that are beneficial for corporate profits, but not, necessarily the greater good.


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