The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, February 16, 2001


By The Building Tradesman

Union-only agreements at risk

A huge push by the nation's unions nearly helped to put Al Gore into the White House in the Nov. 7 election. He didn't win, and now its time for unions to face the music with the guy who is sitting in the Oval Office.

Under the headline, "Unions allege Bush payback for their strong support of Al Gore," the Wall Street Journal reported last week the White House is circulating drafts of executive orders on major labor issues.

At the top of the list is a proposal to rescind a 1998 order by President Clinton that would allow local governments that use federal tax dollars on construction projects to enter into union-only contracts. Nonunion contractors have criticized the Clinton order, saying it keeps them from bidding on billions of dollars in construction work.

"Reversing this is our No. 1 priority," said Scott Brown of the anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors, a major Bush backer.

Said AFL-CIO General Counsel Jon Hiatt, "this is retaliation for unions…being such a dominant force in the last election."

Tax break 'goodies' go to the wealthy

"In reality," said Wall Street Journal columnist Albert Hunt, "middle-class Americans are the 'Trojan Horse' that will deliver the real goodies to the rich."

That was how Hunt, many Democrats and nonpartisans viewed President Bush's plan to cut taxes for Americans by $1.6 trillion over the next 10 years.

Under Bush's plan, the top 1 percent of income earners - people who make $750,000 or more before taxes every year - would get more of a tax break than the bottom 80 percent of all taxpayers combined. "Conversely," Hunt said, "people living at or slightly above the poverty level get nothing."

According to the Center on Budget Priorities, a non-partisan think-tank, people in that top 1 percent would get 36-43 percent of all the benefits provided by the tax cut. Conversely, the lowest-earning 40 percent would get just a 4 percent tax break. In fact, a typical family of four would get no tax break at all until their income rises above $25,867, the center said.

"When you look at reality, the plan leaves out the working poor and does remarkably little for low-income families," said the center's executive director, Robert Greenstein.

In presenting the plan, Bush said a married couple earning $100,000 a year, both working, with two children, would see their taxes reduced by $3,418 per year. The same couple earning

$50,000 a year would see a tax reduction of $1,975.

Meanwhile, Democrats pointed out, wage earners who earn $300,000 a year would get a $45,000 tax break under Bush's plan.

The "average" American family, Bush said, would see a tax reduction of $1,600. Hunt likened that figure to the following baseball trivia question: which brothers hold the Major League record for most career home runs? The answer: Hank Aaron, who hit 755, and his brother Tommy, who hit 13.

"The wealthy are the Henry Aarons of the Bush tax plan, while working class players are the Tommys," Hunt said. "But the president packages the cuts as equally generous to all. Mr. Bush will continue to insist that under his plan the 'average' American family gets a $1,600 tax cut, ignoring the fact that more than 80 percent get less than that. But then, some insist that the Aarons hit an average of 384 home runs."