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Beneath the red tape, an ugly tax package



Published: Tue, November 6, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



There is something unseemly about lobbyists using the political climate of the day to push through tax reforms that they couldn't win last spring. It smacks of profiteering.

And we're not sure what it smacks of when a thin majority of the U.S. House of Representatives -- the People's House -- pushes through a package of tax cuts that matches its ideological bent far more than it meets the need of the nation's economy. At the very least, it's a nasty kind of opportunism.

The House is billing its package as "economic stimulus," and if it lived up to its name it would be welcome. The economy needs a shot in the arm now, after the World Trade Center disaster. It needed one even before September 11.

But this is a stimulus package in name only because it doesn't funnel the money were it would do the most good, into the pockets of taxpayers who would spend it or into budgets of company's that would invest it in new facilities or equipment.

Corporate welfare: A huge share of the $100 billion package goes to giant corporations in the form of a retroactive tax break on the alternative minimum tax that goes back 15 years. One twentieth of the entire package -- about $5 billion -- would go to just four companies: Ford, IBM, General Motors and General Electric.

There is no doubt that the next quarter's figures will officially put the nation in a recession. Not only that, the country faces the enormous and expensive task of rebuilding a large piece of Manhattan and a part of the Pentagon. It faces mounting security costs at every level of government. And we are a nation at war.

For the House to argue that this is the time to accelerate corporate tax breaks that will reverberate for years without any immediate benefit to the weakening economy is mind-boggling. For it to wrap itself in the flag while doing so is despicable.

Let's hope the Senate is able gear its package more toward the kind of cuts that spur spending and the kind of programs, such as the extension of unemployment benefits, that would help those who need help and would stimulate the economy.

All this package is likely to stimulate is high-end contributions to some congressional campaign funds.




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