AUSTIN, Texas -- In the "physician, heal thyself" department,
please note the response of White House press spokesman Ari Fleischer to a
bulletin from North Korea that said: "The intention to build up a nuclear
deterrent is not aimed to threaten and blackmail others, but to reduce
conventional weapons. North Korea hopes to channel manpower resources and
funds into economic construction and the betterment of people's living."
Fleischer piously replied: "Perhaps from this glimpse of North
Korea acknowledging that its own people suffer as a result of North Korea's
policies, it will help North Korea to now make the right decisions. And the
right decisions are to put their people first, to feed their people, to get
health care to their people ..."
Not only should feeding the people and getting health care to
the people be more important than a nuclear program, it should even be more
important than tax cuts for the obscenely wealthy. The United States now
spends $400 billion a year on the military -- that's 50.1 percent of all
discretionary spending (non-discretionary includes Social Security, Medicare
and Medicaid). These priorities are not exactly setting a great example for
Look at what's happening here, beloveds. The Houston Chronicle
reported on June 11: "Soccer moms, firefighters and community activists
overflowed City Council chambers Tuesday, pleading that their programs not
be eliminated or reduced in the already squeezed 2004 budget. The crowd of
supplicants grew so large at one point that police had to direct people to
the council's annex building.
"The list of wants and needs was long. Competitive sports groups
don't want their park leagues dropped. Firefighters want staffing levels
maintained on trucks. And community groups want a southwest Houston health
clinic reopened and free after-school programs continued."
That's what it comes down to, all this big talk about tax cuts
from Washington and about not raising taxes from Austin -- it's taking away
after-school programs and health clinics and firefighters.
Not to drop a name, but last week I was on a panel with Bill
O'Reilly of Fox News and quoted the wonderful B. Rapoport of Waco, Texas, a
great and very rich American. B. says: "Look, you make $50,000 a year and
pay $8,000 in income taxes. That won't send you to the poorhouse, but it
will sure as hell put a crimp in your budget. I make a million dollars a
year. I pay $400,000 in income taxes. That leaves me $600,000 a year to live
on. You gonna feel sorry for me? I'm still rich."
O'Reilly, perhaps not realizing I was quoting someone else,
jumped in and said: "Yeah, but I don't want to take your money and give it
to someone else. You should keep your money."
My tax money and Rapoport's tax money are not given to someone
else. It goes back into this country, the one that allowed Rapoport to
become rich in the first place. B. Rapoport knows perfectly well why he's
successful. His dad was an immigrant peddler who never made more than $4,000
a year. B. went to the public schools of San Antonio back in the '20s and to
the University of Texas in the '30s, where he attended graduate school in
He believes in public education the way some people believe in
religion. He supports a charter school and gives generously to U.T. He's
happy his taxes are used for social improvement -- he cannot stand rich
people who dodge their taxes. How can you not be willing to create
opportunities for young people in the country that gave you so many
opportunities, he asks.
The preamble to the Constitution says this country was
established "In order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice,
ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the
general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our
posterity." Roads, schools, prisons, courthouses, bridges, dams and sewage
systems are all necessary, as are health and education. That's why we pay
taxes. We pay for after-school programs and sports leagues because kids need
them and get into trouble without them.
The reason people hate paying taxes is because they know the
system isn't fair. We don't have a progressive tax system in this country
anymore, and we certainly don't have one in Texas. It is mind-boggling that
the Republicans took away child tax credits for low-income working people.
It was such a gross distortion in favor of the rich and against working
people that it created an immediate backlash and forced the White House to
ask Congress to reverse itself.
"Ain't going to happen," said Majority Leader Tom DeLay. He says
the working poor will get their tax cut only if the rich get another round,
as well. That's sick.
To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other
Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web
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