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Outrageous Agenda Manipulation: Congress Passes Big Tax Cuts
It is hard to believe that the Bush package of huge tax cuts causing massive deficits has been passed in the middle of a war. The Bush program asks our children to pay for what we are doing now.
Normally the debate over a big tax cut package which will cause huge deficits over the next ten years would be widely covered in daily news stories for weeks. But we have heard almost nothing about it. For months we have had escalating attention on the Iraq war, and now we are literally in the middle of it. Television channels are covering the war full time all through the day. People's attention is on the war.
But today, Friday, March 21, 2003, the Senate failed to pass an amendment limiting Bush's tax cut; they hope to complete action on the measure tomorrow. The House passed the whole package yesterday on a vote of 215 to 212. That is incredible and maybe it would have happened anyway, but it should have happened at least within the full awareness and attention of the American public.
The Senate is now in the hands of Republicans. What that means is that Republicans can again control the agenda; it can control when things come up for a vote. The House, and the executive branch are in the hands of Republicans. So they can coordinate their actions. I find it outrageous that such a large issue has been scheduled and voted upon in the middle of a war.
The New York Times website did not even have a story on its front page. The Washington Post had the story on its front page down below the many war stories.
There still must be a conference committee since the Senate was able to remove 100 billion from the tax cut to allocate to the Iraq war. But that is a relatively minor matter compared to the huge deficits and deep cuts to major programs.
Big deficits mean that we are spending now and expecting our children to pay in the future. Baby boom costs of programs for Social Security and health care are going to increase substantially. And big deficits always means eventual higher interest rates. A huge decision is being made here without the full awareness of the public.
An article by Isaac Shapiro at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities discusses the House version as follows:
The budget proposal that passed the House on March 20 calls for a variety of essential programs to be reduced in order to save funds, at the same time it devotes a larger amount of resources to tax cuts for the highest-income segment of the population. This divergent treatment underscores the skewed priorities reflected in both budget proposals.
The proposal would cut basic “mandatory” programs for the elderly, veterans, and the poor by $265 billion over the next ten years. The proposal would also contain cuts in discretionary programs of more than $200 billion over the next ten years. In combination, these cuts would be steep, amounting to around $475 billion. They are being justified in the name of fiscal discipline.
Yet as large as these programmatic cuts would be, they would be surpassed in size by the tax cuts proposed in the same budget that would be received by the top one percent of the population. In other words, if the budget contained no spending cuts but the top one percent did not receive any tax cuts, it would cause less of a dent in the nation’s fiscal outlook. (This calculation is based on the official cost estimates of the tax and spending proposals, as well as distributional data from the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center.)
Specifically, the budget contains widespread cuts in basic domestic programs such as Medicaid, veterans programs, student loans, school lunches, child care, food stamps, cash assistance for the elderly and disabled poor, and many other programs. The budget would require Congressional committees to cut these “mandatory” programs by $265 billion over the next ten years. In addition, the proposal also would cut “discretionary” or non-entitlement programs (other than defense spending) well below the President’s request. Non-defense discretionary programs would be cut more than $200 billion over ten years below the Congressional Budget Office baseline, which equals the 2003 levels for these programs, adjusted for inflation. These cuts could affect a wide variety of programs from education programs to environmental protection programs to programs for poor children.
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