Behold a foot soldier in the "second American revolution" proclaimed by President Reagan. He drives a BMW, belongs to a country club, travels abroad, invests in securities, gargles with Chivas Regal and knows that under Reagan's proposed tax plan, life will get even better. As they say wherever nouvelle cuisine is served, "Vive la revolution."
The Reagan Revolution in fact has been terribly kind to the rich already. When the president first came into office the top tax rate was 70 percent. It is now 50 percent, and under the new Reagan proposal it will be 35. What's truly revolutionary about this revolution is how much it continues to benefit the rich.
But that's where the revolution stops. The rest of us will continue to pay pretty much what we have paid in the past. The very poor will pay 35 percent less -- but that's a percentage. The dollar amount is far less impressive. The same holds for the middle class. Here the dollar amount of taxes is greater but the proposed percentage reduction is lower -- 6.6 to 4.1 percent. That's something and that's nice, but it's not big bucks, and it's certainly not going to make the difference in anyone's standard of living. Not so the rich. For those making $200,000 a year and over, taxes will be reduced 10.7 percent. If you add to that the proposed reduction in the capital gains tax, you can see that for some people this revolution is (almost) worth dying for -- or, better yet, hiring someone to do it for you. Not since the Geneva arms reduction talks opened with baritone benedictions of network anchormen has so much been made of so little. This is not to say that the Reagan plan is without merit. If it only restores confidence -- and participation -- in the tax system, it will have done something worthwhile. If you add to that the bonus of shifting some of the tax burden from individuals to corporations -- and throw in the elimination of many tax abuses -- it's hard to say that the plan is a farce.
But the tax plan is being packaged as something big and grand. Commentators suggest it could be just the thing to make the GOP the majority party for all time. If that's the case, this plan could be the ultimate triumph of packaging over substance.
For most of us, this revolution will change things just a bit. It will not make the poor richer or the rich poorer. It will not tax inherited wealth heavily. The middle class will not be substantially better off.
The Reagan plan will not provide any more revenues for a government in need of more money. There is no source of funds here for any of the innumerable programs that have been starved under Ronald Reagan, including deficit reduction. If anything, the plan will simply continue what may be called the real Reagan Revolution -- the diminution of government at all levels and the confusion of wealth with virtue.
At most, the Reagan plan is a housecleaning of the tax code even less daring than the one the Treasury proposed. For all the hoopla, it changes the lives of almost no one. In fact, the real revolution amounts to the almost total acceptance of Reagan's thinking -- Democrats joining Republicans in cheering a plan that wraps the status quo in the red flag of revolution. The first American revolution shook the world. This one wouldn't make you miss a putt.