A contract on America

April 17, 1995|By Charles Levendosky

TOO BAD you don't make $200,000 a year.

House Republicans have just voted folks in that income category a huge tax break. And they opened some loopholes for them to dabble in stocks -- and make even more by cutting the capital gains tax.

Ah, to be rich.

The rest of us get the dribble.

The tax-cut package that the U.S. House passed is a resurrection of Ronald Reagan's trickle down economics. Those at the top fill their numerous buckets from the public trough, those at the bottom suck at spilled drops.

That theory boosted our national debt to nearly $5 trillion. And it resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of people who live at the poverty level. It also multiplied the number of people who live on the streets.

If you're in the middle class, your tax break may amount to about $450, which you will quickly lose if you have a youngster attending college, because it will be tougher to get college loans.

Most students with wealthy parents don't qualify for college loans.

They don't need it. So who gets hurt most by cutting back on college loans?

You got it, the middle and working class.

If you think giving the rich the largest haul in tax breaks will reduce our deficit, then recent history taught you nothing.

The real thrust of this GOP-dominated Congress is a trickle down theory aimed at social programs and hard working people.

Has Congress gone after farm support subsidies? Tax breaks for oil and gas producers? Tobacco subsidies? Subsidies to drug companies? Construction tax breaks? Subsidies to auto makers? Subsidies to the timber industry?

These subsidies and tax breaks cost the American taxpayer over $100 billion every year. Did Congress go after these welfare payments to the rich to balance the budget?

No. In fact, the GOP's Contract with America gives industry and business more tax breaks and more loopholes so that they won't have to pay their fair share.

The contract just eliminated the corporate alternate minimum tax law which is a gift of about $35 billion over 10 years, according to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

Obviously, this GOP Congress aims to reduce the budget deficit by strangling the middle class and poor. And hand more bonuses to the rich.

Trickle down prosperity: the top prospers, the bottom suffers.

Here are the gifts to the wealthy, and here is the trickle:

Under the contract, the four drug manufacturers that make infant formula will no longer have to competitively bid for contracts with the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC).

They can fix prices. Block grants to the states for WIC will consequently serve fewer pregnant women, infants and children.

The four giant drug companies receive a windfall of millions of dollars, and infants and children will be left undernourished.

Under the Contract, the wealthiest 12 percent of Americans, those earning over $100,000 a year, receive over half of the tax benefits.

The middle class receives about one-sixth of the tax benefits, according to U.S. Treasury figures.

Under the contract, school lunch programs no longer have nutritional requirements. Junk food companies are waiting to feed your children saturated fat and pounds of sugar -- as lunch.

Under the Contract, 20 percent of the money in each block grant -- say to the school lunch program or to WIC -- can be used by the recipient state for other things, like paving highways.

Under the contract, funding was slashed for child care for low-income parents; for summer job programs for youth; for low-income energy assistance; for student loan programs; for low-income housing; for AIDS research; for Head Start; and for foster care programs.

Is it any wonder that on April 5, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, commenting about the contract to his colleagues in the Senate said: It sends a message across America that "if you have it made and you have a lot of money, the government is there to help you and make you more comfortable.

"If you do not and you are at the bottom rung of the ladder, forget it. You are out in the cold. . . . The winners are the billionaires, the super wealthy, the special interest Washington lobbyists. They get the credit card."

Perhaps lobbyists don't literally write these bills, but they paid our lawmakers enough in perks and PACs to get the wording they wanted.

Naturally, House Speaker Newt Gingrich isn't in any hurry to reform campaign financing laws or to restrict the influence of lobbying groups -- anymore.

He has forgotten his 1990 speech proposing stricter election and lobbying laws. Apparently idealism doesn't pay enough, but lobbyists do. Mr. Gingrich received nearly $500,000 in PAC funds in last year's election.

The GOP's Contract with America was a contract on the poor. Lobbyists and special interest groups hired Mr. Gingrich and Company as hit men.

Nothing personal, you understand. The hit men did their job.

Charles Levendosky is editorial page editor of the Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune.

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