Thursday, January 30, 2003

"Another approach to war and tax cuts"
Here is my column from this week's The Winchester Star:

In recent days, the Bush administration has firmed up its plans for a unilateral attack against Iraq in an effort to oust Saddam Hussein. At the same time, the president has also unveiled a tax cut "stimulus package" that basically transfers even more wealth to the richest 5 percent of the nation. But one has to wonder who is running the president's strategy and what the heck they are thinking about?

To start, the outpouring of anti-war sentiment is overwhelming. Hundreds of thousands of people honored Martin Luther King Jr. by spending a freezing Saturday afternoon rallying at the Capitol to protest Bush's war plans. Undetermined numbers of others participated in smaller rallies in communities all across the nation, including Winchester.

I watched the rally on C-Span, from the comfort of my favorite chair, and was amazed and proud to be an American. Even though it is more than a week later, it still strikes me as a moving tribute to the freedoms we have in our nation when people take advantage of their civil rights and peacefully assemble.

But since that time, a number of conservative columnists have taken pot-shots at the organizers of the DC rally - a group called ANSWER - calling it a front for sympathizers of Islamic Jihad, communism, terrorists or any other name they could come up with.

ANSWER stands for "Act Now to Stop the War & End Racism!" and to be accurate, some members of the organization are admitted socialists. But that doesn't mean they are terrorists or communists and this kind of name calling against people who don't want a war is both disingenuous and foolish.

If anything, these people were being conservative and patriotic, using their God-given rights to assemble and protest against their government in what they believe is potentially an unnecessary, expensive and wasteful war.

And while most of the speakers at the rally were one-sided on the issue of Palestinian rights - which admittedly grew tiresome to listen to after awhile - most of the crowd was white and middle class. They were ordinary Americans, the same people you see at your jobs and in town every day. And just as many other speakers were elected Democrats who want the $100 to $200 billion that is going to be spent on the war with Iraq to be spent domestically instead. Rebuilding schools, job training, small business loans, and lower and middle class tax cuts to encourage growth in the economy, were all on the agenda of protesters - hardly proposals put forth by Osama bin Laden or Hussein.

In fact, these are some of the same ideas promoted by elected officials of both parties on the local and national level as a way to turn the economy around.

Winchester is currently facing a $2.4 million hole in next year's budget. Most other cities and towns in the state are facing the same problem. Leaders are expecting to slash budgets. They will lay off teachers and decimate public safety budgets and staffing - never mind the other jobs like public works and administration staffing - in an effort to balance budgets.

These actions are irresponsible at best, especially when our nation still has homeland defense issues to address. And with Bush pushing us into an unpopular war - both here and abroad - who knows what kind of work our firefighters and police officers be engaged in over the coming months. Not to mention the teachers who will be addressing a number of war-time emotions from our children.

The other option for cities and towns will be to promote Proposition 2 1/2 overrides to raise funds to save these services - an unpopular and risky venture in a down economy at a time when residents are already paying high property taxes.

But there is another option, promoted by the Economic Policy Institute [EPI] in a paper released to counter the Bush tax cut proposal [].

The group's stimulus package includes a one-time grant of $110 billion to states to offset law enforcement costs, extend unemployment benefits and cover school repair and renovation costs. This money is badly needed by cities and towns in our state and could eliminate the need for overrides or layoffs.

The EPI is also promoting a one-time "wage bonus" or income tax cut of 3.5 percent on the first $15,000 of wages earned. Essentially, this cut would give everyone who earned more than $15,000 last year - 149 million American workers - a $525 refund. A two-income family would receive $1,050. This would give residents more than enough money to cover an override and have some spending money or savings left over.

In the end, only you can take action to make your lives better. The EPI stimulus package and a sensible, sane foreign policy are steps in the right direction.

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