Tax Cut Lost in Space

By Lisa Martinovic

[Note to Readers: I wrote this piece very early in the GW Bush administration. It’s great background for helping us understand the current economic crisis.]

So now its official: after summarily debating the President’s proposed budget and tax cut, the Senate made like a good doggie and dutifully delivered 54 well-fed and manicured thumbs-up onto the doorstep of young Master Bush. But before we lay back and enjoy the pillaging of our national coffers, I want to make sure that we’re clear on how this coup came to pass.

Apparently, one day on the campaign trail, then-candidate Bush woke up, rubbed his sleepy eyes and took a good, hard look around. He was shocked—shocked!—to find a looming energy crisis, faltering New Economy, school yard massacres, homeless people, ominous signs of global warming and a seemingly endless parade of ills afflicting this great land that The Family deemed would soon be his. Then he cogitated for the full length of his attention span and, when the second hand was on the 12 again, he slapped his palm against his forehead and exclaimed: “Well heck sake, the problem with America is that rich people just don’t have enough money!” And thus the tax cut was born.

Clearly, the man is a genius.

The wisdom of the Bush vision came to me with the speed of the Nasdaq free-fall the moment I saw Dennis Tito strapping into the Russian space capsule. Gosh, I realized, there are probably gobs of other millionaires who can’t afford this basic wealthy person’s right–corporate titans who as children yearned to be the next John Glenn, but instead of following their bliss spent their lives in service to God and Country: building fortunes on the backs of happy, toiling wage-slaves.

You see, the rich are different from you and me: they have Presidents and Senators to look out for them. So naturally Bush wants 45% of that $1.35 trillion distributed to the wealthiest 1% of Americans. This is as it should be. Since most Americans are not clever or disciplined enough to manage their own money, it’s up to the rich to serve as wise stewards of our collective fortune by trickling down upon us no more than our little ole brains can handle.

God also intended that the rich act as inspiration for bottom-dwellers. In their Armani’s and limos, and yes, now in outer space, the rich show us what it’s possible to achieve with a firm commitment to putting profits before people, the environment, and any hope for a livable future.

At a press conference a couple of days after the Senate vote, the President was asked how he planned to help consumers cope with spiraling energy costs. Mr. Bush pooh-poohed long-range, systemic approaches and instead crowed that his tax cut would put “money in their pockets to deal with high energy prices.” Touche´ King George! And I’m sure it goes without saying that people who are too poor to pay taxes (and hence won’t benefit from tax relief) can jolly well downsize themselves into curbside cardboard boxes where they won’t have to worry about energy bills at all!

Well, before my dim bulb got a compassionate conservative re-education, I had this silly idea. I thought, what if we took that whole proposed tax grab– I mean cut–and shared it with everyone equally, say, by investing in solar power. I did a little research and it turns out that $1.35 trillion worth of installed solar power would generate one-half of all our home electricity needs. Indefinitely. It seemed like a good idea at first; then I looked up into the night sky, considered what was orbiting the big picture, and came to my senses.

When it comes down to a choice between cheap, clean, renewable energy for the masses or joy rides in space for deprived millionaires, Mr. President, you’ve got my vote, too.

Oh, and thanks, Dennis, for helping us understand why this tax cut “just right.”

This essay was originally published by the Northern California Bohemian May 17, 2001