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Merry Christmas tax breaks for the rich

Elinor Tatum | 4/12/2011, 5:32 p.m.

Tuesday, President Obama announced a very unfortunate compromise with the rich. In order to protect working and middle-class taxpayers, he was forced to make a compromise with cynical and unprincipled Republicans to preserve tax cuts for millionaires and even billionaires.

With the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts, millionaire earners will be getting a $40,000 Christmas gift this year if the deal goes through as outlined. The Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire on New Year's Eve, and the new Republican-dominated House of Representatives will come in at that same time. So, President Obama has been backed into a corner by a short deadline to try and get the best deal he can, knowing that the next Congress will have little concern for the poor, the working class or the middle class, the 98 percent of the people who are not part of the top 1 or 2 percent--who should have been excluded from tax breaks in the current climate.

There are some positive sides of the deal as outlined: Long-term unemployment benefits will be extended for 13 months, there is a major tax break for businesses to encourage capital investment and a payroll holiday may provide couples an extra $4,200 in extra income.

But the unfortunate truth is that the deal keeps the rich getting richer on the backs of the poor and working/middle-class people.

The poor get the worst deal, as this country gives them crumbs while the rich get away with socking more of their money away and the poor are asked to make do with less goods and services. It is ironic that this is the spirit of some politicians as we enter the season of giving, and those same politicians will crow about American generosity and exceptionalism.

There are those millionaires, and even billionaires, who do not believe in these tax cuts for the rich. They are the ones who realize that while they have been blessed with riches--and live in a country that has always let them keep a huge amount of their fortunes--they have a responsibility to help those less fortunate.

They give millions to support education, they are more than willing to pay substantial share of their income in taxes, and they speak out against tax cuts that would directly benefit them.

But then there are those who feel that any tax is a bad tax and will go to great lengths to hide their fortunes, looking for tax loopholes and shelters so they can pay as little as possible. These same types were the ones who backed Republican candidates and the Republican Party just a short time ago in the midterm elections to ensure that their agenda of lower taxes for the rich and big corporations would be implemented.

It is the selfish rich who complain about what they have to pay. They say why should we have to pay to support the public schools while our children get a private education? For them, there is no such thing as a collective good, and they can't see the benefit of providing all people-- especially Black and Brown people--an opportunity for a good education or quality healthcare or decent housing. And these same types of rich people don't recognize the infrastructure benefits of having highways and bridges maintained or having firemen and police keep our streets and neighborhoods safe.

And many of these rich and their cynical sycophants that include Republicans and conservative Democrats spout off platitudes about the American Dream and fail to acknowledge that the dream comes with a cost, and there is a duty to be part of something that is larger than yourself or your most selfish and base interests.

So while everyday people continue to struggle to make ends meet, the current climate seems surreal at best. We see people wondering how they will fill up their gas tanks as prices rise, we see parents cutting back on clothes for their children because of clothing tax increases, and we see everything going up for many Americans except their paychecks.

We need some tax relief, and the president recognized that while the payroll tax holiday will put some extra money in the paychecks of average working people, the big earners--folks making more than $500,000 or a million or even billions--did not need a break at this time. Again, it is unfortunate that the least in need among us are again likely to gain the most.