Numbers Racket:

One frequently cited reason for the Democrats' uninspired
response to George W. Bush's $1.6 trillion tax cut plan is
that they're no longer privy to the White House's staff of
number crunchers. There once was a time, under President
Clinton, when these tax wizards worked on behalf of
Democrats.


They'd run the numbers for the latest Republican tax
scheme and discover that, say, Dick Armey's proposal to
abolish the tax on Lear Jets primarily benefited the rich.
Armed with facts and figures like these, Democrats could
keep most Republican excesses in check. But with Bush in the
White House, that's no longer an option. Democrats can still
complain about the unfairness of Bush's cut, but they can't
throw around the kind of numbers they once could to
demonstrate why it's a lousy idea.


Fortunately, I can.


Like most working Americans, I recently received
my W-2 form in the mail. And like most, I flinched when I
saw how little I'd earned last year. Then I wondered how I
would have faired under Bush's tax cut. Raiding Social
Security and Medicare to pay for a cut goes against my
liberal instincts, of course. But if ever there was a time
when I might be seduced by that "tax cut for every working
American" bit, it was now, during tax season. Besides, the
$1,600 figure Bush is tossing around sounded pretty good to
me. I decided to find out exactly what my tax cut would be.


I've often wondered whether my political
leanings were all that stood between me and untold riches.
And I was about to find out. But I figured my fiscal
experiment would also be a service to the great many
Americans who are just like me -- that is, folks who haven't
been pre-screened by the Bush team to qualify for every
imaginable deduction.


Like many Americans, I'm in my twenties, I'm
single, and I have no dependents. I do have a mountain of
student loan debt and a criminally low writer's salary of
$25,000 a year. I also have no clue how large a tax cut I
stand to receive under Bush or even how I'd go about
figuring it out. (I learned in high school that numbers
aren't my friends.) Last year, when I did my taxes, I opted
only for the standard deduction and another (enacted
under Clinton) that allows me to deduct the interest on
my student loans. Lacking a team of White House tax gurus,
an accountant, or even the basic mathematical skills to
process the figures on my own, I turned instead to the href="http://www.quicken.com/taxes/estimator">Bush Tax
Estimator, a nifty feature on Quicken.com's website that
allows you to enter your basic tax information and
calculates the precise dollar amount you would have saved if
Bush's tax cut plan had been in effect last year.


My Bush tax cut bounty? Three hundred dollars.
In fact, if you assume that Al Gore also would have cut
taxes (he pledged a more moderate $500 billion tax cut), the
money I save by having Bush in the White House is
significantly less than that. As near as I can determine,
the figure is less than $200 -- somewhere in the
neighborhood of a fancy date, but not even enough to cover
my student loan payment for a month. (If I had no loans and
made $100,000, I'd save $3,075, and if I earned $1,000,000,
I'd save $56,619. Furthermore, my salary would have to
triple in order to get the "average American" $1,600
cut. But who's counting.)


Everyone has his or her price, of course, but
that's not nearly enough to convince me to sign on to the
plan. But don't take my word for it. Do your own href="http://www.quicken.com/taxes/estimator">research
and call your member of Congress. They could all use the help.

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