Exploring the tax-cut scam

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 16, 2004

For the past ten years many Americans thought they were getting tax cuts. In fact, they were losing money.

While it is true that voters like the idea of tax cuts, they do not like the idea of cutting essential services, which is what is currently happening. For most working families, so-called tax cuts are simply an elaborate accounting shell game – lower income tax, but higher property tax . . . child tax credit, but higher college tuition . . . marriage penalty tax relief, but a 36 percent increase in health care premiums.

For the average worker, with every dollar these tax cuts put in one pocket, it seems that two dollars are taken from the other.

Email newsletter signup

These tax cuts also happen to be the biggest factor in the creation of the largest and most chronic federal deficit in American history, roughly a half-trillion dollar added to our national debt every year.

It gets worse.

These policies are inflicting enormous deficits on our children, who will be forced to pay the biggest tax of all – a drop in their standard of living and education. This tax cut gimmick does not increase opportunity in America for the middle class and half-trillion dollar deficits hardly make our country more competitive.

All told, the tax cuts have directly affected individuals in the following ways:

1. Your local property taxes have gone up due to reductions in federal housing programs and No Child Left Behind, which now has to be funded by local governments and school boards.

2. Access to college grants for 84,000 students has vanished. Since states have less money to support public colleges, tuition for some state schools has climbed as much as 50 percent in the last three years.

This trend is putting college education out of reach for children of the working poor and forcing middle class-families to take on huge debt loads or draw down retirement funds.

3. Health insurance premiums have gone up more than they would have without tax cuts.

The 1.5 million people who lost Medicaid eligibility continue to get health care, but the cost is now shifted by doctors and hospitals to our insurance companies and then to those of us who pay greatly increased premiums.

I believe that along with a robust defense, programs such as healthcare, education, job training and housing are our nation’s top priorities and these programs need adequate funding.

I also suspect that a sizable majority of voters agree with that assessment.

After all, we are the primary beneficiaries of such an investment.

Every person is expected to balance their own personal budgets and the government should be expected to do the same.

The American people are smarter than most politicians think. We know that there is no such thing as a free lunch. I would like to see a government in Washington which treats us as adults, so we can be told the real cost of feel good programs like tax cuts BEFORE they are passed, not afterwards. One of the first items on the next president’s agenda ought to be to restructure the tax code so that fairness is restored for working families and so that ordinary middle-class Americans have a sense of hope again.

Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, is the founder of Democracy for America, a grassroots organization that supports socially progressive and fiscally responsible political candidates. Email Howard Dean at howarddean@democracyforamerica.com Copyright 2004 Howard Dean, All Rights Reserved. Distributed exclusively by Cagle, Cartoons, Inc. www.caglecartoons.com, contact Cari Dawson Bartley 800 696 7561 cari@cagle.com for publishing or posting.