NEW YORK — I admit it: The money’s already spent. I know, I know. I should have waited until that huge GOP windfall actually hit my bank account before going out on a wild tax-cut bender, but I just couldn’t help myself. The mere thought of all that budget surplus loot — trillions! of dollars! just sitting around doing nothing! — destroyed what little fiscal self-control I used to have.
Fortunately, I did just what Generalissimo George wants us all to do. This is, after all, trickle-down economics redux. It all started in 1980 with Arthur Laffer’s famous napkin drawing: If you cut taxes, especially to the rich, Ronald Reagan convinced everybody, they’ll spend so much money that the resulting economic activity will more than cancel out all the interest on the national debt that the Treasury has to fork over to Singaporean bondholders. This is how America spent the ’80s (pun intended), ended up a trillion bucks in the hole and landed in a decade-long recession.
Just because the application of a theory has always resulted in failure doesn’t necessarily mean that the theory itself is flawed. Bush and his Republican junta swear that their tax-cut-and-spend strategy really really really really really really really will work this time. Hell, we’d be fools not to believe them — so let’s start spending and stimulating!
I admit it: I was psyched when I heard that the Bush regime’s tax plan was really going through. True, virtually every cent of that tax cut is going to the rich. Typical millionaires will get back $46,000; typical people will receive $227. But I am rich; my barely six-figure income puts me well in the top fifth of wage earners. To hell with economic justice! My wife and I immediately started arguing: I had my eye on next year’s Audi TT sedan, but she was jonesing for a wall-mounted plasma-screen TV.
OK, so we’ll keep our ’66 Plymouth Barracuda, even if its heater is a little dicey. And our ’85 motel-issue TV works just fine. According to the Deloitte & Touche accounting firm, George W. will save my wife and me about $250 the first year of the cut.
Still, $250 is a lot of money in, say, Rwanda. People earn that in a whole year in some countries — heck, often in the last year of their lives! It was with this wholly positive approach that we set out to spend those $250, thus stimulating the American economic machine to greater productivity, profitability and other cool things.
Naturally, we divvied up the theoretical, not-yet-extant dough into two neat piles: $125 each. Then we broke the money down into weekly allotments. This came to $2.40 per week per person.
Our decision couldn’t have been clearer if the Good Lord His Own Self had descended from heaven and kicked my ass. I walked down the block to my neighborhood Starbucks.
“I’d like a cup of coffee,” I pronounced pompously.
The clerk, a surly Gen-Yer who’d formerly been executive vice president of a dot-com something or other, asked: “What size?”
“Grande,” I replied grandly.
“That’ll be $2.40,” he announced.
“OK,” I said, and slid two Sacajaweas, a quarter and three nickels across the faux marble countertop.
I sat down next to a guy surfing the Web on a laptop. “I just spent my tax cut,” I confessed.
“That’s what you’re supposed to do,” the man reassured me. “Consumer spending stimulates the economy.”
“So what’s up with the economy nowadays?” I asked him. I knew he’d know. He was wearing a suit.
He punched a few keys, watched some charts load up and carefully examined them. He breathed deeply, then typed some more. Finally:
“There it is!” He pointed to a tiny peak on a graph. It had several colors, including blue. “Right there. The economy just went up a teensy bit. That was you.” He smiled at me. “Good job, dude!”
I think I’m going to like the next four years.
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