Forty-Five Shares of Lockheed Martin

by Jan Baughman

April 16, 2001

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It's that time of year, when many Americans are spending Easter Sunday calculating their taxes. They should feel good, however, because it's out with the Clinton plan and in with compassionate conservatism. Vive Trickle Down Theory! Write out that check to the Treasury Department with confidence, knowing that next year, and for the next few years everything will get better. After all, the upcoming Bush tax cut will give the money back to those who earned it, thereby stimulating the economy. What that means in Bushspeak is that it is not only time, but also your personal responsibility, to go shopping. Saving money is of no value to you, nor the common good. According to our learned leader, "credit card debt alone totals over $600 billion, more than $2,000 for every man, woman, and child in the country. This high debt level will eventually restrict consumer spending. And if consumer spending slows, the economy will slow also. Tax relief would give these families the ability to pay down their debt." (And then spend more, which will stimulate the economy, keep the service providers and manufacturers gainfully employed...)

If you don't feel good about spending your money to stimulate the economy, you can feel good knowing that a bill to increase the $5.15 hourly minimum wage a whopping $1 over two years will be under debate one of these days, so the minimum wage earners can spend more. (As an aside, President Bush favors a minimum wage increase if states are allowed to opt out, meaning this will go nowhere toward insuring a living wage (minimum $8 per hour) for all.) Anyway, this doesn't affect most Americans, who categorize themselves among the wealthy, and therefore are more likely to fear the consequences of inheritance tax, not whether they make $5.15 or $6.15 per hour. Yet, according to Responsible Wealth "...the typical worker still earns less, adjusted for inflation, than in 1973, and over one quarter of American jobs pay less than a living wage of $8 an hour. Below that wage, a 40-hour workweek leaves a family of four under the federal poverty line, unable to make ends meet."

"No action on a minimum wage proposal is scheduled in the House at this time," said John Feehery, spokesman for Speaker Dennis Hastert. "Our plans are to let the Senate go first. It hasn't really hit our radar screen yet," Feehery said (April 2, CNN) (One can only wonder what it will ever take to get substandard wages, lack of affordable health care, etc. on the radar screen...) In the midst of all this, it will soon be more difficult for people to declare bankruptcy. The Administration is working to reform the bankruptcy laws, making it harder for individuals to get government protection while avoiding their debts. The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2001 "has been hailed by many consumer groups as necessary step in protecting the American family. Households pay more than $500 a year in increased prices for many goods because of unpaid debt from a few reckless spenders, which is passed onto responsible consumers," according to Congressman Pete Sessions (R-Dallas) on 3/1/01. A few reckless spenders in a country with $600 billion in credit card debt are ruining it for the rest of us! Imagine five hundred dollars less spent per household, plus $1600 in tax refunds -- this is starting to amount to some serious spending money that can really help the economy!

Whether you make minimum wage or a mid-level income, rest assured that the Bush tax proposal will breath new life into your personal economic stagnation. According to The White House, "When President Bush's proposal is fully in place, the typical family with two children will receive at least $1,600 in tax relief. This is real and practical help:

Sixteen hundred dollars will pay the average mortgage for almost two months;

Sixteen hundred dollars will pay for a year's tuition at a community college;

Sixteen hundred dollars will pay the gasoline cost for two cars for a year;


Sixteen hundred dollars will buy an average family 24 months worth of electric power."

All of this, of course, depends on where you live.

Certainly, $1600 is a lot of money to a lot of people. Options for your $1600 besides shopping and paying almost two months of mortgage include buying 26 shares of Microsoft if you are still a technology bull, or 45 shares of Lockheed Martin if you like the fact that we're headed back to Reaganesque defense spending. You can deposit it in a standard savings account and earn $36 of interest in one year, or charge $1600 on your credit card and pay an additional $272 for your purchases (thereby stimulating the economy even more!).

Another piece of the Bush tax plan that has universal appeal is the elimination of the inheritance tax, against which the majority of us have a visceral reaction because opponents call it the 'death tax'. We don't want the government taking, upon our death, what we've worked our lives to accumulate and what our children rightly deserve. It doesn't matter, or doesn't seem to register that, as reported by The New York Times (April 8, 2001), only the richest 2% of all Americans are subject to the 'death tax'. "That amounted to 49,870 Americans in 1999. And nearly half the estate tax is paid by the 3,000 or so people who each year leave taxable estates of more than $5 million." And we all believe, or want to believe, that we fall into the 2% victim category and are indignant about this invasion of economic privacy. Propaganda at its finest, delusion at its worst.

In summary, minimum wage is moving backwards and we can't even find an extra dollar for it (though Bush will find $13.6 billion to bring the total defense budget to $310 billion); we are duped into believing that elimination of inheritance tax benefits all of us, not only the wealthy; individuals are enticed into a big spending, pro-debt system yet are loosing bankruptcy protection; and according to TomPaine.com, "Thousands of affluent individuals and corporations avoid paying their fair share of taxes each year, shifting their burden to the rest of us - some $195 billion annually, or $1600 per taxpayer."

So with the $1600 Bush wants to give back to us, we are really facing a net gain of zero at best! But if you're feeling discouraged, just be glad you aren't George W., or Dick Cheney. Their tax bills were $240,342 and $14,295,058, respectively, based on incomes of $744,682 and $36,86,635, respectively! And with faces straight as arrows, they tell you how committed they are to you, and how much happiness that $1600 will bring to you and your country.

If you do end up with a little extra cash, those Lockheed Martin shares are probably the best investment in your otherwise uncertain future. If you've read Gilles d'Aymery's Introduction to Dr. Ajdacic Three Essays, Happy Easter Weekend, So To Speak, you know that besides death and taxes, Americans can always count on our government to send our troops off to start a war somewhere, thereby stimulating our economy.



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Published April 16, 2001
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