"Beating back" tax relief for the poor

By Geraldine Sealey

Published September 23, 2004 3:40PM (EDT)

If this weren't so awful it would almost be funny, in an Onion kind of way.

Bid to Save Tax Refunds for the Poor Is Blocked
By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 23, 2004; Page A04

"Congressional negotiators beat back efforts yesterday to expand and preserve tax refunds for poor families, even as they added $13 billion in corporate tax breaks to a package of middle-class tax cuts that could come to a vote in the Senate today."

The image of Washington politicians (Republican leadership in this case) "beating back" attempts to keep tax refunds for poor families while making sure corporations get their additional billions is too much to take. You can imagine the heated conversations that took place on Capitol Hill. A legislator with a conscience saying, "Well, if we're going to include that $13 bil for the corporations in this legislation that will add to the ballooning deficit and lead to cuts in programs that help poor people, maybe we should keep the refunds for poor people, too." How do you argue with that? Tom DeLay and Trent Lott found a way -- and they won.

According to the Washington Post, GOP Sen. Don Nickles argued that working poor families are already being helped with the earned-income tax credit program, which he said was riddled with abuse -- and he didn't support expanding another tax refund program until the problems were addressed. So once again there's a double-standard. Poor people are punished for "abuse" in a tax credit program, but Bush jokes on the campaign trail that rich people just figure out how to dodge taxes anyway -- so why bother eliminating their generous tax cuts, as John Kerry has proposed.

As the Center for American Progress has pointed out (via this Kos diary) getting tough with poor people while letting big business and wealthy people slide is the Bush administration's m.o. "The Bush administration has simultaneously reduced audits of the biggest corporations (many of which finance its political campaigns) while increasing scrutiny of indivduals. More specifically, that increased scrutiny has fallen on the working poor, even as high-income and corporate tax cheating increases," CAP recently reported.

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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