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It's A Beautiful Day in the Nibor Hood

rich boss and ask for a pay reduction, so he can keep more of his money?

Remember merrie olde England? There was the nobility, a small group of people who got rich by taxing poor people and keeping the proceeds. The good guy in the story was Robin Hood, who roamed Sherwood Forest, taking money from rich people and giving it to the poor.

For most of our history, we have had a Robin Hood-inspired tax system. We have a progressive income tax, in which people who make more pay more. The result of this is to systematically take money from the rich, who do not need it so much, and give it to the people who do, either as cash, as in welfare, or as services, such as Medicare, public schools, public housing, public transportation, police and fire protection -- the things that keep the community functioning.

In 2000, Robin Hood was hauled off to a secret, undisclosed location, and has been replaced by his evil twin Nibor Hood. Working closely with King George, Nibor has been taking money and services away from poor people and giving it to the rich. The repeal of the estate tax is the most egregious example of this. The estate tax gives the government approximately half of any estate valued at over $1 million. Repeal of this tax, by definition, benefits only those with estates of more than $1 million. Who has more than $1 million? Rich people! Consider the unfortunate heirs of an estate of $40 million. After an estate tax, there would only be $20 million to go around. Hardly worth starting a crusade over!

If you could not pay your household bills, would you go to your

But Nibor Hood and King George have decreed that heirs must receive all of the $40 million. As a result, the government receives $20 million less than it did before, just from this one estate. Multiply this by the number of rich people with estates of more than $1 million, and you have a lot of money the government is no longer collecting. (Government estimates say $56 billion a year.) Thus, services that benefit mostly ordinary people, such as Medicare and housing for the poor, elderly and disabled, have been cut (or not increased as much as they need to be). Though cleverly disguised, this is direct stealing from the poor and middle classes to give to the rich.

One might think that this would satisfy Nibor and King George, but now they have proposed a repeal of dividend taxes. This proposal, by definition, benefits only those who get stock dividends outside of a retirement plan. Who has a lot of stock? Rich people! King George’s new tax proposal will reduce government revenues by $365 billion over 10 years, just from this provision alone, Very rich people, the “top 1 percent,” will get nearly half of that. Nearly 20 percent of Americans think they are in the top 1 percent, and another 20 percent think they will be soon. Sorry folks, it’s not you. The top 1 percent is people with annual incomes over $300,000. And if you are not one of them now, you are not likely to become one soon, since their incomes will rise at least as fast as yours.

Why does George want to give $300 billion to people who already have more money than they know what to do with? Is it because the government is overflowing with money? No, just the opposite: the government does not have enough money. We are projecting deficits of several hundred billion a year each year for the foreseeable future. Does this sound like an auspicious time to reduce our income? If you could not pay your household bills, would you go to your rich boss and ask for a pay reduction, so he can keep more of his money?

These days, it is a beautiful day for Nibor Hood. He is taking money intended for the public good and giving it to the rich. We should not let King George and his minions pull this boondoggle on the American people. There should be no tax reduction until the government can provide the services it needs to provide to the people who need it most. If there is to be a tax reduction, it should go primarily to the people who need it and will spend it. We do not need to take up the longbow to influence our government: pens and telephones work quite well, and every four years, a pencil in the voting booth.

David Reingold is a professor of chemistry at Juniata College.