[R-G] A PRESIDENT'S CHOICES
jbathurs at shaw.ca
Wed May 5 21:34:21 MDT 2004
A PRESIDENT'S CHOICES
Matt Miller's latest column,
FYI A PRESIDENT'S CHOICES
Bob Woodward got three and a half hours alone with President Bush while
writing his new book. The president will spend far less time with the
9/11 Commission, and only in the company of vice presidential chaperone
Anyone else think there's something wrong with this picture?
"To govern is to choose," John. F. Kennedy said famously, and two of
the most critical choices a president makes are how to spend his time,
and how to raise and spend the nation's money.
The Woodward choice tells us something important about the president's
view of time. But fresh proof has come in recent days that the
president's view of money is equally indefensible.
The New York Times reported the other day on the appalling situation
facing thousands of reservists, whose extended tours in Iraq are
impoverishing their families. These men and women left jobs and
businesses behind to answer their country's call. But as the expected
six-month or twelve-month deployments have turned into 20-month or
two-year stints in Iraq, the economic toll is mounting. Employers can't
hold positions open that long, and for small businesspeople, it's a
The Times profiled Jay Johnson, a member of the Tennessee National
Guard, who has a small mobile catering business. He's been away in Iraq
now for 18 months. The business he spent seven years building is down
to one lunch truck from three. His wife and two kids are scraping by on
half as much money. "If he doesn't come back soon," Mrs. Johnson said,
"we're going to lose it all, and he'll have to start all over again."
So George Bush is choosing to send families of modest means who supply
most of the Reserve toward bankruptcy as their reward for serving the
nation. Hold that presidential choice in your mind.
Now consider new reports by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities
and the Tax Policy Center that tally who really got what from the Bush
tax cuts. The contrast is shocking and shameful.
While Jay Johnson's business is evaporating because he's in Iraq,
Americans who earn more than $1 million a year are getting tax cuts that
average $123,600 this year. People in the middle of the income spectrum
will get tax cuts of $647.
That's quite a Republican rallying cry: "$100,000 for the millionaires -
six hundred bucks for the reservists!"
During earlier debates over the war's funding, I humbly suggested an
"Adopt-A-Soldier" plan, under which high earners would forego part of
their tax cuts to pay for Iraq. I didn't find any takers in the White
House, but I want to give the president another chance because I'm
worried about the state of his soul. (Sure, Bush looks good - but so
did Dorian Gray!)
So why not an "Adopt-A-Reservist" plan - under which America's 257,000
millionaires could give up some or all of their $30 billion in tax cuts
this year to help ease the economic plight facing countless reservists
and their families?
That might get us back to mid-19th-century political morality, when
wealthier families at least had the decency to pay to avoid military
service. This 21st-century Bush morality - where the best-off both
avoid service (ITALICS) and (END ITALICS) get big tax cuts at the same
time - is really going to smell bad when the kids and the historians
figure it out.
As Karl Rove will surely see, I'm only proposing this in the president's
The cynical icing on the cake comes when affluent Bush supporters take a
sliver of their $100,000-plus annual tax cut and return it to the
president's campaign as a gratuity, via the higher contribution limits
of $4,000 per couple (up from $2,000) that the president signed into law.
That's the sound of the pocket change from the tax cut as it gets
recycled into the president's campaign. Meanwhile, Mrs. Johnson hears
the ka-ching on the checkout line and wonders if she'll have enough cash
left this month to pay the bills - and when Jay is coming home.
Matthew Miller, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, is
the author of "The Two Percent Solution: Fixing America's Problems in
Ways Liberals and Conservatives Can Love." Reach him at
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