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Fight Back: Taxes
November 26, 2002
By Joseph Arrieta

The Republicans are trapped and vulnerable on taxes.

The reason no one knows about it is because Democrats haven't hit them on it yet. It's inexcusable that Republicans have dominated the discourse and gained vast political mileage with taxation policy, but the Democrats, in a perverse outcome on election 2002, have suddenly gotten lucky in this area.

In January the Republicans will simply hand the Democrats a golden opportunity to take the taxation issue firmly back into Democratic hands. They're going to try to make the $1.3 trillion dollar tax cut passed in 2001 permanent.

Republicans cut taxes for the rich, Democrats cut taxes for workers.

40% of the 2001 Bush tax cut goes to the wealthiest 1% of the population. The only way to fight this from becoming permanent is for Democrats to propose a tax cut of their own. Otherwise they'll be boxed into the "tax and spend" black hole they always allow the Republicans to put them into. [1]

Republicans cut taxes for the rich, Democrats cut taxes for jobs.

The easiest way to impale the Republicans with their own politics is to propose a payroll tax grace period of 2 years for the first $20,000 earned for every worker. If one earns $60,000 a year the first four months of the pay stub will contain zero taxes for federal income, social security, and Medicare taxes. It costs the same as the giveaway to the rich that Bush wants to make permanent.

Republicans cut taxes for the rich, Democrats cut taxes for families.

Many Americans are unaware that employers must match an employee's payroll tax deduction when they file their taxes every quarter. With no payroll taxes to match, employers will have a much greater incentive to retain jobs in hard times. Instead of being phased in over a ridiculously long period like Bush's tax cut, an immediate payroll tax cut will infuse much-needed stimulus cash into the economy right away.

Republicans cut taxes for the rich, Democrats cut taxes for the economy.

It can be maddeningly difficult to get the electorate to see the tangible positive effects of liberal policy. Nothing could be more effective to demonstrate liberal effectiveness than for every worker to see their tax savings in stark ink every time they get a paycheck. Of course, this is a populist, progressive tax proposal. It helps the poor and the middle class immeasurably more than Bush's sop to the wealthy, who don't need it.

Is this class warfare? Damn right it is. [2] The rich have been getting richer for the last 40 years, while ordinary middle class and poor Americans have been falling further and further behind. If the Republicans want to call it class warfare, let them. Real Democrats have always fought for ordinary and poor Americans and should be proud of fighting Bush's tax cut. Paul Wellstone was greatly admired for it, and so will the Democrats who fight for a payroll tax.

Republicans fight for the rich, Democrats fight for ordinary Americans.

Here's a useful job for Terry McAuliffe: hire any decent JavaScript programmer to write the code for a simple browser computation. A worker inputs his or her annual income and hits the compute button. The script immediately spits out a stark comparison in the differences of Bush tax cut versus the payroll tax cut for their personal income figure.

Every single Democratic caucus member in Congress links to this computation file from their official sites. Zel Miller will whine furiously about it but have to go along, or simply (hopefully) quit the party. It's impossible to be a Democrat and favor Bush's tax cut with the payroll tax available as an alternative.

Republicans cut taxes for the rich, Democrats put food on the table.

Daschle and Pelosi pick their best debaters, who enthusiastically wade into the worst dens of Republican propaganda outlets: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly. Running circles around these simpletons will be fun, and the party leadership will also be able to wake up in the morning knowing one of the best journalists of the century won't be calling them gutless wimps. Daschle and Pelosi carry the ball on the Sunday morning talk shows.

Republicans cut taxes for the rich, Democrats cut taxes for small business.

Every single Democratic caucus member gets published in their district's and state's primary newspaper. It's strange that more Democrats don't appear in print - television is a wasteland of crony GOP kiss-assing, but there's unique power in the printed word, and if Democrats appear in print then editors will have to run the Republicans responses on why feeling the pain of the rich is important to them. Good.

If Terry McAuliffe can't raise $5 million in 2 weeks to run a national television ad campaign exploiting the nauseous giveaway of the Bush tax cut and the fair Democratic payroll tax alternative, fire him and hire someone who does. Streisand, Petty and Bon Jovi can do the voiceovers.

Fiscal discipline, bipartisanship, and lack of clear objectives from the Democrats delivered the election results of 2002. Democrats can fight for their beliefs and constituents with a payroll tax cut, or slide further into their current abyss of political oblivion.

1. Robert Reich, The American Prospect   [BACK]
2. Robert Kuttner, The American Prospect    [BACK]


Joseph Arrieta is a writer and web producer living in San Jose, California

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