Monday, May 09, 2005

Robin W. Hood: The Krugman perspective

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman's tireless campaign to expose the lies, hypocrisies, and inconsistencies of the Bush Administration, not least of the Bush Administration's class-warfare masquerading as economic "policy" (and I use the word advisedly), is, well, occasionally tiresome. Perhaps more so to me, an ardent non-economist, than to his fellow number-crunchers, but, in general, I just don't seem to share his remorseless pessimism. But let me give him his due. He's almost always on the right side of the issues, his analyses of the issues are undeniably profound, and, given the innumerable lies, hypocrisies, and inconsistencies of the Bush Administration, his tirelessness is nothing if not admirable.

In today's column, which deserves particular note, Krugman links Bush's tax cuts and Social Security privatization plan (i.e., future benefit cuts for Social Security recipients), and puts them in remarkable perspective:

Let's consider the Bush tax cuts and the Bush benefit cuts as a package. Who gains? Who loses?

Suppose you're a full-time Wal-Mart employee, earning $17,000 a year. You probably didn't get any tax cut. But Mr. Bush says, generously, that he won't cut your Social Security benefits.

Suppose you're earning $60,000 a year. On average, Mr. Bush cut taxes for workers like you by about $1,000 per year. But by 2045 the Bush Social Security plan would cut benefits for workers like you by about $6,500 per year. Not a very good deal.

Suppose, finally, that you're making $1 million a year. You received a tax cut worth about $50,000 per year. By 2045 the Bush plan would reduce benefits for people like you by about $9,400 per year.

I'm not being unfair. In fact, I've weighted the scales heavily in Mr. Bush's favor, because the tax cuts will cost much more than the benefit cuts would save. Repealing Mr. Bush's tax cuts would yield enough revenue to call off his proposed benefit cuts, and still leave $8 trillion in change.

The point is that the privatizers consider four years of policies that relentlessly favored the wealthy a fait accompli, not subject to reconsideration. Now that tax cuts have busted the budget, they want us to accept large cuts in Social Security benefits as inevitable. But they demand that we praise Mr. Bush's sense of social justice, because he proposes bigger benefit cuts for the middle class than for the poor.

Sorry, but no. Mr. Bush likes to play dress-up, but his Robin Hood costume just doesn't fit.

Perhaps it's a good thing I don't live in the United States anymore (unless I made a million dollars, in which case I'd buy me some art, perhaps a Garfunkel).

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