I guess I should be excited because I personally stand to gain something close to a $2,000 tax break next year in the deal President Obama forged with Congressional Republicans. But I’m anything but.
Once again, the disparity between rich and poor will widen even more. That the richest 1 percent of Americans already earn about a quarter of this country’s income and control more than a third of its wealth apparently isn’t enough. Not, at least, for the greedy who pull our government’s strings (if you don’t believe me, rent the documentary “Inside Job”).
So what’s the compromise? Republicans get precisely what they want: An extension, albeit for two years only (for now), of the Bush era tax cuts. For the highest-taxed Americans, those couples earning more than $250,000 a year, this tax break will come to about $100 billion over that time frame, money that will put the country deeper into debt. Given the amount they already earn, it seems exceptionally dubious that they’ll run out and spend this windfall on new curtains and flat-screen TV’s or even pass it on to new butlers and maids.
Oh yes, and if the rich should die, their heirs also get a really good deal. The “compromise” caps the estate tax at 35 percent at amounts over $5 million; the Democrats had sought a higher tax rate at a lower threshold of inheritance. Given the growing disparity of wealth in this country, weak estate taxes only speed the rate at which money is accumulated in the hands of the few.
And so what did Obama get back for folding his hand, even with two in three Americans supporting a slightly higher tax rate for the wealthiest Americans? The Republicans will allow him to extend longterm unemployment insurance to two million Americans who would have stopped getting checks in December and to seven million Americans over the next year. The total they’ll receive, by the way, is a pittance compared to the tax returns of the rich.
If there is a silver lining in this deal it can be found in the hidden stimulus to a sputtering economy, one in which unemployment crept even closer to double digits last month.
The package would cut all employee contributions to Social Security by 2 percentage points next year. That’s where my tax savings come in. Again, however, this is a regressive stimulus. It gives the biggest reward to upper-middle class Americans earning near the $106,000 cap for social security taxed income. It gives a fraction as much to those Americans earning minimum wage, who need the money the most. Every aspect of it, meanwhile, increases our burgeoning national debt.
Here’s my promise. For every additional two dollars I get next year, one will go to charity. In this era of paralysis and greed, it seems the only way to ensure that the trickle down of conservative economics can begin trickling.