The American Staff

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Dossier: You Pay, They Play

The top 1 percent of U.S. households received an average income-tax cut of approximately $40,990 in 2004, boosting their after-tax income by 5.3 percent … The middle 20 percent of households received an average tax cut of $980, boosting their after-tax income by 2 percent … Including corporate tax cuts, the top 1 percent of households in 2004 received one-third of all tax cuts enacted under George W. Bush, garnering an average cut 70 times greater than that of the middle 20 percent of households … One year earlier, the average tax cut for the middle 20 percent of tax filers was $827 … George W. and Laura Bush's personal cut that year was $30,858 … From 2000 to 2003, the share of the total tax burden borne by states and localities increased by 15 percent … In 2002, the bottom-earning 20 percent of households paid 11.4 percent of their income in state and local taxes, compared with 5.2 percent of the income of the top 1 percent … Between 2002 and 2004, state budget gaps forcing tax...

Devil in the Details

Man of the People Readers of the congressional newspaper The Hill may have stumbled across a confusing headline on March 3: “Santorum shifts left for '06 run.” Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum? He of the “man-on-dog” theory of marital law? The Senate's most fearless advocate for destroying Social Security? Yup. Santorum is facing a sure-to-be-tough re-election fight in 2006 against the popular Democratic state treasurer, Bob Casey Jr. So some image recalibration is in order. Did you know that fighting poverty was the senator's true passion? You didn't? Well, say hello to the new Rick Santorum, servant of the poor. The senator tried out his new LBJ vibe at the March 2 unveiling of the Senate Republican Poverty Alleviation Agenda. Speaking in front of a huge “Fighting Poverty” banner, Santorum and three Republican colleagues laid out what he called an “important and proactive agenda to combat poverty across our nation,” which included such guaranteed poverty-busters as reauthorization...

Dossier: Air, Land, and Sea

Chlorine plants release an estimated 100 tons of mercury a year in the United States … The Centers for Disease Control has found that 8 percent of women of childbearing age have levels of mercury in their blood that could endanger their offspring … In 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) eliminated a 28-year requirement that set a cap on mercury emissions from chlorine plants … Swimmers experience 3,500 to 5,500 cases of “highly credible gastrointestinal illness” each year because of improper sewage treatment … According to a 2003 University of Michigan study, swimmers in waterways containing blended sewage are 100 times more likely to develop cysts or diarrhea … As of press time, the EPA is poised to allow the routine release of inadequately treated sewage into waterways as long as it is diluted with treated sewage, a process called “blending” … 1,100 coal-fired power plants account for almost 25 percent of the nation's nitrogen-oxide pollution and 70 percent of its sulfur...

Devil in the Details

Law and Border Let's say you're Michael Chertoff, and you want to build a fence. What would you need? According to the House of Representatives, anything you want. As the Real ID Act, passed by a 261-to-161 margin on February 10, says, “[T]he Secretary of Homeland Security shall have the authority to waive, and shall waive, all laws such Secretary, in such Secretary's sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure expeditious construction” of barriers and roads anywhere in the vicinity of the border. Whence the need for such expansive power? Since 1996, Republican Representative Duncan Hunter has been pushing to close a three-mile gap in the “Triple Border Fence,” which stretches 14 miles along the California-Mexico border, from the Pacific to Otay Mesa. Even though the 1996 congressional authorization allowed the attorney general to waive the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act to finish the project, construction has been slowed by environmental concerns...

Howard the Chair

If the anecdotal evidence I've been collecting from Democratic National Committee (DNC) delegates over the last couple of weeks proves to be any sort of indicator, Howard Dean is poised to become the next party chairman. Lest the guy who represents (as the conservative Club for Growth put it in a memorable advertisement) the “latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times -reading, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show” class of the Democratic Party put the panic of permanent Republican majority in you, I say: Don't fear the doctor. Sure, he's likely (for better or worse) to rile up all sorts of emotions in voters; people seem to love him or hate him, with little in between. But his appeal to voters is beside the point. After all, did anyone really decide for whom to vote in 2002 and 2004 based on Terry McAuliffe's temperament? Dean's detractors' understandable fear is that the doctor's northeastern roots might contribute to the problematic consolidation of Democratic...

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