But first . . . we started the week with this:
<< The man recruits three ships full of men to make this unbelievably dangerous, scary voyage to what turns out to be America . . . and we can’t close the stock market for one rotten little day? >>
To which Bob responds: ‘What about the argument that by the account of his own diary he murdered and enslaved the majority of natives that welcomed him with open arms?’
☞ Ouch. I promise to write a column next Columbus Day.
CHURCH AND STATE
Billionaire TV evangelist Pat Robertson may most recently be remembered for his dialog with Jerry Falwell in the wake of 9/11.
FALWELL: ‘I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way – all of them who have tried to secularize America – I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen.”
PAT ROBERTSON: ‘Well, I totally concur.’
One might think this would put Pat outside the American mainstream. But those of you who agree with Chief Justice Rehnquist that ‘separation of church and state’ was never the founders’ intention, will be pleased by this news that Pat has gotten a ‘faith-based’ grant from the Bush administration. Click here for the story.
And in other recent news . . .
MEDIEVAL MEDICINE FOR WOMEN
The Bush administration plans to appoint Dr. W. David Hager – who refuses to prescribe birth control to unmarried women – to head the advisory panel on women’s health of the Food and Drug Administration. In 1998, Hager and his wife authored Stress and the Woman’s Body, a book that puts ‘an emphasis on the restorative power of Jesus Christ in one’s life, not on self-healing’ and recommends specific Scripture readings and prayers as treatment for premenstrual syndrome and other ailments.
And back to your money . . .
MAKING THE TAX CUT PERMANENT
Under current law, the benefits of the tax cut for the top 1% of taxpayers phase in over the next few years until 2010. At that point, according to a recently released study, the top 1% will be getting 51.8% of the cuts.
But that’s also the point at which the law is set to expire. In 2011, we’d all be back to where we were in 2001.
The Republicans don’t want to see that happen. They feel it’s important to make permanent the tax cuts for everyone.
Most Democrats feel it would be enough to lock in the tax cuts for just the bottom 99%.
If we did that – making permanent the cuts for 99% of American taxpayers but freezing tax rates for the remaining 1% at their current levels – we would, by 2010, be saving 51.8% of the cost of the tax cut. That huge savings could be used for things like a prescription drug benefit, smaller classroom sizes, and honoring the Social Security ‘lock box.’
What are we talking here in actual dollars? Well, as you can see if you click the link above, the study estimates an average 2010 tax saving of $85,000 for those in the top 1%. That compares with about $1,700 for the next best-off 19% of taxpayers . . . and about $800 for the 60% of taxpayers in the middle. (The study has a great table that shows all this.)
Some of you will say that the $85,000 is fair in comparison with the $800 because, of course, it’s our money not the government’s, and, in any event, of course the rich will save a little more, because they pay so much more.
But consider these two points:
First, while the top bracket was going down from 90% to 70% to 28% from Eisenhower’s day to Kennedy’s to Reagan’s, the brackets most people faced did not fall much, if at all. And the payroll tax – ‘the working man’s tax’ – was skyrocketing. So we had decades where one small group of Americans was seeing a huge cut in marginal rates while the rest of us were not. What would be so terrible if the rest of us now got a modest tax cut without giving a big tax cut to those at the top?
Second, the top 1% have legal ways to soften that 39.6% top bracket considerably – key among them, a 0% tax rate on municipal bond interest and a 20% rate on long-term capital gains.
I don’t begrudge the top 1% these things. I just don’t see that further tax relief, to the tune of $85,000 a year in 2010, is the wisest economic policy.
The country and the world face desperate needs, daunting challenges, and exciting opportunities. The Bush administration and many Republicans seem to feel that by far the highest priority among these needs, challenges, and opportunities – and thus the place to target a huge portion of our resources – is the plight of the rich.
Please don’t hand the Senate gavel back to Trent Lott on November 5.
A quick word about war . . .
COUNTERPOINT TO SENATOR KENNEDY’S SPEECH
Roger Farley: ‘Here is a link to the full testimony of Eliot Cohen, Professor of Strategic Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, who makes a compelling argument for the removal of Saddam Hussein.’
And, finally, let’s make ME a little money . . .
I mentioned that I have a piece of Jolson & Company, which opened at the Century Theater in New York a couple of weeks ago. The reviews have been good and audiences are giving resounding, standing ovations at every performance … yes, every performance. For some of the older Jolson fans, that’s no simple gesture. Buy your tickets, spread the word – I didn’t know or care about Al Jolson either until I show the show. But that’s one of the things that make it so much fun. You enter his world and come out the other end knowing a man’s life and having revisited an era. (You will love the young Mae West.) And singing.
Have a great weekend.