The presidential candidates are promising some pretty pricey stuff. But you and I aren't going to have to pay for it. No, the free health care, free college, subsidized mortgages, and other goodies can be paid for by repealing President Bush's tax cuts for the rich.
But here's the problem. There were no Bush tax cuts for the rich. The rates were cut, but the rich pay more taxes than ever. The top 1 percent of earners now pay 36.9 percent of all income taxes (up from 25.8 percent in 1986), while the bottom 50 percent pay 3.3 percent of the taxes and almost half pay nothing at all.
But it's true the rich are getting richer. The poor have become richer, too, over the past 30 years, but not at the same rate. So there is a growing income gap. Changes in the tax code can't possibly explain the disparity. In fact, changes in taxation have mitigated the growing gap in wealth.
The problem isn't taxes, but education. Some areas have high school dropout rates up to 50 percent. Throw in high numbers of under-educated immigrants, and an income gap is all but assured.
The candidates may think they get a lot of political mileage by bashing Bush and his wealthy friends. But "hope" and "change" based on economic myths and promises that can't be paid for don't cut it. Eventually, reality intrudes.
Tom Patterson is chairman of the Goldwater Institute, a former state legislator and emergency room physician. A longer version of this article originally appeared in the East Valley Tribune.
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