Julia Roberts can have my tax refund
                              by Gene Collier

                           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

                           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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