Simplistic tax bill going nowhere

Outside editorials

Posted: Friday, October 26, 2001

The following editorial appeared in today's San Jose Mercury News:

The best thing about the economic stimulus bill that squeaked through the House of Representatives this week is that it is all but certain to be squished in the Senate.

In a simplistic application of the theory that the business of America is business, the bill awards $70 billion in tax cuts this fiscal year to corporations. It includes repeal of the corporate alternative minimum tax, and permits corporations to apply for refunds going back as far as 1986.

Individuals would receive $29 billion. Only about half would go to people who really need the money, the 34 million households that did not get a tax rebate this year because they did not earn enough to qualify. The rest would flow principally to affluent taxpayers, through a lower long-term capital gains tax rate and a reduction in the 27 percent tax bracket to 25 percent.

The Senate should build on three elements of the House plan: the rebates for low-income families; a business tax break that permits faster write-off of investments in new equipment; and improved unemployment benefits for laid off workers.

The remainder of the House bill reflects a lobbyist feeding frenzy that produced a bill so lopsided toward corporate interests that it almost didn't pass. The vote was 216-214.

The Senate should aim more precisely at boosting consumer demand - low- and moderate-income families are more likely to spend a rebate than rich ones - and at keeping the stimulus short-term. That approach will improve the economic outlook for more Americans, which in turn will improve the economic outlook for America.

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