Prosperity dividend?

Bush the Second is looking for a good reason to do a bad thing. The thing he wants to do is to give a fat tax cut to America's wealthiest families, including his own — an elite class of people who have grown enormously wealthier in the Wall Street boom of the ’90s and who have the least need for a giveaway from Uncle Sam. But these are the people who put Little George in the president's chair and, by golly, they're the people he's going to serve, including doling out about a trillion dollars to them in this tax windfall.

The excuse he's using is that the economy is in the doldrums and needs a stimulus. Yet, enriching the rich is a notoriously ineffective way of goosing up consumer spending, plus a tax cut wouldn't take effect until next year — too late to help this year's economic downturn.

This is why I like the better idea being put forth by a couple of common-sense economists, Richard Freeman of Harvard and Eileen Appelbaum of the Economic Policy Institute. Noting that we all worked to create both the economic boom of the ’90s and the federal surplus that Bush now wants to tap for his friends, they're calling instead for a "prosperity dividend" that would pay $500 to every man, woman and child. Bush's CEO buddies would get their 500 bucks, but so would you, your spouse and your children, and the dividend would mean the most to those who need it the most.

For a typical family of four, this dividend would be $2,000 — enough to make a real difference for the workaday majority that has not seen their incomes go up in the ’90s, despite working harder and longer. These folks are likely to spend it all on needed goods (or to pay down credit-card debt), not only improving their situation, but also giving the economy the quick stimulus it needs.

This is Jim Hightower saying ... The "Prosperity Dividend" is fair, it's simple, and it would work — which is why Washington won't like it. To learn more about it call the Economic Policy Institute: 202-775-8810. Jim Hightower writes ammunition for agitation. E-mail

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