Wednesday, January 08, 2003

[] G Dubs announces his economic stimulus plan.

Here are the highpoints so far as I can glean from,, and the New York Times.

--No more taxes on stock dividends payed out to individual investors. However, stock dividends going into a 401(k) plan along with stock market profits and the person's own contributions will be taxed as ordinary income when withdrawn from the account according to a "senior administration official.

--Income tax cuts scheduled for 2004 and 2006 will be put on an accelerated schudule so that some of them are effective in 2003.

--Increased tax breaks for businesses and individuals, including tripling to $75,000 the write-offs for purchasing new equipment.

--Accelerating the schedule of child tax credit increases from $600 to $1000 per child per year which is set to reach the upper figure in 2010.

--Extension of the unemployment benefits which lapsed in December after Congress failed to pass an extension.

--A state-run program giving unemployed people $3,000 in "Personal Re-Employment Accounts" for job training, moving expenses, and child care. Any money not used would go to the person as a bonus upon finding a job, with 60% given right away and the rest after six months on the job.

--Acceleration of the decrease in the "marriage penalty," doubling the standard deduction of married taxpayers so that it is effective immediately rather than phased in between now and 2009.

--The movement of more federal dollars toward needy states with budget problems, especially those that peg their rates to federal income taxes.

There's some information not in the news stories that I can't find and I don't really want to do the research right now. How much are stock dividends currently taxed? The same as regular income? Higher? Lower? Which states tie their tax rates to the federal rates? What are the income tax cuts currently scheduled for 2004 and 2006?

This is easy enough that I can find it if I put my mind to it. On the other hand, I think it should be included in website news reporting. I can forgive the New York Times because they seek to put online the stories as they appear in print, but I would think that CNN and FOXNews could put a little more info out there. Granted, that's not a lot of time to do research and maybe these numbers will pop up sooner or later.

But on to my reaction. I'm annoyed with the whole tax dance. It feels like this artificial battleground where the two parties rattle their sabers and toss out numbers. Even though I, unlike most Americans, understand statistics, the numbers tossed out seem vague or unimportant. And anyways, once the numbers come out, each side attacks the credibility of the other side's numbers.
The thing that pisses me off is that every single tax plan involves a credit for this or a deduction for that. Whatever. It's not multiple tax brackets that makes the tax code complicated; it's all the deduction, all the trying to figure out what is and isn't taxable. Just make every form of income taxed. Paychecks, stock dividends, capital gains. I don't know what the rates are for the last two, if they are taxed at higher or lower rates than regular income. Just make it all the same. If it gives the wealthy a tax break, I don't particularly care. Just get rid of most deductions and credits in exchange for an overall rate decrease that would maintain the amount of money currently raked in by the federal government if income remained the same.

Once we eliminate the whole battleground over who gets to define the next few pages added to the tax code (and hey, that will save trees, so its environmentally sound policy), we can get on with the proper debate about where the money is being spent. Viva social spending.

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