Being no less mercenary than the next guy — unless the next guy is in the dog-show racket, in which case all bets are off — my first question about President Bush's plan to slash income-tax rates is, of course, "What's in it for me?"

Surprisingly, it's not that easy to find out. The White House and the Republican National Committee are happy to throw out ballpark figures for Mom and Dad and their two kids, but haven't done so well at publicizing benefits for us single types; I had to poke around The Washington Post to get some hard numbers.

Regardless of one's filing status, there will be fewer tax brackets. A new 10-percent rate slots in below the current 15-percent bracket; the 28-percent and 31-percent brackets are consolidated into a 25-percent bracket, and the 36-percent and 39.6-percent brackets are dropped to 33 percent. On the basis of the numbers provided by the Post — the 25-percent marginal rate apparently kicks in above $27,050 — I calculate that, had these brackets been in place for tax year 2000, my income-tax bill would drop by just under ten percent. Not too shabby. It's hardly enough to encourage me to visit my nearest Lexus dealer, but enough to pay the rent for a month. And considering how long I've been grumbling about the tax system, I'll take what I can get.

Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for a counteroffer from the Democrats. The "targeted" tax credits pushed by Al Gore (remember him?) were evidently targeted at someone other than me; I wouldn't have seen enough of a tax break under a Gore administration to cover the sales tax on a Quarter Pounder with Cheese. The Democrats complain that the income tax, even before Bushification, isn't progressive enough, but it seems to me that if this were a major worry, they'd actually do something about the Social Security tax, which is the very definition of regressive: once you've reached X number of dollars, your marginal rate drops to zero. Not that they're about to lay a hand, let alone a fork, on this sacred cow. It must be said up front that admittedly, I am not the most effective money manager on the planet — for the sixth month out of the last fourteen, I have failed to balance my checkbook on the first try, something of an embarrassment for someone who allegedly scored 774 on the math portion of the SAT — but I still think I can do a better job with my earnings than a passel of Congressmen, so until the Democrats come up with something I can take to the bank, consider this an endorsement of the Bush plan.

The Vent

9 February 2001

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 Copyright © 2001 by Charles G. Hill