I’m sick of hearing about Iraq. Every time I open up a newspaper or turn on the news, all I hear about are weapons inspectors, military bases, the new color-coded terrorist threats – and I’m getting jaded on the whole thing. So allow me to break the mold and discuss the economy; this will involve lots of statistics and numbers, so bear with me.
First, a look at the situation, which isn’t that pretty. In the last two years, nearly 2.5 million jobs have been lost in the private sector, and hiring is at a 20-year low. In 2001, 1.3 million more people fell below the poverty line, the first increase since 1993, and it’s still growing.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, the real (inflation-adjusted) income of the average American family grew by only 0.4 percent between 1973 and 1995, despite claims of things getting better. During the technological boom years between then and 2000, the net worth of the average family grew by 2.2 percent, but in 2001, it dropped an unprecedented 10.8 percent, and when the numbers are in, my guess is it has kept dropping since then.
On the other end of the spectrum, while CEOs of major corporations made an average of 42 times the pay of an average worker in 1980, in 1999 they made 419 times more. Congress works hard to enlarge this gap, seeing how Bush’s last economic proposal gave over 40 percent of the $54 billion in accelerated tax cuts to the top 1 percent of taxpayers.
To give Bush credit, he is a little slicker than usual in presenting the new tax cuts as beneficial to everyone. In his speeches on the subject, he said, “under this plan, 92 million Americans receive an average tax cut of $1,083.” He goes onto say that he “estimates that 23 million small business owners will receive an average income tax rate cut of $2,042.”
The problem with those figures is that they take into account really rich people in the averaging process. For example, if you were to take nine professors’ salaries, and then add Oprah’s into the mix, the average salary of all of them is going to be pretty high. In reality, over 80 percent of people will receive less than a $1,000 cut. The middle fifth of taxpayers, i.e., the middle class, will receive an average cut of $256, while those in the upper 1 percent will receive an average cut of $24,100. The majority of small business owners will get a cut of less than $500.
And then there’s the attack on the idea that more money should be taken from the rich than the poor, represented by his proposal that taxation should end on investment. In addition, there’s the reworking of retirement plans, where businesses will no longer have the incentive to provide retirement packages like 401(k)s to employees. Instead, higher-income people would be able to put away more money into tax-exempt retirement accounts while workers would have to work harder to stretch their paychecks to cover groceries, let alone retirement.
I don’t really expect this trend to change, to tell you the truth. Watching economic policy go through Congress is like watching a boxing match where the same people pay off both fighters. They punch each other when they’re supposed to, one falls down on cue and people leave thinking they’ve watched some real competition. Polarization is the name of the game, where the rich are getting much richer and everyone else has to work harder for them to make rent.
I guess this is the part where I’m supposed to present some solution, so here’s the only one I could think of: I’m declaring my candidacy for dictator of the United States. If elected, the first thing I will do is liquidate Congress, after which I will tax the bejesus out of really rich people and allocate the money for things that’ll help people, like healthcare and education. I will represent your best interests with an iron fist. Vote Atkins.
Drew Atkins is a Daily Nexus staff writer.