This Administration’s most unshakable commitment has been to shifting the burden of taxation away from the sort of income that rewards wealth and onto the sort that rewards work. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, another Washington research group, estimates that the average federal tax rate on income generated from corporate dividends and capital gains is now about ten per cent. On wages and salaries it’s about twenty-three per cent. The President promises, in a second term, to expand tax-free savings accounts, cut taxes further on dividends and capital gains, and permanently abolish the estate tax—all of which will widen the widening gap between the richest and the rest.
Bush signalled his approach toward the environment a few weeks into his term, when he reneged on a campaign pledge to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions, the primary cause of global warming. His record since then has been dictated, sometimes literally, by the industries affected. In 2002, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed rescinding a key provision of the Clean Air Act known as “new source review,” which requires power-plant operators to install modern pollution controls when upgrading older facilities. The change, it turned out, had been recommended by some of the nation’s largest polluters, in e-mails to the Energy Task Force, which was chaired by Vice-President Cheney. More recently, the Administration proposed new rules that would significantly weaken controls on mercury emissions from power plants. The E.P.A.’s regulation drafters had copied, in some instances verbatim, memos sent to it by a law firm representing the utility industry.
“I guess you’d say I’m a good steward of the land,” Bush mused dreamily during debate No. 2. Or maybe you’d say nothing of the kind. The President has so far been unable to persuade the Senate to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but vast stretches of accessible wilderness have been opened up to development. By stripping away restrictions on the use of federal lands, often through little-advertised rule changes, the Administration has potentially opened up sixty million acres, an area larger than Indiana and Iowa combined, to logging, mining, and oil exploration.