July 21, 2000
By Jerome DeHerrera
Recently Republican Presidential Candidate George W. Bush spoke to the National Conference of La Raza and the League of United Latino American Citizens. During his speeches, Bush, in his down home Texas style, grinned as he proclaimed that he is a new type of Republican, ready to reach out to the Latino community.
Traditional Republicans, from where George W. Bush is trying to distance himself, fought against the civil rights movement and affirmative action. Traditional Republicans fought for English-only laws in areas where Spanish was spoken long before English ever was.
Traditional Republicans cut off benefits to illegal immigrants even though they pay sales taxes, income and Social Security taxes. Today, traditional Republicans fight to keep qualified Latinos such as Enrique Moreno off the federal courts.
There is still a meaningful difference between Democrats and Republicans. Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy, for instance, has proposed legislation to fund year long preschool for all kids and to increase the minimum wage. Vice President Al Gore has proposed expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and enacting tax cuts for low-income families.
Republicans on the other hand, fight against any increase in the minimum wage and instead of investing in children by expanding pre-school opportunities or expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, they fight to give the wealthiest Americans a tax break.
Senate Republicans last week moved to eliminate the estate tax, or the "death tax" as Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott calls it. In 1999, this tax accounted for about 1.5% of total government revenue - $28 billion - and in future years is projected to bring in as much as $50 billion a year.
Proponents of this tax cut claim that eliminating this tax will help families pass on their farms and businesses to their children. This tax cut however, would go to the wealthiest families in America. Taxpayers in the upper 5% of the income distribution will enjoy 91% of this tax cut.
The amount of the estate tax would cover almost all of the $30 billion it would cost for a two-year early childhood education program for families earning less than $30,000 a year. This amount could just as easily be used to expand programs designed to help working families such as the Child Care Tax Credit, Low-Income Housing Tax Credit or the Earned Income Tax Credit.
George W. Bush in his speeches declares that he will take down the toll gate to the middle class. He even goes so far as to say he believes in private property and he wants everyone to own some.
His proposals are generous indeed, mostly to the wealthy. The benefits of his major economic proposal of an across-the-board tax cut is estimated to disproportionately benefit the wealthy. His support of the repeal of the estate tax also without a doubt benefits the wealthiest people in America.
George W. Bush's tax cuts, spending proposals and the elimination of the estate tax would likely eliminate all or more than the projected budget surplus over the next ten years. A better use of the surplus could be to lift 15 million children out of poverty, or improve public education, or provide health care to the more than 40 million families who can't afford it. Or the surplus could be used to fix Social Security and Medicare, not the wealthiest in our society.
While George W. Bush makes headlines with his appearances in front of the National Council of La Raza and LULAC, his and his party's proposals to reward the wealthiest Americans with a tax cut receive little fanfare. With Republicans in control it is clear that the wealthiest will be rewarded first.
Although George W. Bush appears to be a different kind of Republican, his proposals have traditional Republican written all over them.
Jerome writes a column from Washington DC. He can be reached at email@example.com