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COLUMN LEFT / ROBERT SCHEER

Let Them Sip Bordeaux, Tax Free : Republicans' policy is a win-win situation--for their rich-rich constituents.

March 26, 1995|ROBERT SCHEER | Robert Scheer is a former Times national correspondent

Too bad I didn't know about the $1,000 bribe from Newt Gingrich when the Barneys New York sale was going on. I could have gotten two Italian silk suits, but now I'll have to settle for one.

Lucky me, I have two kids to claim for the Gingrich rich-kids tax credit, and while the writing business has been pretty good lately, I'm not turning that money down. Some naysayers, like the President, want to practice class war by giving the children's tax credit only to families subsisting on less than $75,000 a year. No way. I'm entitled.

Like Gingrich told us more affluent readers of the Wall Street Journal last week: "Every person in the United States is overtaxed, whether that person is wealthy or struggling to get by. And so is every business." If it's true for Chrysler, mighty profitable since the taxpayers saved it from bankruptcy, it's true for me. Anyway, I'm beyond guilt--it's so passe.

There was a time when getting a tax break at the expense of poor disabled kids, impoverished nursing mothers and hungry schoolchildren would have bothered me a lot. But that's when I was a liberal Democrat. Now I'm an infomercial surfer on the Third Wave, filing my snappy copy through the Internet, virtualizing my reality as super wealthy, a determinedly amoral futurist never looking back. The main message: Successful guys like me are the true victims in this society. The government owes me, big time, not the other way around.

What do I care that the taxpayers gave me a free education from pre-kindergarten on through college? That was then and this is now. Back then, tuition-free education made us dependent on government. Now we will have Gingrich's "American dream savings accounts," allowing us to take tax-sheltered money, without penalty, from our IRAs to pay for our kids' college education. Plus, we can all take advantage of Gingrich's lower capital-gains tax and sell off some stocks.

The Gingrich revolution is all win-win; nobody gets hurt while I get rich, like in the Reagan years. Sure, the national debt went up, but boy did we have prosperity, especially in Orange County where I lived. Only this time, the Republicans know how to do debt better. The beauty of their capital-gains tax break is that while it may appear to cost the Treasury $218 billion over the next decade, it's not like that at all. That's because 71% of the benefit will go to people who make more than $200,000 a year and you just know that they will use it for productive investments. These are not the sort of people who will rush out and buy a yacht. They already have one.

The only people who object, as Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour said, are "the people who have been at the trough for 40 years, who've had on the Democratic feed bag." We all know who they are--welfare mothers. Not our sort of people. Don't worry, those of us who have worn the bipartisan feed bag are safe. Gingrich can honestly look in the eyes of normal people--say, a wealthy farmer retired to Scottsdale, Ariz., on federal subsidies for not growing crops, or the top executives in the defense industry still building stealth planes to penetrate Soviet defenses--and assure them of continued government support.

For the corporations, the good news is that the GOP will repeal the alternative minimum tax, passed in 1986. Remember that bit of socialism, which required profitable companies to pay some taxes no matter how many write-offs they found? The 1986 law punishes ingenuity and initiative. Before it was passed, AT&T was able to get $636 million in tax rebates even though the company made almost $25 billion in pretax profits. Boeing, which reported $2.3 million in U.S. profits, paid no taxes in four years before the law was passed, and then got $121 million in rebates. General Electric had three tax-free years and General Dynamics and Lockheed four. We've got to get back to those good old days when it made sense to pay a lot to accountants.

Who cares what the big corporations get as long as I get mine? That rich-kids tax credit is looking better all the time. Maybe I'll use the Gingrich gift to invest in some cases of a really promising Bordeaux. That should help the economy. Anyway, better me than some welfare mother. What would she know about good wine?

Let the cities fall apart and the public schools crumble. They're just vestiges of Second Wave culture. Ask not what I can do for my country; if it fails to give me a tax break, I'll go multinational and write my columns offshore. Who needs a nation when you have a modem?

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