Today's announcement of the Bush stimulus plan was a disappointment. Not that anything other than More-Money-For-Rich-People should be expected from the Bush economic planners, but their attempt to balance the plan with benefits for low-income people was transparent and weak.
The plan justifiably eliminated the double taxation of dividends in which income for stockholders from dividends was taxed while corporate dividends were also taxed. This part of the plan is logical and was ripe for trimming. However, while Bush claims that this change will benefit millions of people and "half of the elderly" who have money in stocks, the vast majority of people who own stocks are in the top 5% or so of the income bracket. Granted, this segment of the population is responsible for nearly half of all revenue from taxes, and controls much of the wealth that could stimulate the economy. It is unlikely, though, that investors will use this new, untaxed income for greater investment. Certainly some will, but this hope seems to depend on a sort of income trickle down effect. As was demonstrated with the Reagan administration, trickling quickly dries up at the top, leaving the lower income segments of the economy still reeling with minimal growth while the rich line their pockets.
One of the few parts of the stimulus plan that would benefit lower income groups, the continuation of unemployment benefits which expired on December 28, is no real change but rather a renewal of a program that never should have been allowed to expire. It is a shame that Bush feels that a necessary program like this would be thrown in with his Rich-People-Tax-Cut to make the overall plan seem more balanced.
While the ending of double taxation was an excellent step to eliminate over-taxation, it was unfortunately not accompanied by equal benefits for lower income people. Childcare credits and incentives for unemployed Americans to free themselves from unemployment handouts are good steps, but they are minimal benefits and do not go nearly far enough for those who could really use the extra income.
On top of all this, the plan is enormous and will balloon the national debt. At a time when war looms in Iraq and beyond, a growing debt is the last thing America needs. Tax cuts and war at the same time? That is just a bad idea. Which will it be Mr. President, butter or guns?
I saw only part of Sen. Edwards' interview with George Stephanopoulos on This Week this morning, but from what I saw I was very impressed. Edwards seems to have some of those leadership qualities that are indescribable yet utterly indispensable. He may be exactly what will save the Democrats from a left-wing surrender of the presidential election like was done in 1968 when Barry Goldwater was nominated. Edwards has what seems like a logical plan for jumpstarting the economy for what he terms "regular people," and he seems to have the resolve to address the nation's domestic problems first and foremost while not neglecting the fight against terrorism and for international security.
Andrew Sullivan says of Edwards: "he has a touch of the Tony Blair about him: the slick yet somehow earnest combination. Hard to pull off." Indeed, Edwards has a charm to go with his flare. Can America handle another suave southerner? Hopefully. For he might be exactly what the Democrats need in 2004. Now all he has to do is win the nomination. Good luck.