Late this summer we'll be getting an early tax rebate, $300 for people who are single, $600 for joint returns, $500 for heads of households. That's about all we know for certain.
Some of the Tax Complication Bill of 2001 won't be fully phased in until the year 2010. Other parts will disappear at that time. Basically, taxes of all kinds will be phasing in and phasing out, ever so slowly, much like yoga breathing. Visit the Quicken website, (http://www.quicken.com/taxes/estimator/), and you can do a direct comparison of your taxes for 2000 or 2001 under prior law and the new tax law.
Personally, I'm so angry with these buggers I don't care what my tax cut is. So I've used a lesser known website which allows you to translate tax cuts into huge numbers of things we understand. I learned, for instance, that a $1.6 trillion tax cut would buy 5,714 Boeing 747s or 10,000 ten-year contracts for Red Sox right fielder Manny Ramirez. (Check it out for yourself at: http://yourcongress.com/calculator.htm) Humongous figures notwithstanding, none of us should forget that the entire tax cut is tiny compared to federal tax revenue over the entire time period.
The real problem here--- the reason our friends in Congress have given offense to everyone--- is that the new tax bill is all noise and no signal. It gives us so many messages, most of them in conflict, that absolutely no one has any idea of what to do except to dread the next time Congress meets. It's not a tax cut, it is a bipartisan plea for a third party. What we've got is a deeply intractable mess, one so horrible that a recent Congressional report on simplifying taxes ran 1,292 pages.
So maybe it's time to examine some basics about how we carry the tax burden:
• It's the Employment Tax, Dummy. Republicans like to tell us that income taxes are now at the highest level in history. They are. What they forget is that 35 percent of all workers don't pay income taxes. So lots of Americans don't care what happens to the income tax. They further forget that the fastest rising tax isn't the income tax. It's the employment tax--- the taxes we pay to support Social Security and Medicare. More than half of all workers pay more in employment taxes than they pay in income taxes.
• Those with Capital are safe. Too bad there are so few of them. The only income that isn't heavily taxed in America is income from capital. Earn your income in the form of long-term capital gains and your maximum tax rate will be 20 percent. Shift some appreciated stock to your kids and there's a chance gains will only be taxed at 8 percent. America is a great place to live and play if you've already made your bundle. If you are climbing the ladder, trying to make your bundle, you'll carry a fat taxman on your back.
• The real heavy lifter in taxation is (still) the working stiff. He pays 15.3 percent in employment taxes on every dime of earnings. Then he pays income taxes on top of that. With a marginal tax rate of 28 percent on taxable income over $43,200 (Joint), $27,050 (Single), or $36,250 (Head of Household) there are millions of workers paying a total of 43.3 percent on some portion of their income. While there is much rhetoric from Republicans about the incentive dulling effects of a 39 percent tax rate on income over $297,350, Democrats offer astounding silence about the combined tax burden for the 93 percent of earners with wages under the Social Security maximum of $80,400.
As I said, this isn't a tax bill. It's a bipartisan call for a third party.
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