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Julia Roberts can have my tax refund

Sunday, March 04, 2001

While I surely appreciate George W. Bush going to Congress to ask for a refund on my taxes, I wonder if it'd be too much trouble for him to take any money he gets and just pass it along to Julia Roberts.

The lovely and talented Ms. Roberts earned $50 million last year by reasonable estimates, and now that her deft if cleavage-cluttered performance in "Erin Brockovich" has vaulted that film into position to win the Oscar for best picture, the likelihood that she'll sustain that kind of income has only been enhanced.

But while it's impossible to doubt George's sincerity when he says he wants a tax refund for me, I suspect he wants one for Julia just as much, if not more. Though I didn't hear it and I couldn't find her name in the text of George's televised address on the matter the other night, there's got to be a reason for this. Got to be. After all, what do I know about Julia's circumstances? Even $50 mil doesn't buy what it used to. Perhaps she's making do with nine, even eight cars nowadays. Maybe she doesn't know where her next Rolex is coming from.

Whatever the issue, George has the answer. He'll cut her taxes.

Let's just say for the sake of this discussion that Julia wrote a check to the Internal Revenue Service last year for $19,800,000, or 39.6 percent (the current top rate) of $50 million. We're talking round numbers, big, big round numbers that assume she didn't take even the standard deduction, but the argument holds. George would like to see Julia taxed at no more than 33 percent so the tax on her next $50 million will be no more than $16,500,000. That's a "refund" of $3.3 million, or $9,041 per day.

If George Bush knows of a reason Julia Roberts should get an additional $9,041 per day, I want to contribute. I mean, she can have my refund, which I haven't bothered to calculate since I saw George next to that big check he likes to trot out, the one made out to "US Taxpayer" for $1,600. That's per year. I assume my refund would be something like that, but George, just hang on to it and send it on to Julia. If I get $1,600, I'll just spend $4,800 and I don't want the additional debt. I suspect that Julia can pay her entire Discover Card bill at once.

That score again: US Taxpayer $1,600 per year, Julia Roberts $9,041 per day.

Now this is not to pick on Ms. Roberts, who, for all I know, is prominent among the hundreds of insanely wealthy Americans who are trying to talk George out of the tax cut just on the grounds of propriety. They object to the unspoken part of his tax philosophy. He almost got to it the other night when he said its point is to "let the American people spend their own money to meet their own needs." The unspoken part is, "especially if they have no needs."

By the time George's plan makes it through Congress, still a huge assumption, economists from both sides of the political field and neutral financial experts as well will have argued it into a fine pablum, but for the moment, it looks historically similar to Ronald Reagan's 1981 brainstorm. Bought by Congress, it triggered more than decade of Death Valley Trickle Down Days. Huge federal deficits. Massive debt.

Even on the chance that I could be talked into George's kind of tax cut on economic principle, which is not all that unlikely considering that my financial aptitude doesn't go much beyond the concept of "buy one, get one free," the George plan is simply too brazen. The top 1 percent of taxpayers pay 21 percent of the taxes. They'd get 43 percent of the tax cut.

If George really wants this, he should be compelled to go on television with one of his big cardboard checks made out to Alex Rodriguez, the shortstop for the Texas Rangers, the baseball club that George used to own.

A-Rod, as they call him, just signed a contract that will average $25.2 million over the next 10 years. Now while you may look at that and see a young man who is guaranteed to make $69,041 per day, good day, bad day, every day, even Groundhog Day, for the next 10 years, George looks at that and says, "There's a guy who deserves a tax cut."

George should remember that he's been pushing this thing since he started walking around Iowa in 1999, talking about "taking down the toll gate on the road to the middle class." Folks looked the plan over, with its 5 percent reduction for the poorest Americans and 6.6 percent reduction for the richest.

Most of 'em voted for the other guy.



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