Saturday, February 07, 2004

Lagniappe: Bush's BIGGEST Deception -- and it ain't WMD claims! - Well, I'm working on my tax return right now and I must say that the supposed "child tax credit" refund that we received over last summer was more a farce than an actual return of my hard-earned income to my own bank account. I consider myself to be a pretty bright fellow and fairly well-attuned to debates in Washington about tax relief plans, so if I was caught by surprise by the way this tax refund actually works, I can only imagine how those who just normally go with the flow will react. And I know for a fact that all of my siblings with kids were caught by surprise, too. Bush will have a heavy price to pay for this misleading tax refund plan. What am I talking about? Well, let me try to explain ...

Last summer, after the big budget battle in Washington in which President Bush seemed to have won his tax cut/tax relief plan, all we kept hearing was that if we had earned over a certain amount of income and if we had children/dependents in our household, then we were likely to get a refund in the amount of $400 per child/dependent. And sure enough, we received a letter stating as much which was followed shortly thereafter by a check from the US Treasury in the amount of $800 ($400 for each of my two children). It was also my understanding that this was a retroactive refund of what we had already previously paid in higher taxes before the tax relief plan went into effect. But how misleading this was. Apparently, this was merely an advance on our upcoming tax return to be filed for 2003. This advance effectively negated the supposed refund that we received.

By my calculations, there was indeed some tax relief, but not as much as was sold to us. If I've done the math right, this is what I come up with. The child tax credit for 2002 was $600 per child. This was increased to $1000 per child over the course of 2003, and the $400 difference between what we claimed in 2002, and what the 2003 plan called for, as I understood it, was to be remitted over the summer of 2003. So, what we were seeing when we received our $800 check in the summer was, so we thought, an augmented refund of $800 on our 2002 tax return. And our thinking was that when we filed for 2003, we would be able to take the full $1000 per child tax credit against our 2003 earnings. But, not in the deceptive world of George W. Bush. No way. That $800 which we received in the summer of 2003 was simply an advance on our 2003 tax return. So, when I sit down now, in February of 2004, to calculate my tax return, I am surprised with the need to count the $800 against 2003's tax return. So, in essence, my effective per child tax credit for 2003 is still only $600 per child after the $400 per child refund is deducted from the new higher $1000 per child tax credit. Next year, presumably, I'll be able to take the full $1000 per child tax credit without having to deduct any previous refund amount. So, I understand that the tax credit is real and will have an positive impact on the amount of money I'll end up keeping in my own pocket; but that doesn't remove the feeling that I was somehow duped into thinking that the refund was for 2002 instead of 2003. Many people spent their refund over the summer under the false assumption that they would still be able to take the higher per child tax credit when filing their 2003 taxes. And the fact that this isn't the case will, I think, make a lot of people upset just becuase they will feel misled and caught unawares after having prepared for a bigger refund check or a smaller tax liability that just isn't going to materialize. Now, in fairness, both democrats and republicans alike in Washington, DC, bear some responsibility for not adequately clearing up this misunderstanding that many people had in their minds about the nature of this summer child tax refund; but George Bush is the most visible target and he will bear the brunt of whatever misgruntled ill-will that is generated. And, I must say, it comes at a very, very bad time for Bush, given that this year is an election year and we won't have the opportunity to knowlingly feel the benefits of the larger child tax credit until next February, by which time the Presidential election would be long behind us.

It's sneaky and deceptive and will hit people hard and shockingly; and in this economic/electoral environment, Bush can't be having his tax-cut-loving, middle-class, suburban families feel misled and somehow bamboozled without paying, I think, a high price.

I can't say that I'm all that disappointed because I want to see Bush go down to defeat in November; and I really can't see how we can end the out-of-control deficit-spending without rolling back some major parts of his tax cut program; but, man, this was a stupid move on Bush's part. If I were a democrat who can't be tarred with supporting this last tax plan, I'd make this a central issue of my campaign, and I'd start hammering this point home right now.

This is the real scandal of the election year, and the most potent weapon against Bush that the democrats can mount. I hope it doesn't escape notice.

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