Parting Thoughts on a Taxing Debate

There's a dull sameness to the debate about tax cuts, especially from the opposition.

The president, say his foes, wants to pay off the rich. Here are the numbers they cite in support: The top 1 percent gets $30,000 back; the poorest get a lousy $6,000. This is true, but misleading.

Now, consider a different take, this one supplied by the White House. Two key facts emerge.

First, the plan makes the income tax even more progressive. Families earning more than $100,000 would pay 73.3 percent of the total income tax burden. Families earning less than $50,000 would pay only 2.9 percent of the bill.

Second, the poor get the largest proportional tax breaks, the richest, the smallest.

Now, the really troubling part. Our tax code is insanely imbalanced already, with half the public paying nearly 100 percent of the income taxes. This mocks the idea that citizenship demands that each person pull his or her weight. Two generations ago, Americans celebrated success, and urged kids to do well and accumulate wealth. We're now on the verge of a society that cleaves into two classes: Those who pay taxes and those that get tax money from Uncle Sam.

The allegation that the president is beggaring the poor is hooey and proponents know it. The real question is whether the White House realizes that its own plan is an agent for making envy not merely respectable, but further establishing it as the law of the land.