Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 20, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

CUTTING THE NET....I don't know who David Brooks' source is for this, but here's what he says about President Bush's domestic agenda for a second term:

In his State of the Union address, the president will announce measures to foster job creation. In the meantime, he is talking about what he calls the Ownership Society.

This is a bundle of proposals that treat workers as self-reliant pioneers who rise through several employers and careers. To thrive, these pioneers need survival tools. They need to own their own capital reserves, their own retraining programs, their own pensions and their own health insurance.

Administration officials are talking about giving unemployed workers personal re-employment accounts, which they could spend on training, child care, a car, a move to a place with more jobs, or whatever else they think would benefit them.

President Bush has a proposal to combine and simplify the confusing morass of government savings programs and give individuals greater control over how they want to spend their tax-sheltered savings. Administration officials hope, in a second term, to let individuals control part of their Social Security pensions and perhaps even their medical savings accounts.

Hold on to your wallets, gang, it looks like Bush is planning to take ever more direct aim at unemployment insurance, Social Security, and Medicare. It'll be gussied up with lots of fine talk, and the fine print will be fine indeed, but the end result will almost certainly be to cut back these programs and squeeze ever harder on the hated socal safety net a necessity if we're to hold on to our tax cuts for the rich and our giveaways to big business.

Of course, conservatives will cluck cluck sadly and say that we're overreacting. It's nothing more than a few minor proposals, not really a cutback at all. Why are we liberals always crying wolf over even the most modest kinds of reform?

I guess we'll just have to wait and see, won't we? But keep a sharp eye out. You can cut one string on a net and it will still hold, and then one more, and each cut seems like a small thing. But eventually the net doesn't exist anymore.

UPDATE: Matt Yglesias agrees and points specifically to the proposals about expanding tax sheltered savings programs. Most people don't realize this, but it's a longtime goal of conservatives to expand these programs so that rich people can dump more and more money into them free of taxes something that middle class and poor people can't do because they don't really have very much money to dump.

It's all part of a broader plan to cut taxes on dividends, cut taxes on capital gains, and cut taxes on savings. Put it all together and you're cutting taxes on all forms of invested wealth. Add in the decline in corporate tax rates over the years, and before long the only thing being taxed is income from working people. Stir in cutbacks to the social safety net, which rich people really don't need, and you have a conservative paradise.

Remember this the next time a Republican accuses a Democrat of waging class warfare. Remember who started it.

Kevin Drum 10:27 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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