On this tax day, as in the past, the Taxpayers League of Minnesota and its fellow so-called “fiscally conservative” groups will be extolling the virtues of what they term “conservative tax policy.”
Upon further examination, this well-sounding description would more accurately be called an “April Fool’s Joke for Working Folk” played on us by lawmakers from Washington to Saint Paul.
Let’s begin with where the taxes don’t come from in a “conservative tax policy.”
They don’t’ come from the rich. Under President George Bush’s tax policy, families that make more than $1 million a year watched their taxes go down 5 percent from 2000 to 2004. Note that Presidential nominee John McCain, U.S. Senator from Minnesota Norm Coleman and Representatives Bachmann and Kline also support making these tax breaks permanent (insert link?).
They don’t come from big companies that make record profits. Oil and gas companies made record profits in the last year. Once again, our Minnesota delegation has supported tax breaks for these same companies to the tune of $5 billion. McCain has proposed $2 billion in tax breaks for health insurance companies (another record-profit-maker) in his new economic plan.
Where do the taxes come from? Well, you and me. Under Bush’s tax plan, families earning up to $75,000 a year make up the large majority of the country’s taxpayers. Yet, middle class families received only half the rate reduction that those $1 million earners received.
In Minnesota, while Governor Pawlenty claims to have kept his no new taxes pledge on a technicality, the reality is that Minnesotans have watched their property taxes go up by about 71 percent since he took office.
The sting of rising property taxes has been felt even more acutely this year. Gas is 50 cents a gallon more than last year, and groceries prices have climbed up as well, in large part because of higher gas and energy prices. Once again, it’s worth noting that these corporations got TAX BREAKS under the current tax policy supported by Coleman, Bachmann and Kline.
Another component of “conservative tax policy” is the way in which those tax dollars are spent. In the case of the Bush administration, and a McCain succession to the presidency, that means 42 cents of every Minnesota tax dollar going to the war in Iraq currently – and more if we continue and expand the scope of the war.
Some tax dollars are also being spent on bailing out the financial institutions responsible, in part, for the current mortgage foreclosure crisis – about $30 billion.
But when it comes to using our tax dollars on those things that improve our lives and pocketbooks, like health care reform or alternative energy, conservatives once again come up short, with only 2.6 cents on every Minnesota tax dollar going to environment, energy and science.
This sad joke has been played on working families for too long, and they’re starting to pay attention. Questions about McCain’s economic policy have gotten sharp at some town hall meetings and Coleman is trying to erase his close ties to President Bush whenever he can in his reelection speeches.
But we need more than explanation and speeches. We need better tax policy and “fiscal conservatives” have proven they don’t have the answer.