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Archive for Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama’s tax-cut plan fails to bring real change

January 21, 2009

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The day before Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president, I was on a panel in which other participants spoke of Obama as if he were a superhero.

Spike Lee, the movie director, put together a “Refresh the World” Symposium at Howard University that included a panel on the economy. At times, we hotly debated Obama’s economic stimulus plan.

Like many Americans, I celebrated the election of Obama. Obama personifies hope. And right now, we all need hope that we’ll survive this economic tornado.

But Obama isn’t a superhero. If we are truly to change the things that led to this recession, we need a long-term rescue plan.

Obama is already making a mistake by again proposing to spend billions of dollars the U.S. Treasury doesn’t have to give a pitiful tax cut to people who need far more than that to get by. His tax cuts do not give me hope.

The tax cut Obama proposes would give $500 a year for individuals and $1,000 for couples. This would be in the form of a credit. Practically, it’s a payroll tax credit meaning that employers could reduce the amount of tax that would be withheld from employees’ paychecks. The estimated cost of this cut/credit is $150 billion.

I’m a lifelong penny pincher, but putting our country into more debt to give people $500 is akin to handing the badly wounded a bandage.

I work regularly one-on-one with people in debt or in cash-strapped circumstances, and I have never advised them to spend more when they are already living beyond their means. And yet that’s what Obama is proposing, at least with the tax cut for individuals.

Instead, I would be more hopeful if Obama put forth a long-term plan that helps people help themselves. Isn’t his proposed tax cut a short-term solution? It’s a way to avoid pain. But pain is what causes people to change long-term.

If we want to deploy billions of dollars for true change, why not do something truly bold and swift: Provide a free college education to Americans so they can prepare to work in jobs that pay enough to live comfortably.

The individual tax cut Obama is likely to put forth to get people to spend more is more of the same. And that’s not change.

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