September 1996 Home   Newsletters

October 1996

November-December 1996

President's Message (Astrid Monson)
Exit Polling
Annual Program Planning Meeting
Domestic Violence Forum
Position Paper on Con Con '98
Press Release
Debates '96

President's Message

As voters we should all have a healthy respect for accuracy and honest interpretations of statistical data. We are all used to "spin" as speech writers try to put the best possible face on things to suit their purposes. But some of the statements being made in this election period are so misleading as to make one wonder if they are just campaign rhetoric or deliberate untruths.

Here are a couple of examples. We are constantly told that a 15% across-the-board Federal income tax cut will save the "typical family" $1,600 a year. this would equate to a total present tax of $10,700. This $10,700 tax applies to a family of 4 earning a gross income of $73,600 who takes the standard deduction and exemptions. Its income would be higher to the extent the deduction exceeded $6,700.

This is hardly a typical family. 1993 Census figures show about a third of U.S. families having incomes below $25,000 and another third between $25,000 and $50,000. Only one-sixth had incomes of $75,000 or more.

The median family income was $36,959 – half the families in the country have more and half, less. The tax payable by a 4-person family with that income, again with standard deductions and exemptions, would be $3,009. A 15 % tax cut would amount to $450.

For a $20,000 low-income family the tax would be $465 and the tax cut $70. A 15% tax cut, on the other hand, would save a $300,000 income family $13,066 – 29 times as much as the median family.

The National League position is that taxes should be progressive – that they should bear most heavily on those best able to pay. The proposed 15 % cut, on the contrary, would permit those needing them the least to enjoy the biggest tax cuts, rather than those needing them the most – a classic case of regressivity.

The constantly heard allegations about the present welfare system is another example that may need clarification. It is alleged that the present welfare system is a dismal failure, fosters illegitimacy, kills family responsibility, permits widespread cheating by "welfare queens" and others and constitutes a heavy burden on the national budget.

A study of 1994 Census Data recently released by the respected private Population Reference Bureau, showed that 40% of the nation's 38,000,000 poor people were children below working age; 10% are older than 65; a third manage to lift themselves out of poverty in less than a year; a third live in two-parent families; fewer than half receive cash benefits from public funds; more than half the income the poor receive comes from wages or job-related pensions.

The main Federal cash assistance program, Aid to Families with dependent Children (AFDC) was formed to pay monthly benefits as low as $250 a month (hardly adequate for a welfare queen). Total AFDC costs were found to represent about 2% of the Federal budget. (Other studies have estimated that the entire welfare program costs about 1% of the Gross National Product).

Just what, without welfare aid, would have become of the tens of millions or ordinary, responsible, low-income people who during the last sixty years, through no fault of their own, lost their jobs, became sick, had to retire without pensions, lost their husband or wife, became homeless, ran out of money to pay the rent or the doctor or the grocery bill, and so on? What would have become of the 15,000,000 children living in poor families at any given moment – perhaps 100,000,000 over the past sixty years? Were they immoral, irresponsible, bent on cheating the government?

Yes, there are "welfare queens" and others who have adopted a life style permanently dependent on public aid. Everyone agrees that this is undesirable and should be stopped, for the benefit of both the family and the public budget. But how many of them are there, and how much do they get away with compared, for example, to the $259 billion it cost the taxpayers in principal and interest to bail out the Savings and Loan fiasco as a result of mismanagement and outright thievery? Or the "corporate welfare" enjoyed by business?

These are just two of many possible examples of the difference between campaign rhetoric and the facts. We voters should learn to distinguish between the two.

Astrid Monson

September 1996 Home   Newsletters November-December 1996