Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Monday | December 16, 2002

GOP wants to shift tax burden

If Bush can spin this in his favor, he deserves reelection. If the Dems can't ride this issue to victory, they deserve to become extinct:

As the Bush administration draws up plans to simplify the tax system, it is also refining arguments for why it may be necessary to shift more of the tax load onto lower-income workers.
The Wall Street Journal's "tax the poor so they can feel our pain" editorial seemed like an isolated incident -- the feverish freelance writings of a College Republican intern getting a break by bosses more eager to hit the links than work. I ignored it, not thinking it had any real significance. But, I was wrong. It's now clear the WSJ editorial was part of a coordinated effort by the GOP to sell this new policy.

The hubris of the Bush Administration is now fully exposed -- it has declared war on the poor and middle class in order to "shift the burden" off those that can most afford to pay.

And, the administration is using accounting gimmicks to hide the real tax burden faced by lower and middle class taxpayers:

Answering critics who say the working poor do face high taxes because they pay high Social Security payroll taxes, outgoing White House economic adviser Lawrence B. Lindsey told the AEI tax forum that the 12.4 percent Social Security levy should not be considered when tax burdens are calculated. Lindsey said the Social Security tax is ultimately returned to the taxpayer as a benefit.
Amazing. The quick and dirty response to this ridiculous argument:
William W. Beach, an economist at the Heritage Foundation think tank, said he was sympathetic to Lindsey's argument that the Social Security tax is not really a tax. But, he said, it was a dangerous argument for a Republican to make.

"Do I allow defense spending to offset my income taxes since I like to be defended? Do I allow road taxes to offset my profits taxes because I use the roads?" he asked. "If you do start down that road, it's hard to see anything as taxes."

"Dangerous" is the right word. There is no doubt that Rove thinks Bush is invincible, otherwise why make such an amazingly naked appeal on behalf of the GOP's wealthy wing? Granted, the Bushies have to repay the hundreds of millions of dollars such folk have poured into GOP coffers, but why hand the Democrats such an issue on a platter?

Ultimately, it all boils down to this:

But advocates of this new line can expect a furious backlash. Liberal commentators have already reduced the argument to an appeal to tax the poor, and even conservatives worry that the label will stick.

"It's hard to conclude it's anything else," said the Heritage Foundation's Beach.

Michael J. Graetz, a Yale University law professor and tax reform expert, said he could not figure out where the administration's arguments are supposed to lead.

"I would be very surprised if the agenda is to put more people on the tax rolls," he said. "That doesn't seem like a good political agenda."

But Democrats say that is exactly where the administration is heading. Matsui said he sees the seeds of a disastrous Republican overreach.

"The president is making the case that people who earn between $50 [thousand] and $75,000 a year should be paying a third more taxes," Matsui said. "I'd love to debate him on that."

The GOP is on the defensive and in disarray from the Lott fiasco. Let that issue play out, and then hit them hard with this tax issue. The Lott issue has given voters a reason to distrust the GOP's claims of inclusiveness, but this is the issue that could break the camel's back.

Tax cuts for the rich, tax increases for the poor and middle class.

Posted December 16, 2002 08:03 AM | Comments (138)


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