The Endless Campaign 

Corporations and lobbyists are shaping your future, whether you like it or not.

Among those still interested in fiscal sanity, and that includes quite a few Republicans, I bring your attention to two tax cuts that should be repealed right now for the sound reason that they are perfectly nuts.

A whopping 54 percent of the two cuts goes to the two-tenths of 1 percent of Americans who make more than $1 million a year. And 97 percent of the cuts goes to the 4 percent of the population with incomes over $200,000. (All figures are from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Joint Committee on Taxation.)

The two cuts were not part of President Bush's original tax-cut proposals; they were slipped in by Congress in 2001 and will be fully effective in 2010. One repeals a provision that scales back the magnitude of itemized deductions taken by high-income taxpayers. The other repeals a provision under which the personal exemption is phased out for households with very high incomes. The Joint Committee estimates that these two tax cuts will reduce the government's income by $9 billion in 2010 and $16 billion in 2015.

The center's report adds, "If these two tax cuts were to be cancelled ... Congress and the president could avert cuts in areas like health care, child care, housing assistance and food stamp assistance for low-income working families."

It is a rather clear choice of moral values.

Also of note is what appears to be a new dimension in how monied special interests buy legislation through Congress. We are all familiar with corporate lobbyists and the system of legalized bribery known as "campaign finance."

But now comes an unholy tsunami of corporate money aimed not at politicians but at us. Over $200 million will be spent to convince us that we should privatize Social Security and change the rules of class-action lawsuits. In other words, they want to make us in favor of our own screwing by corporate special interests.

This has been done before but not at this incredible level. When the insurance industry mounted a $10 million campaign in 1993 to defeat the Clinton health insurance plan, no one had ever seen that kind of money spent to kill a single bill before. Now, The Washington Post reports, "Corporate America, the financial services industry, conservative think tanks, much of the Washington trade association community, the Republican Party, and GOP lobbyists and consultants are prepared to spend $200 million or more to influence the outcome of two of the toughest legislative fights in recent memory."

Bush's Social Security pri-vatization plan is so bad (not to mention that it doesn't fix Social Security, as even he now admits), it is unclear if even a massive public relations campaign can save it. But be prepared to watch them try. Coming soon: ad after ad assuring you that Social Security is going broke right now and only private accounts can save it. The sponsors of these ads will all have lovely names, like "Committee to Save America" and "Society to Save Old Folks." But it's pure political propaganda.

The point of tort reform is not to save business from a nonexistent "flood" of frivolous lawsuits. The flood is just as phony as the Social Security "crisis." It's a fight between big business and the trial lawyers, and as the African proverb says, "When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers." What we stand to lose is the great American right to sue the bastards. What business calls tort "reform" just means the doors of the courthouse will be shut to average citizens.

The latest onslaught of special interest money is $10 million from a lobbying group called USA Next, which will be used solely to attack the AARP for opposing Bush's privatization plan.

"They [AARP] are the boulder in the middle of the highway to personal savings accounts," said Charlie Jarvis, president of USA Next. "We will be the dynamite that removes them."

It's not bad enough we have to fight corporate lobbyists and huge campaign donations. Now we have to deal with an endless Republican campaign on specific issues. n

Molly Ivins writes for Creators Syndicate.

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