Makes me chuckle to pick up the paper and read a headline “Republicans Are Deeply Split Over How to Apportion New Tax Cuts” in the New York Times. They're not split, they're scared to death of the mid-term election axe. A year ago they were not only not split, they weren’t even mildly splintered. The Bush Tax Abatement Machine was more popular than a Humvee with 50 cent gasoline.
House Republicans are still of that mind, but then the House has always been more of a zoo than a legislative body. Dick Cheney was even a member at one time. Anyway, these tax-slashing neocons are dead-set to earmark $63 billion in cuts, more than half of which would go to households with more than $1 million in yearly income. Not one million, more than one million.
Well, if you can’t help the down-and-out million-a-year crowd, what kind of neocon are you, anyway?
"We're not going to be left out in the cold," said Representative Tom Reynolds, whose affluent district is packed with families who could be battered by the alternative minimum tax. Battered. The Alternative Minimum Tax would batter these near-destitute families who are so lost in the forest of loopholes that they pay no other tax.
You thought all those poor folks in New Orleans were battered. Forget it. Tom Reynolds and his buddies know battered and it’s not losing your home and all your belongings, it’s not being able to have the third winter home to accompany the second summer home. Without two or three homes, Tom's constituents will be left out in the cold.
According to the Times, Representative Devin Nunes, a California Republican on the tax-writing committee, said about the Thanksgiving postponement of vote, "What we decided to do is let people go back and think. We said, let's wait and make sure all the members are comfortable." That’s politico-speak for finding out how angry the voters are back home.
They’re angry. Angry because this used to be a country that prided itself on fairness, even though fairness got bent a lot in the legislative process. But it’s broken now and Americans don’t like to see fairness swept up like broken pottery and pitched out the door. Katrina and the New Orleans aftermath shook this country far more than those who are isolated in Washington seem to realize.
In two months we’ve gone from watching bodies float by under bridges swarming with the New Orleans abandoned poor, to our president standing in front of Andrew Jackson, promising help, to a Congress that’s slashed food stamps, child support and Medicare to make an unconscionable giveaway of tax relief to the already rich. Bush would give $1.4 trillion over ten years, if he could. $140 billion a year according to the Congressional Budget Office.
That’s fourteen times the total budget for the United Nations given away each year to the already rich. And yes, that is unfair in the face of massive unemployment, an auto industry on its knees, college education beyond the reach of all but (you guessed it) the super-wealthy, our Gulf Coast in tatters and Congress feeding off the lobby industry . . . they are no longer organizations, they have become legislative feeding-troughs.
So yes, Devin Nunes is right to let his fellow Representatives go home and think.
Thanksgiving is a particularly appropriate time to think about these issues because it’s a time we give thanks for our diversity and the common welfare of our neighbors; thanks for opportunity and the helping-hand to those without it; thanks for the soundness of our sleep and completeness of our charity.
A time also to remember that the axe is not for the turkey alone.