Do the Math

September 2004


Why do we fail to examine the claims made by political candidates? When we do not critically examine what candidates say and compare them with our own version of the facts, we are inviting them to lie to us.

It looks like our pending national election is going to be decided on two issues: 1) National Security and 2) Taxes

In the first place, as usual, these issues contradict one another. The US National security policy states very plainly that the United States is prepared to attack any nation if we think it is in our best interests to do so. Our national security is enforced by military means. Our war on terror has thus far gotten us into two major foreign military engagements. Wars are extremely expensive undertakings, one of the most expensive things governments routinely attempt. More wars mean more taxes. This has always been true and shows no signs of changing. So, the people who are most in favor of a national security strategy that is increasingly expensive are the same people who want to lower taxes.

Let's look at the lower taxes we have received from the Bush Administration. Like many of you, I have paid lower federal income taxes. For me, that has amounted to approximately $800 per annum - so, being generous, I'll credit them with saving my family about $3,200 in taxes during their term in office. That is the good news.

The bad news is that my family's share of our national debt has increased during the same period almost $13,000. Surely, this is a false savings. If I ran up $13,000 in credit card debt while my net income increased $3200 I would not be better off.

At the same time, my overall tax burden, during George W's tenure, has increased. A lot of what I got back in federal tax has been gobbled up in new local taxes that were implemented because my local government was getting less federal money. In addition, the price I pay for things like transportation and education has increased because of lowered federal subsidies to those things.

What my government has done, in effect, is to give me $5 to sign a promissory note for $20, and has asked me to pay $7.50 to my local government for less services than I used to get for $5. Some tax cut. It might be different, if I got a $20,000 or $150,000 reduction in taxes - as many rich people did. That would be a good reason for me to support George W, albeit a rapacious and uncaring one -- favoring myself at the expense of the majority of my fellow countrymen.

While you're considering how much better off you are because of the tax cuts, do I need to remind you that gasoline prices have risen by almost 60 cents per gallon since George W took office? Not all of that increase can be laid at his doorstep - certainly gasoline prices would have risen a little anyway, but Presidents are always blamed for bad things that happen during their watch, as they should be, even if it wasn't their fault. Hoover got blamed for the Great Depression. Nixon got blamed for, well, you name it. Why should George W get more of a break than anyone else in this department? I'd trade my tax cut in a NY minute for gas at $1.25 a gallon.

The only people I can see who have been doing better, much better in fact, since George W came into office are the people he describes as his base: "The Haves and the Have Mores." My father had a term for using the government as a means to line your pockets (and your friends' pockets) while ordinary people suffered. He called it, "sticking it to the people." This is the kind of behavior we associate with dictators. As a general rule, the better a dictator does this, the worse we think of him. And so we should. In these United States of America, this is not what the government is supposed to be for.

The U.S. government is supposed to act as a brake on the economic forces that allow and encourage the rich and powerful people to prey on the poor and the powerless.

I am consistently amazed by how many people will believe a politician who says "things are getting better and better" without examining the notion against any facts. Where were you four years ago economically? How secure did you feel? How did you expect the world to improve? What is your condition today and what are your realistic expectations of the future? Don't rely on your memory -- get out those old bank statements and tax returns, read old letters and talk to other people. Do the math. Don't just react, decide.

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.