Tucson Citizen: What they plan to do with our money

By Billie Stanton, Opinion Editor
Tucson Citizen, 6/18/08

"Well, here's another nice kettle of fish you've pickled me in!"
Oliver Hardy of Laurel and Hardy in "Thicker Than Water" (1935)

Prices are high, wages are low and, as our economy sinks ever deeper, we have no choice.

We've got to dump those tax-and-spend conservatives.
You know the ones.

George W. Bush took office in 2000 with a $559 billion surplus, a parting gift to us from President Clinton, who was just another in a long line of thrifty liberals.

By the Bush administration's own recent estimate, the deficit for all of 2008 will hit $410 billion - nearly matching the all-time-worst deficit of $413 billion in 2004, also compliments of the Bushites.

It doesn't take a math genius to see that somehow, over the past eight years, $969 billion of our money has disappeared. But most Americans aren't fixated on that mystery.

Our biggest gripe today is the cost of gasoline, upwards of $4 a gallon anywhere but Tucson, where it mysteriously hovers 30 cents or so below the national average.

Remember the energy crisis of 1979? The gasoline price skyrocketed to 62 cents a gallon, and President Carter (another skinflint liberal) urged us to turn down our thermostats and wear sweaters.

How did things go south? Do today's prices really boil down to supply and demand? Or is this an evil plot devised by those wily Saudis?

Not quite. But while we're talking "evil" and "wily," does the name Enron ring a bell?

In December 2000, the notorious Enron got the Bush administration to deregulate trading of about 30 percent of our crude oil energy futures. So those commodities, once fully regulated, now are swapped in a "dark market" out of view.

So says Michael Greenberger, who used to run the trading division of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Greenberger told "Marketplace," on National Public Radio, that this "Enron loophole" ended a "very careful (regulation) regime that had been perfected over about 78 years."

With markets unpoliced, observers believe "malpractices are being committed and traders are able to boost the price virtually at their will," he reported.

Weird how reminiscent this is of Vice President Dick Cheney's secret White House meetings in 2001 to set national energy policy with his "task force."

Cheney wouldn't identify participants, but they included Exxon Mobil Corp., Conoco, Shell Oil Co. and BP America Inc..

But that was then. This is now. And our "now" includes average wages, adjusted for inflation, that are lower than they were in the 1970s and a minimum wage, adjusted, lower than it was in the 1950s.

Our inequality of income and wealth matches that from way back in the 1920s, just before the Great Depression, said Holly Sklar, director of Business for Shared Prosperity, for executives and investors.

"We've been living the American dream in reverse," Sklar eloquently declared on "Bill Moyers' Journal" Friday night.

"It used to be that when productivity went up, wages went up. . . . Now, almost all the rise and work of productivity is going not just to the upper class, but to the very top of the upper class," she said.

Not making ends meet? Join the club.

But this is a presidential election year. So might optimistic Americans expect hope on the horizon? Not so much.

Neither Sen. John McCain nor Sen. Barack Obama has magic answers.

Each has tax proposals that were just parsed by the Tax Policy Center of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, nonpartisan think tanks.

McCain would permanently extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, increase deductions for taxpayers with dependents, cut the corporate income tax rate and permit instant deductions on some short-lived capital equipment.

Obama would permanently extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for people earning under $250,000, would raise the maximum rate on capital gains and qualified dividends and would expand tax breaks for workers, retirees, homeowners, savers, students and new farmers.

Clear as mud on both counts, right? In short, tax breaks by both men would radically increase our national debt.

From 2009 to 2018, McCain's plan would slash our revenue by $3.72 trillion; Obama's, by $2.73 trillion.

McCain's approach would add $4.5 trillion to the national debt; Obama's would add $3.3 trillion.

(When it comes to spending, those liberals just can't keep up.)

But McCain's plan "would primarily benefit those with very high incomes, almost all of whom would receive large tax cuts that would, on average, raise their after-tax incomes by more than twice the average for all households."

Obama's plan would give bigger breaks to low- and middle-income taxpayers while raising taxes on high-income folks.

Every American with two brain cells to rub together knows how well our economy has fared during eight years of coddling the rich and stomping on the rest of us.

Let's ditch the conservatives' tax-and-spend mode. And let's put a stop to the stomping.

Reach Opinion Editor Billie Stanton at bstanton@tucsoncitizen.com and 573-4664.

Copyright 2008 Tucson Citizen

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