During my senior year of high school, my parents, incredibly, allowed me to purchase one of Detroit’s most ballyhooed musclecars – a Pontiac GTO.
The vehicle sported a 370-horsepower, 400-cubic inch V-8 with posi-traction and rear tires the size of Montana.
One snowy night, I skidded and struck a guardrail, virtually obliterating the rear quarterpanel. A subsequent trip to the body shop yielded an estimate of $275. A tad expensive, I thought, but the owner explained what was entailed in repairing the damage.
Today, as a husband and father, my hot rod is now a mid-sized SUV.
Fast forward to the day after Christmas 2007. While on my way to purchase a set of new tires, my front end and an off-course wild turkey met head on at 50 miles per hour, sending feathers flying and pieces of my bumper scattered over the road. The result was a damaged grill, a dented air conditioning compressor, a cracked bumper and a bruised hood.
This time the body shop handed me a multi-page computer print-out with a price tag of $2,500.
Even indexing for inflation, the total seemed almost unfathomable.
The owner, a character straight out of central casting named Vinny, explained that the composite materials used by auto manufacturers today aren’t as strong and heavy as the steel used in past generations, and therefore are more injury prone and cost more to repair.
In his best “New Yawk” inflection, Vinny shrugged and uttered the resignation, “Dey don’t make ‘em liked dey uzed to.”
On the eve of the Iowa caucuses I was reminded of Vinny’s timeless mantra.
Not for any one thing in particular, it’s just the campaign platforms of the ’08 presidential contenders are a lot like my SUV bumper — easily cracked and ultimately, expensive.
Take health care or for example, or, even better — taxes.
On the Democratic side, former trial lawyer and North Carolina Senator John Edwards proposed bypassing tax preparers in favor of having the Internal Revenue Service calculate the tax bills for roughly 50 million Americans and subsequently, mailing said taxpayers the results on a Form 1.
Essentially, Edwards’ plan would supplant tax preparers with an abundance of government bureaucrats. Got it?
Barack Obama’s plan proposes a tax cut of between $80 billion and $85 billion, coupled with increases in the capital gains tax.
Obama's tax plan also includes a "Making Work Pay" tax credit of up to $500 per person and $1,000 per family for 150 million workers and their families. The tax credit would completely eliminate income taxes for 10 million workers.
With regard to Hillary Clinton, her tax position basically entails calling the AMT “terrible.”
Across the aisle, Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee have recommended flat taxes and a FairTax, respectively.
Under Thompson’s plan, the simplified flat tax would in essence provide two tax rates: 10 percent for joint filers with incomes of up to $100,000 — $50,000 for singles — and 25 percent for incomes above that amount.
From there, the standard deduction would double to $25,000 for joint filers and $12,500 for singles. Meanwhile, capital gains and dividends would be taxed at a 15 percent rate. There would be no other tax credits or deductions.
Huckabee, meanwhile, would dearly love to shutter the IRS and implement a 23 percent FairTax. Problem is that some experts have calculated that the percentage is a bit closer to 30 percent, and would more than likely encourage folks to do a lot of business off the books.
I realize that taxes are just one issue in a platform — albeit an important one — but if this is any barometer, I remain suitably unimpressed with any and all contenders for the Oval Office.
Even Vinny would have trouble repairing this crop.
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