[Sorry if you had trouble reaching yesterday’s column – and for its length, if you did reach it. It was the Internet worm.]


Paul Lerman: ‘In regard to your wonderment at . . . ‘the Republicans’ skill at persuading so many folks, who don’t earn $300,000 or $3 million, that huge tax cuts for the best off are something we should go deeply into debt to provide’ . . . a Time Magazine survey referenced by David Brooks in the New York Times (‘The Triumph of Hope Over Self-Interest’ – January 12) may help to explain it. The survey asked people if they are in the top 1 percent of earners. Nineteen percent said they were. A further 20 percent said they expected to be someday. ‘So right away,’ notes Brooks, ‘you have 39 percent of Americans who thought that when Mr. Gore savaged a plan that favored the top 1 percent, he was taking a direct shot at them.” [Not only are all the inhabitants of Lake Wobegon above average – they are way, way above average.]


James: ‘You ask . . . ‘How much deeper into debt do the borrow-and-spend Republicans have to bury us before that moniker – ‘borrow-and-spend Republicans’ – finally catches on? Another $3 trillion? Another $6 trillion?’ . . . Your partisanship is showing. You know it is a fact that we have not had a year-over-year reduction of national debt since the 1950’s. Both parties have been on a spending binge for the last 50 years.’

☞ The national debt went up far more as a percentage of GDP under Reagan/Bush and will now again under this Bush than it did under Carter or Clinton. Yet all we ever hear is ‘tax-and-spend’ liberals. The Republicans seem to spend as much as the Democrats; they just don’t want to pay for it. They push it off onto our kids to pay instead. My point is simply: the term ‘borrow-and-spend Republicans’ is probably just as valid as ‘tax-and-spend liberals.’ But we don’t have a Rush Limbaugh brainwashing 17 million cheerful ‘ditto-heads’ a day, so you have to spread the word.


Walt Klypchak: ‘The attached letter seems to be an objective, fact-based review. Is it?’

☞ Well, it’s interesting, the more so because the author, Gary Halbert, says it reaches to 1.6 million people. The part I find most worth reading describes how the dividend-tax-cut proposal, if it ever passed, would lower the capital gains tax as well. (And complicate taxes even more.) So that part is worth reading.

But then, at great length, Halbert sneers at those of us who fault the Republicans for favoring the rich.

Take this one little snippet near the end. He writes:

And Finally, Who Are ‘The Rich’ Anyway?

If you make $28,000 a year, you are in the top 50% of taxpayers; $55,000 puts you in the top 25%; and $92,000 puts you in the top 10%, the so-called “super-rich.” The liberals NEVER quote these figures either. They know that most people making $28,000-$55,000 do NOT consider themselves remotely to be rich, nor do many who make $92,000. These folks would be appalled if the liberals were to call them rich people, so they don’t.

And why would we? Who ever said that someone in the top 10% was ‘super-rich?’ I have never heard anyone say that. Have you?

No place in Halbert’s letter does he ever mention anyone earning more than $200,000. He admits those folks would save $3,000 compared to what would be saved by people earning less, but, heck, they paid so much more to begin with – all of which I don’t much dispute. But that’s not what most people are objecting to! That’s not the famous ‘top 1%.’

No place does Halbert mention what someone in the top 1% would save. Not President Bush, who it’s been estimated would save $44,000 a year from his tax cut. Not the VP, who it’s been estimated would save $327,000.

And even they are not ‘super-rich,’ by the way, if you ask me. They are three hundred million miles from the Forbes 400.

If Halbert is trying to be objective – and not just trying to seem objective – why is he casting this as a dispute between average folks and those who make $200,000 a year?

The top federal income tax bracket doesn’t even kick in until you get to $307,000 in taxable income (which can mean a lot more than $307,000 in total income) – so why was $200,000 the highest income he could imagine mentioning in his discussion?

Halbert is obviously a bright man. My guess is that he earns far more than $200,000 a year himself. It strikes me that sending his message out to 1.6 million readers, most of whom probably earn less, is purposely deceptive. I wonder how much the tax cuts would save him? I wonder, for that matter, how much the tax cuts will save Rush, and whether he’s told all his ditto heads – 19% of whom are in the top 1% and 20% more (God bless ’em!) expect to be.


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