Clinton on Bush’s 2003 Tax Cuts

Via saladwithsteve, an excerpted transcription of Bill Clinton on NPR, speaking on Bush’s 2003 tax cuts:

“And to make matters worse, we gave half of the money to the top 1 percent and an extraordinary amount of the money to the other 200,000 americans like me who paid income taxes on over a million dollars last year and I just think it’s wrong. I think it is so wrong. We’ve got national guardsman fighting over in iraq and the administration doesn’t even want to make them eligible for military health care benefits if they’re not covered by their own plans. We’ve increased the cost of veterans benefits at health centers by 500%. We’ve cut 300,000 kids out of health care programs and I’ve still got my tax cut? That’s my sacrifice in the war on terror? I think it’s bad ethics and terrible economics and it’s something we’re going to have to pay for a long time to come.”

[…]

What I tried to do was to leave my generation, the baby boom generation, with the security of knowing that their children would not have to support them instead of their grandchildren. It was a huge economic gift to the next generation of Americans. Now we’ve thrown all of that away on what I consider to be highly self indulgent tax cuts for upper income people. I think it’s selfish and I think it’s wrong. […] We should have targetted these tax cuts to middle class people and small business. They could have even been bigger. […] I would liked to seen an expansion in earned income tax credit for lower income working people. They could have been permanent. Most of this stuff is just wrong. It’s bad economics. It’s personally selfish for really wealthy people to have this kind of money. I know no pertinent millionaire in New York, and I know a lot of them, Republican and Democrat, who thinks this is right. I don’t know anybody who thinks this is right.

Music: Laika :: Shut off, Curl Up

11 Replies to “Clinton on Bush’s 2003 Tax Cuts”

  1. I believe he misspoke. Instead of:

    “And to make matters worse, we gave half of the money to the top 1 percent and…”

    …he should have said:

    “And to make matters worse, we gave half of the money back to the top 1 percent and…”

    Something people don’t often consider: A disproportionate amount of those tax revenues come from “the top 1 percent” – and continue to, even after the latest rounds of tax reform. If a person believes in wealth redistribution – that it’s ethical to forcibly take from someone and give to someone else – fair enough, but they really shouldn’t paint it as some sort of gift the rich are being “given”. That’s a bit disingenuous, I think.

  2. Begin hot debate!

    Wealth redistribution is a loaded term — one that paints any kind of taxation of the welltodo as a dirty, corrupt process. Its also a term that is a favorite of anyone who believes that they made it “on their own.” There are many self-made men and women in this country, but none of them made it without some sort of support in one form or another. They make it by taking advantage of the opportunites that the US provides them. Taxes (in their purest form), and the public services that they pay for, ensure that those opportunites that the rich have had continue to be there the less than rich. “Giving back” the rich their money in a disproportiant manner, as this tax cut has done, is in actuality a “gift” because it takes away from others who have not yet had the chance to take advantage of the opportunites that should be equally afforded them. By not properly taxing the rich, not having them pay tribute to repay the country for their opportunities, they have (in effect) been given a monopoly on the fruits of American freedoms, opportunites and resources.

  3. Taxation is not coercion. It is a social contract.

    It’s not disingenuous to portray Bush’s tax cuts as a gift to the rich. The poor have not benefited–in fact they’ve lost services overall, and the majority remain w/o health coverage. The rich have “benefited” enormously, reaping rewards of tens of thousands of dollars.

  4. Jeff, we had a fairly involved thread on this topic back in January:

    http://blog.birdhouse.org/archives/001201.php

    Summary: If 1% of the people pay a larger chunk of taxes, it’s because they control most of the wealth! In other words, what percent of people pay most of the taxes is completely irrelevant – people should pay taxes proportionate to the amount of money they hold, not to the percentage of the population they represent.

  5. When was the last time a poor person gave you a job? Yeah, that’s what I thought. The simple fact that socialists like to ignore is that rich people re-invest their money back into the economy, creating jobs in the process, leading to more wealth. That is indisputable. If you want “fair”, then everyone should be taxed at the same rate. This way, the rich are still paying the most, but more money is available for capital investment, etc. It’s sad that our government has deluded the public over the past 70+ years into thinking that we should be “grateful” to keep our own money. If we keep this up, we’ll be no different than the socialist European countries (e.g. France, Germany).

  6. The simple fact that socialists like to ignore is that rich people re-invest their money back into the economy, creating jobs in the process, leading to more wealth.

    And who is working in the jobs? Who is buying the goods produced by the jobs? Whose jobs have been outsourced to other countries? In their own way, the less well off invest as much into the economy as the rich ones – if not more.

    Oh, and you have no idea what socialism really is, as your comment about the ‘socialist European countries’ proves.

  7. (Scot)

    > of the taxes is completely irrelevant – people should pay

    > taxes proportionate to the amount of money they hold,

    > not to the percentage of the population they represent.

    I would agree with this, but that’s not actually what I was saying. The fact (which you also mention in your old posting) remains that for every dollar of wealth they hold, higher income earners pay a disproportionate amount of taxes compared to the less wealthy. That’s the “progressive” side of our tax system.

    (As an aside, the rich are also better able to afford good accountants and find ways to shelter themselves, meaning that it’s largely the middle-class – and not the rich or the poor – who get reamed. Simplifying the tax code and getting rid of loopholes would help in this regard.)

    In any case, I agree that it’s just as intellectually dishonest to act like the richest 1% should only pay 1% of taxes. Anyone who seriously proposes that is only making themselves look foolish.

    (Joshua)

    > Taxation is not coercion. It is a social contract.

    Like any contract, it’s based on coercion. If I don’t pay my taxes and am found out, the consequences are pretty severe. Unlike most contracts, though, I can’t opt out of it. For that reason, I think it’s extremely important that the contract be fair.

    (Gilbert)

    > By not properly taxing the rich, not having them pay

    > tribute to repay the country for their opportunities, they

    > have (in effect) been given a monopoly on the fruits of

    > American freedoms, opportunites and resources.

    I guess I’d have to disagree on this – the wealthy give back plenty by providing jobs, starting companies, investing in markets, etc.

    This is particularly true of the ‘moderately wealthy’, who are behind the engine that overwhelmingly drives our economy: Small to medium sized businesses. These are the people who are being penalized for their success.

    In any case, as Scot has said before this is really a socialist vs. libertarian debate issue, and you can probably guess where my views fall. :>

    That said, even if you believe that the wealthy should pay a disproportionately large percentage of taxes, it’s still a bit disingenuous to paint tax cuts as a “gift”. After all, they earned the money first, before it was taken away from them.

  8. I think that calling the form of social contract known as taxation as “coercion” is misleading. It is a contract in the sense that we all vote for our representatives and vote for various taxes and bond measures designed to keep our society healthy. There’s a very strong underlining *agreement* to taxation, even though we cannot duck out of the contract. Unfortunately, if taxation were voluntary (if we could escape the contract) most people would not pay them and society / our infrastructure would crumble completely. That’s just a fact of life. So I agree that since the contract cannot be voluntary, it must at least be fair.

    > If we keep this up, we’ll be no different than the socialist European countries (e.g. France, Germany).

    I don’t understand this comment. All first-world European countries have higher standards of living than the U.S. — better education, better health care, less poverty, less violence, etc. Are these not our goals as well?

  9. anyone can opt out of the contract. its called expatriation i believe. go for it.

  10. Well, so many of our magnanimous (they deign to hire us to make shit they sell back to us) wealthy elite have already done so, it seems—or least have business addresses in the Caribbean.

  11. > It is a contract in the sense that we all vote for our

    > representatives and vote for various taxes and bond

    > measures designed to keep our society healthy. There’s a

    > very strong underlining *agreement* to taxation, even

    > though we cannot duck out of the contract.

    True enough. Even I, Mr. Flat Tax, believe in some degree of taxation for social good. The difference being that I would lessen it significantly – cutting out the pork, with probably a more broad view of what ‘pork’ is than many here – and would prefer that most taxation be state/local.

    And yes, I still consider it coercion, though to be fair not all coercion is a bad thing. I am constantly “coerced” not to kill my neighbors or steal their belongings, and am okay with that. Despite the impression the word may give, you can be tossed in jail for not paying your taxes – so I’m not sure there’s any value in using a euphemism for it.

    I do think, however, that a lot of people who are in favor of progressive taxation are so due to a mixture of class envy and self interest (“tax the big guy – he can afford it!”), and do so without considering the ethical repercussions involved in “redistributing” someone else’s money.

    Either way, I will continue to pay my taxes like a good citizen and work through the established political means to see the system become more fair (in my eyes at least). If this is a social contract, I guess you can say that I think it’s time for re-negotiation. :>

    My biggest problem right now is that those who are most likely to do so happen to also be _social_ conservatives, with whom I share almost nothing in common with, and whose social policies I often abhor. This makes elections rather difficult for me.

    Oh yeah, and for the record, I’m definitely not rich. At best I suspect I’m probably somewhere within the wealthiest top 40% – and living in California, that doesn’t really go that far. :>

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