The truth about the unjust tax cut

Americans with average incomes over a million dollars will be handed an astonishing $121 billion in tax cuts in the year 2010 alone – more than all the rest of American taxpayers combined – according to an analysis of the 2001 Bush tax cut issued by Citizens for Tax Justice. It is morally wrong and economically irresponsible for the administration and some in Congress to say we cannot afford to provide more children with a Head Start, or a single new dime for child care for kids in working families over the next five years or for those standing in unemployment lines, while lavishing billions in new tax cuts for millionaires and multi-millionaires.

"2006 to 2010 are the scandal years of the tax cut," according to Robert S. McIntyre, Director of Citizens for Tax Justice. "For the top one percent, the vast majority of the cuts won’t be phased in until after 2005. In contrast, 99 percent of Americans have already received almost all of what they’ll get. Since the tax cut is already essentially frozen for most of us, why not extend the freeze to the top one percent too?"

Although it was widely understood that the plan would disproportionately help the wealthy, information about the share going to the top one percent in later years was not available when the bill was being debated. This analysis, which looks at the annual effects over the next decade, shows the true extent of the unjust giveaway:

From 2001 to 2010 the wealthiest one percent of Americans with average incomes over a million dollars would pocket almost a half trillion dollars. Each member of this elite group will average $342,000 in tax cuts over the decade.

The tax cut keeps skyrocketing for those at the very top. By 2010 it grows to give the wealthiest taxpayers average tax cuts 180 times bigger than the ones for the bottom 60 percent of Americans earning less than $59,000 a year.

By 2010, when (and if) the reductions are fully in place, an astonishing 52 percent of the total cuts will go to the wealthiest one percent, whose individual windfall in that year alone will average $85,000.

Repeal of the estate tax on very large estates accounts for $50 billion of the total $121 billion cut for the rich in 2010. A whopping 91 percent goes to the top one percent.

A freeze on the tax cuts scheduled in the years ahead for the very wealthiest one percent of Americans could provide crucial new investments in early childhood care, education, and health for our children and our nation’s future. It would allow our country to:

* Provide early childhood programs for every child who needs them to get ready for school.

* Improve educational opportunities for all children by decreasing class size, improving teacher quality and accountability, and repairing crumbling buildings.

* Ensure health coverage for all of our 9 million uninsured children, 90 percent of them in working families.

* Create a fairer fully refundable child tax credit that reaches all poor children and lifts over a million from poverty.

* Spare thousands of children from homelessness.

* Free millions of struggling working families from fears of hunger and eviction by providing job training and other work supports.

The Bush administration’s words say, "Leave No Child Behind." The Bush administration’s deeds say, "leave no millionaire behind." It’s time to close the hypocrisy gap. I don’t begrudge anyone their first, fifth, or tenth million or billion if it is earned on a fair playing field and after children’s crucial survival needs are met. But something is out of kilter when just three of our wealthiest Americans possess greater wealth than the incomes of seven million American families. They and others in the top one percent of wealthiest Americans did not and do not need the huge tax cuts the administration and Congress has given them. Nor do they need these tax cuts accelerated and made permanent while there are still hungry, homeless, poor, uninsured, and ill-educated children.





Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund (www.childrensdefense.org).