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January 07, 2003

Why Does Bush Hate Single Workers?

In outlining his tax plan (see this fact sheet from the White House), Bush emphasizes the benefits for working families making $39,000 per year. I'll return to why that amount is significant in second, but if you look over who he lists benefiting from his plan, glaringly missing are single working people.

Actually, Bush lies up front in his description of this plan when he says it will benefit "everyone who pays taxes." But single low-income taxpayers are not helped, so this statement is a flat out lie.

Now, to be clear, the plan doesn't ignore all single people, mind you. If you are a single lawyer or CEO pulling down a $1 million salary, aside from the bennies from tax-free dividends, you'll save more than $20,000 per year in taxes each just due to the lowered tax rates for higher income earners.

But a working stiff with no kids making $20,000 to $25,000 per year will get nothing, nada, zippo, zero, from Bush's new plan. There are no lowered tax rates under Bush's new plan. The key here is that the basic 15% tax rate IS NOT BEING LOWERED. In 2001, a new 10% tax rate on the first $6000 of income was implemented, but that was it for tax benefits for working singles in Bush's original tax bill. The core 15% tax bracket, unlike the rates for richer workers which are being dropped roughly 3% across the board, was not adjusted. And this new round gives those working singles NOTHING more.

Citizens for Tax Justice has a detailed analysis of how little most families will get from the acceleration of the 2001 tax cuts, but the specific screwing of single taxpayers is largely undiscussed by the media.

It's also worth emphasizing that even most working families with kids will get little from Bush's plan. The reason Bush continues to emphasize families making $39,000 per year is that families making less get little or nothing from the plan. As I wrote last year in a Populist column called The End of Tax Cut Politics, Bush and the GOP are backing themselves into a political cul-de-sac in expecting much support for further income tax cuts. As child tax credits have been expanded, the most bipartisan part of tax cuts in the last decade, fewer and fewer families with kids are paying any income tax -- although they still pay hefty payroll taxes. With this final phase-in of child tax credits, almost half of all families will be paying no taxes-- a rather dangerous fact for a GOP that has run for decades on selling tiny bits of tax cuts to such families to sell their blowout tax giveaways to the wealthy.

Well, they are just about to run out of room to sell those tiny bits.

Which creates a serious dilemma for a GOP that has built a politics around appealing to married couples. Bush was decimated among single women (63% Gore to 32% Bush) and even lost to Gore among single men (48% Gore to 46% Bush). Married women supported Bush more than single men (49% Bush to 48% Gore). In fact, Bush really depended on married men to avoid being creamed by Gore, since that group went for him 58% to 38%. See these exit polls.

With these numbers, it's clear that Bush knows who voted against him-- working single people -- and he has delivered nothing for them. But as the GOP has less and less to offer married working families as well in tax policy, Bush and the Republicans will need to stretch and distort their rhetoric even more to sell their policies.

Addendum: With a few more details of Bush's plan, it turns out he has offered something for working singles. He is expanding the 10% tax bracket from the first $6000 of income to the first $7000 income-- or a grand total of a $50 tax cut for single low-income workers.

It's almost more of an insult for the administration to make their claim of tax relief for "all taxpayers" when they include such a pitiful crumb.

Posted by Nathan at January 7, 2003 04:22 PM

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Comments

Hard to pin this part of the code on GWB. The problem is that over the last 40 years the tax code has been much more in favor of singles with kids. Social Engineering? Probably so; but what can be done to fix it?

Posted by: Richard at January 7, 2003 04:58 PM

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