MOLLY IVINS No Favoritism for Law-Abiders Here it is, that rare opportunity to be helpful, positive, uplifting and part of the solution in our public life. Follow this sentence closely: “Even before the Clinton administration issued new rules that would bar federal contracts to chronic corporate lawbreakers, the United States Chamber of Commerce was attacking the rules, calling them an arbitrary ‘blacklist,’ and a sop to organized labor” New York Times, July 9, 1999. Now take a deep breath. These rules, announced a few weeks ago, recommend that federal procurement officers award no contracts to companies guilty of repeated and substantial violations of law on discrimination, labor, tax, environmental, or antitrust. A daring concept, eh? You might think all we would hear after a proposal not to use tax dollars to pay lawbreakers would be a hearty cheer. But you reckon without the hubris of big business, now so far gone in its own free-market bull it has lost its hold on reality entirely. “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will do whatever is necessary to block this politically motivated policy,” said Thomas Donohue, the organization’s president. And what makes favoring those who obey the law over those who break the law politically motivated? Ah, Donohue predicts the new rules would be used principally to punish companies found to have violated labor laws, like those prohibiting companies from firing workers in unionization drives! How outrageous! That the government would even think of doing anything to enforce labor law worker safety, hours, overtime, comp time, and not firing workers during unionization drives! Imagine it! It’s been the law since the 1930s, but imagine making a company obey the law ! You can see why the Chamber wants to get Dubya Bush in office p.d.q., before any more of this commie bushwa gets handed down. Chamber officials told the Times the rules are unclear, asserting that companies did not know how many violations two or twenty or two hundred might bar them from government contracts. That’s a problem, of course. How many times should a corporation be allowed to violate the law before the government refuses to do business with it? How many workers should they be allowed to fire for being in favor of a union? How many times should they be allowed to endanger the lives of workers by putting padlocks on fire exit doors? How many tons of untreated waste should they be allowed to illegally dump into a lake or river? Here’s my suggestion: three strikes and you’re out. In the famous Texas trio of congressmen, Armey, Archer, and DeLay, our man Bill Archer, chairman of the House Way and Means Committee, is all too often neglected by the public prints. So how happy we are to find him in the headlines again. And with an effort that is enough to make the president of the Chamber of Commerce berserk with bliss. What a tax-cutting plan Archer has offered, what a pluperfect paradigm of everything that is wrong with Republican economic thinking, what dumbfounding chutzpah, what a fantastic proposal to redistribute wealth from the poor to the rich. This is outstanding work. Way to go, Bill! First of all, he offers a 10 percent acrossthe-board tax cut to shine on the just and the unjust alike, the rich and the poor, Ross Perot Jr. and the single mother of two making $30,000 a year with overtime on the assembly line, and what could be fairer than that? If ever there’s a group that needs an income-tax cut, it is the richest 1 percent of Americans, because their share of the total wealth is now only 40.1 percent. As of 1997, they only had more wealth than the entire bottom 95 percent. Archer wants to cut the top rate individuals pay on capital gains from 20 percent to 15 percent. That blessing, too, will fall alike on Bill Gates and the single mother supporting two children by working two minimum-wage jobs. What could be fairer than that? Archer’s tax plan would give an additional break to married couples, which does not benefit our single mother with two kids, but hey, she shouldn’t have divorced the creep in the first place. But here’s a part that’s perfectly fair: Donald Trump and the single mom will both enjoy the abolition of inheritance taxes on estates of over $600,000! Isn’t that good news? And that’s not all once he got through helping the rich in general, Archer went on to help the rich in specific. His tax bill is loaded with special-interest goodies. He wants to bring back the three-martini lunch: 80 percent deduction of bidness entertainment. And he put in another special tax break for the oil industry. And another special tax break for the steel industry. All the big Republican contributors get tax breaks! Oh, we haven’t had this kind of fun in years. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Archer’s bill will cost $2.8 trillion after all the phased-in exemptions go into effect at a time when both Social Security and Medicare will be under massive demands. In addition to the folly of cutting taxes before you’ve taken care of Social Security and Medicare, the Archer proposal is economic idiocy on the macro level, as well. Recalling our Econ I class, we remember that we cut taxes to stimulate the economy: The economy is so close to overheating that the Federal Reserve Board just raised interest rates to slow it down. It took fifteen years of tax increases and spending cuts to get over the tax cuts made by Ronald Reagan in 1981. Why would we do that again? He’s just our Bill, an ordinary guy. Molly Ivins is a former Observer editor and a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Her latest book is You Got to Dance With Them What Brung You. You may write to her via e-mail at [email protected] . 18 THE TEXAS OBSERVER AUGUST 6, 1999
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