'Twas two weeks before Christmas, and all through the House, $50 billion was cut for those considered a mouse. Tax breaks instead hung by the chimney with care, for investors and CEOs, hands already there. America's rich nestled all snug in their beds as $95 billion danced in their heads.
IT WAS expected, of course, that the House of Representatives would do the deed they promised to do before Thanksgiving. They cut $50 billion last month from programs serving low-income Americans. This week they passed the final part of what amounts to $95 billion in tax cuts. It represents a height of taking from the poor to give to the rich. Out went billions for student loans, Medicaid, and food stamps. In came billions for stock dividends and capital gains.
Regardless of political leanings, economists know where the money is going.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that $70 billion of the $95 billion in tax cuts will go to households making over $100,000. That category accounts for 14 percent of households. According to the center, that 14 percent will get 74 percent of the money.
The Brookings Institution's and the Urban Institute's Tax Policy Center calculate that the top 20 percent of American households would get 88.9 percent of the House's tax-cut benefits while the bottom 20 percent would get only 11.1 percent. Twenty-four percent of the benefits would go to Americans who make more than $1 million a year. Such people make up only 0.2 percent of the population.
This is not only Scroogian, it is, ''unmoral, uncaring and without compassion," said Georgia Representative John Lewis.
Lewis, a Democrat, can smell immorality as well as any of the 534 other members of the House and Senate, having risked his life in the civil rights movement. He added, ''We're ballooning the debt, selling our children and grandchildren with the deal."
It is a fire sale that betrays the piousness so many of the members pushing hardest for the cuts. For instance, Jeb Hensarling, a Texas Republican, was one of 68 members of Congress who a couple of years ago signed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold the ''under God" portion of the Pledge of Allegiance. He has voted to approve federal funds for church-based Head Start programs and against an amendment that would have prohibited religious discrimination by faith-based groups seeking community services block grants.
Representative David Dreier of California said that the Democrats' complaints about the Republican lack of compassion were ''pathetic arguments" and ''nothing but the ideological baggage of the past." The ideological baggage of the present, as Dreier sees it, is joining Hensarling on support of faith-based discrimination of federal funds.
This week, our faith-based president, George W. Bush, was in North Carolina for a pro-tax-cut speech. Throughout his presidency, Bush has referred to tax cuts and faith-based initiatives in the same speech. In one such speech this year, he said, ''We understand that government can't love. Government can pass law, government can hand out money, but government cannot put hope in a person's heart or a sense of purpose in a person's life.
''That's done when a loving citizen puts their arm around somebody who hurts and says, 'How can I help you? . . . the best way to bring hope into the dark corners of our country, the best way to bring optimism into people's lives, is to stand squarely on -- side by side with faith-based organizations and community-based organizations whose members have heard that call to love a neighbor just like you would like to love -- be loved yourself."
It is the foremost hypocrisy practiced by the Bush presidency outside of Iraq. Bush guarantees that government cannot show love by using it to cut the heart out of hope for the poor, then showers love on the most fortunate among us with unabashed displays of selfishness such as, ''I called on the United States Congress to let the people keep more of their own money, to cut their taxes and Congress responded. We lowered your taxes and gave you an opportunity to keep more of what you earn."
Odd, there are plenty of religious teachings that direct people to share time and money with the poor. There is no commandment that says, ''Thou Shalt Love Thy Neighbor With a Tax Cut."
'Twas two weeks before Christmas. The stockings hung by the chimney are full for the rich. The poor are even more invisible than a mouse. Their hopes smolder in the chimney, in the dimming lumps of coal.
Derrick Z. Jackson's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.