Favorite

Bush's war on the poor 

After an uninterrupted string of victories, President Bush’s magnificent war seems to have turned the corner. If it were not for one small insurgency, 2005 might be the year that he could claim final victory. Not in Iraq. I’m talking about the undeclared war on the middle class and poor. But war nomenclature always gets you in trouble — should it be the Civil War or the War Between the States? This one is more aptly called the War to Unfetter the Rich and the Big Corporations. The president is losing out in the battle to destroy the retirement security of middle-class workers, but look at what else the Republican Congress has done for him on other fronts in three months. Congress passed the Class Action Fairness Act, commonly known as tort reform, which makes it harder for consumers and victims of other corporate abuses to get relief in the courts, partly by shunting suits from state courts to logjammed federal courts where Republican judges predominate. They accomplished it by demonizing trial lawyers and claiming that legislation was needed to restrain not the victims of abuse or neglect but rapacious lawyers who drowned court dockets with frivolous suits by representing them. Overlooked in the debate were the facts. Businesses, not individuals and trial lawyers, are the big users of the courts —20,868 suits by businesses vs. 4,786 filed for individuals in Arkansas in 2001, according to one study — and businesses are far more prone than trial lawyers to be punished by federal courts for frivolous suits. Then Congress whooped through the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, written by credit-card companies and big banks and backed by Bush, which makes it much harder for middle-class people to get a fresh start after filing for bankruptcy. Republicans passed the bill in both houses after defeating amendments that got to the root of the increase in bankruptcy filings. The amendments would have forced lenders to cut fees and expand disclosures to consumers, and curtailed the aggressive marketing tactics of banks and credit card companies and the corrupt bankruptcy practices of corporations like Enron. The object of the bills, the leadership reminded, was families, not corporations. Half of all bankruptcies are the result of catastrophic medical bills and job losses, but the credit card companies and big banks had invested $101 million in federal candidates and political parties in six years, and it was no time for lawmakers to go wobbly on them. Next, the Senate tackled another goal of the president, helping high-income retirees, who had been paying slightly higher taxes since 1993 to stabilize Medicare. The Social Security relief act will significantly raise the take-home benefits of the wealthiest class of beneficiaries, those with incomes greater than $100,000 a year, and speed the bankruptcy of Medicare. Here’s what the bill will do for retirees in Arkansas as soon as the House of Representatives sends it to the president. Arkansans with incomes higher than $100,000 a year will get 37 percent of the increased benefits, those with annual incomes below $40,000 a year none of them. People with incomes higher than $200,000 will receive an average of $2,978 a year. If you earn that much $2,978 is a drop in the bucket, but it’s the gesture that counts. Finally, the House of Representatives last week voted to end the estate tax forever, a major priority of the president. If enacted, it will leave trillions of dollars of income by the richest Americans altogether untaxed and add $1 trillion to the national debt by 2021. The United States has taxed great inheritances for a hundred years but a media consultant came up with the name “death tax” in the 1990s and Americans were persuaded that the pittances they would leave to their widows and children would be confiscated by a new tax. Fewer than 2 percent of estates ever pay any tax and the effective tax rate for estates larger than $20 million was only 16.5 percent for 2003, the last year for which the Internal Revenue Service has figures. That is considerably less than the cumulative tax rate that every working American pays on income they actually earn by their labor. Arkansas’s congressional delegation, all except Rep. Vic Snyder, spouted the same foolishness, that the tax shut down family farms and small businesses and that it amounted to double taxation. Rep. Mike Ross said it was wrong to tax the same income twice, once when it was earned and again by the heirs. But most of the value of large estates, according to the IRS, is unrealized capital gains. If it is not taxed when it is distributed to heirs, it is never taxed at all. But that, after all, is Bush’s major objective, to end taxation altogether on income from investments and to tax only income from labor. Meantime, the House of Representatives moves ahead with the president’s goal of scaling back the earned income tax credit for the working poor and making health care, nutritional aid and energy and housing assistance scarcer. A few more victories and the president can truly claim, “Mission Accomplished.” The White House has already ordered the banners.
Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Dismang appoints Benton man to Medical Marijuana Commission

    Sen. Jonathan Dismang, president pro tempore of the Senate, announced this afternoon that he'd appointed Kevin Russell of Benton to fill a four-year term on the state Medical Marijuana Commission.
    • Dec 17, 2018
  • Authorities announce federal complaint against 'porch pirate'

    The local/federal news conference today to announce a joint law enforcement effort to crack down on thieves who pilfer packages from porches included the announcement of a federal arrest of a package theft suspect.
    • Dec 17, 2018
  • Boyle Building listed for sale for $5.995 million

    The historic Boyle Building at Capitol Avenue and Main has been listed for sale for $5.995 million by the Chi Hotel Group, which purchased it in March 2014 for $4.5 million with plans to develop a hotel.
    • Dec 17, 2018
  • More »

More by Ernest Dumas

  • Sex and Trump

    No one, least of all Donald Trump, should be surprised when sex puts him in mortal jeopardy, which seemed to be the case last week when his personal lawyer pleaded guilty to violating the law by arranging $280,000 in hush payments to a porn actress and a Playboy model who were prepared to tell voters about having sex with him.
    • Dec 13, 2018
  • A decent man

    The beatification of George H.W. Bush, which even the current president signaled was OK, would have surprised the 41st president, who seemed to have accepted the public's verdict that, although a waffler, he was a decent man who did his best and didn't do any harm to the people of the country or the world with whose well-being he was entrusted for a time.
    • Dec 6, 2018
  • Prelude to war

    President Trump's casual disinterest in the murder of Jamaal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia's leaders, a crime he once abhorred, may be only the final repudiation of America's ancient obedience to human rights, but what if it is much more? What if it is a prelude to war?
    • Nov 29, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Along the civil rights trail

    A convergence of events in recent days signaled again how far we have come and how far we have yet to go in civil rights.
    • Jan 18, 2018
  • The Oval outhouse

    One thing all Americans finally can agree upon is that public discourse has coarsened irretrievably in the era of Donald Trump and largely at his instance.
    • Jan 18, 2018
  • Shrugging off sulfides

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported a shocker on its front page Sunday. The rotten-egg odor from the Koch brothers' sprawling paper plant at Crossett is still making people sick, but the state's pollution control agency is unaware of the problem.
    • Mar 29, 2018

Latest in Ernest Dumas

  • Sex and Trump

    No one, least of all Donald Trump, should be surprised when sex puts him in mortal jeopardy, which seemed to be the case last week when his personal lawyer pleaded guilty to violating the law by arranging $280,000 in hush payments to a porn actress and a Playboy model who were prepared to tell voters about having sex with him.
    • Dec 13, 2018
  • A decent man

    The beatification of George H.W. Bush, which even the current president signaled was OK, would have surprised the 41st president, who seemed to have accepted the public's verdict that, although a waffler, he was a decent man who did his best and didn't do any harm to the people of the country or the world with whose well-being he was entrusted for a time.
    • Dec 6, 2018
  • Prelude to war

    President Trump's casual disinterest in the murder of Jamaal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia's leaders, a crime he once abhorred, may be only the final repudiation of America's ancient obedience to human rights, but what if it is much more? What if it is a prelude to war?
    • Nov 29, 2018
  • More »

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: No leash

    • I once had a cat -- Earl was his name -- who loved to ride…

    • on December 17, 2018
  • Re: Beware of 'unity'

    • I like this opinion piece of yours published on my 71st birthday. My best friend…

    • on December 17, 2018
  • Re: No leash

    • I just remembered that I left out a fifth thing cats should learn as kittens…

    • on December 16, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation