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We All Lose

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Dear Reader,

It did not take long for the Shrub apologists to chime in [Letters, August 24] with their moronic assessment of Linda Lutton's "Congratulations! You Lose!" article [August 17] describing the inequities of the Bush tax plan. Being of low intellect, they of course missed the point. Their complaint was, "Why should Linda get a 'rebate' when she had such a low income that she did not pay any taxes?" One answer already provided by Ms. Lutton, which was missed by these critics presumably because she used words of more than one syllable, was that even low-income taxpayers pay taxes. In fact, most working Americans pay more in social security and medicare taxes than income taxes. Social security (at 6.2 percent) and medicare taxes (at 1.4 percent) come out of every penny of earned income (up to an upper limit that provides yet another regressive tax loophole benefiting the rich). Because an equal amount is paid by the employer, the net tax rate is more than 15 percent on ALL earned income of every person. These people are not getting a free ride, even if payroll taxes are so ingrained in us that some of us may not realize we are paying them.

There is probably no point in appealing to the Shrubites on the basis of human compassion. Their level of comprehension of the nature of human civilization was arrested at the stage of "I have clubbed an antelope to death, and I will keep it for myself, even if it rots before I can eat it all myself." It never occurs to them that if we cooperate as a group we can more easily kill antelope, and if we specialize, then maybe someone can make shoes while the others chase antelope. No, this rudimentary level of civilization is beyond their comprehension.

Clearly it is necessary to appeal to self-interest, the only motivating factor for these Darwinian throwbacks. Except in a very short-term view of things, Bush's barbaric tax structure does not help ANYONE, even the rich.

(1) Before abandoning any vestige of a safety net, how certain is even the richest of you that you will never lose your job or make seriously disastrous investments? Any number of NBA players can tell you how to lose millions and pay an investment consultant for the privilege. In fact, some of those who reacted to Lutton's article may be the very "investment consultants" who have led their customers into financial ruin.

(2) The working poor, who in Bush's America include about half of all Americans, obviously do not benefit from Bush-league economics. They get no tax break at all. Although they work harder than any CEO ever has in his life, they are barely able to make ends meet. However, the Bush apologists consider their "choice" to work in low-paying jobs to mean that they deserve to suffer. Do these barbarians consider that the teachers who teach their kids should be among the working poor? Do they think teaching should be considered a profession that only the contemptibly stupid would choose, because it does not provide enough income to buy participation in Bush's America?

(3) The self-interest of average Americans is not served by Bush-league economics. The minuscule tax cuts do not offset the loss of governmental services. If there is justice in the world, Bush tax strategists will be among those who die in the next plane crash caused by overworked and understaffed air traffic controllers, and Bush's secretary of health, education, and welfare will be the next to die of salmonella poisoning from eating contaminated and uninspected chicken.

(4) Bush's voodoo economics have already cost moderately wealthy Americans more money than any other income group. As soon as GW stole the presidency and began to put his tax-breaks-for-the-rich plan into effect, the stock market crashed. The paltry reduction in taxes that all but the richest 1 percent of Americans will receive has already been more than offset by the huge losses in retirement funds last year--typically $20,000 to $40,000 for the average 50-year-old with a 401(k) or 403(b) plan--due to the Republican recession. While they were losing our money, the average CEO salary plus bonus increased 18 percent last year.

(4) The self-interest of even the richest Americans is NOT served by the Shrub vision. Even Bush's only true constituency, which comprises approximately 1,000 of the richest CEOs (and if you think because you rake in a paltry $1 million per year you are in the Bush elite, you are sadly mistaken), loses in the long run. Sure, your corporation makes a few extra bucks by dumping toxic waste into Lake Michigan and by farming out the tedious hand-labor operations to Mexican or Chinese factories. However, once globalization has trashed standards worldwide, this no longer gives you any competitive advantage. Once the logging industry has clear-cut every virgin forest left in America's national parks, there will no longer be any easy pickings. After all, the key to wealth in America has always been to consume abundant natural resources as quickly as possible. Now we are perilously close to having used them all up. Only a CEO whose obscene $20 million per year "paycheck" allows him to ignore a future disaster that may be only a few years away can have this myopic a view. Sure, the oil companies benefit fiscally from $33.5 billion per year in tax giveaways that encourage them to deplete the world petroleum supply as fast as possible. Even the dimmest among them must realize that finite means finite, and when the oil is gone the profits will disappear. Finally, even though the richest Americans will gain on average $54,000 per year in tax breaks, this is a drop in their bucket, which they will not even notice.

(5) Every American will suffer when parking lots pave every wetland, when no unspoiled natural beauty remains, when the air is unbreathable, when our children are slowly poisoned by mercury in the water, when the national forests have all been clear-cut. Every American will suffer when we have no oil left and no alternative source of energy, just because short-term profits dictated this imbecilic policy. Every American will suffer as the U.S. economy continues to plummet. Wall Street analysts may be so stupid that they quote the daily Nikkei stock exchange average to seven significant decimal places, but they are not so stupid that they do not worry when a buffoon appoints himself president and declares that he will take a budget surplus and immediately give it away to rich people. Bush has already begun to plunder the social security trust fund to pay for his vacuous tax breaks for the superrich and the oil companies. The sad thing is that the oil companies were already making huge profits, and the superrich have more money than they know what to do with.

When the Bush dream has been realized, and the United States is one big strip mall, and every tree has been cut down, and every mountain strip-mined, and every lake is polluted, when even Republican children will be able to name all six remaining species of birds, when all Americans with the misfortune to work in the service industry live in their cars, when employers monitor their workforce by video cameras and daily drug tests, when there will be one national newspaper and all news is written by government propagandists, maybe then the 1,000 richest Americans will wonder whether the extra few billion bucks they made in the process (chicken feed, really) means they have achieved true happiness.

Tom DeCoursey

Oak Park

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