A Fairness Agenda for the Bush Era : IN THE CLASH OVER TAX CUTS AND SOCIAL PROGRAMS, MUCH OF WHAT PROGRESSIVES NEED TO DO IS DEFENSIVE. BUT IT WOULD BE A MISTAKE NOT TO FLOAT NEW IDEAS, TOO

By Edelman, Peter | The Nation, April 23, 2001 | Go to article overview

A Fairness Agenda for the Bush Era : IN THE CLASH OVER TAX CUTS AND SOCIAL PROGRAMS, MUCH OF WHAT PROGRESSIVES NEED TO DO IS DEFENSIVE. BUT IT WOULD BE A MISTAKE NOT TO FLOAT NEW IDEAS, TOO


Edelman, Peter, The Nation


What is in store for low-income Americans under a Bush Administration? What victories, if any, can progressives realistically hope to win?

President Bush's performance is already deeply troubling. So far he looks more like Ronald Reagan than President Bush I. Far-right ideologues are showing up in sub-Cabinet jobs, and little in Bush's substantive agenda cuts the other way. The Democratic opposition appears unable to gain traction. And a recession seems imminent, a prospect that lends special urgency to the fast-approaching time limits imposed by the 1996 welfare law.

The new Administration has proposed a tax cut that would wipe out the non-Social Security portion of the surplus and take us back to an era of deficits, lining the pockets of the rich and (shades of Reaganomics) making it impossible to find money for important social programs. Bush would do little for those in the lower middle and nothing at all for a large cohort at the bottom. He has put forward a "faith-based" initiative that raises serious constitutional questions and seems intended as the one solution to complex problems that in fact require multifaceted answers.

A tax cut of the right size--one that leaves room for debt retirement and needed spending--should provide relief for people all the way to the bottom of the income ladder. In other words, the tax discussion should include the first antipoverty debate of the new Administration.

It's true that some good tax policy at the lower end may come without a real debate. Indeed, the occasional success of antipoverty initiatives over the past two decades has been accomplished mainly by stealth, buried in other legislation or at least not highly publicized. Congressman Henry Waxman's expansions of Medicaid for children in the late eighties, President Clinton's expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in 1993 and the work of Senators Orrin Hatch, Ted Kennedy and others on the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in 1997 all largely occurred beneath the radar. And it is entirely possible that down the road, Democrats and a few moderate Republicans on the House Ways and Means and the Senate Finance committees will slip in some modest assistance for the poor and near-poor in a tax bill without much being said about it publicly.

But it would be better, I think, if we were to have a public discussion (although it is possible that given the nasty state of our current politics, a public airing of the issues could create a backlash against even modest steps).

What antipoverty measures should be part of any tax reform bill? There are at least three that are both feasible and urgent, although it will be necessary to calibrate them so they interact properly.

The first is to improve the EITC. It does a lot of good now, adding nearly $4,000 to the $10,000-plus income of a minimum-wage worker with two children. But the EITC is less effective when a family has three or more children and when both parents are present. The EITC falls short of getting families with three children out of poverty if their income is equal to one minimum-wage job, and it isn't any higher for two-parent families than one-parent households even though the former's living costs are clearly higher. These problems should be fixed.

The second is payroll tax relief. More than a quarter of the work force pays no income tax but does incur the payroll tax. These are people--with and without children--who earn up to about $25,000 and are just not making it. Offsetting some or all of their payroll-tax burden (which would not mean reducing the payroll tax) would be a significant step toward fairness.

It is more than strange that we have to think about government supplements to wages in this wealthy country. We should be asking why so many jobs pay so little. Successful labor organizing could close the gap somewhat, as could the increase in the minimum wage that was almost enacted last year. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Fairness Agenda for the Bush Era : IN THE CLASH OVER TAX CUTS AND SOCIAL PROGRAMS, MUCH OF WHAT PROGRESSIVES NEED TO DO IS DEFENSIVE. BUT IT WOULD BE A MISTAKE NOT TO FLOAT NEW IDEAS, TOO
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.