A central part of the discussion of the "fiscal cliff" in Washington was whether to raise income taxes for the wealthiest Americans. The president campaigned on the idea that taxes should go up for families making more than $250,000, but Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) called raising that threshold "my singular priority."
"For four years I've been making the case to everyone in Washington that $250,000 may make you rich in some areas," Israel said, "but it doesn't make you rich on Long Island."
So I guess we can breathe a sigh of relief that the fiscal cliff deal says higher taxes won't hit until you make more than $400,000 as an individual or $450,000 as a couple.
I realize that $250,000 doesn't go as far on Long Island as, say, in Alabama or Kansas, but I'd still love to test the premise.
Since the income for my family of four is nowhere close to $250,000 -- and far south of $450,000 -- how would I know whether we could scrape by or not?
I propose a pilot program. For one year, the federal government would send checks to raise our income. The program would be voluntary; no one would be forced to accept the extra cash. You could opt for the $250,000 or even above $450,000, but if you go for more, you must pay the higher tax rate.
Because it's my idea, I'd be the first to volunteer -- you know, for the greater good of the republic.
I realize there would be pressure. For years we've been happy with the occasional pie from Sayville Pizza or Chinese takeout from Sweet Mandarin on Montauk Highway. Now, we would need to decide which fancy restaurant to eat at a couple of times a week. We'd order filet mignon at 21 Main in West Sayville or dine with the Spielbergs and McCartneys at Nick & Toni's in East Hampton.
We'd shop for bling on the Miracle Mile in Manhasset. And instead of merely practical cars, we could style around in a fancy Lexus or Infiniti, or maybe that vintage Chevelle SS I've always dreamed of.
Of course, there'd be the pressure of paying those higher taxes, but we would compensate. Maybe we would put less money in the collection basket at church or cut down on charitable donations. After all, making ends meet with that higher tax rate could be daunting.
After a year of this worry, we would go back to our former tax bracket. As part of the plan, we would complete a questionnaire about our experiences to help future high-income earners cope. By then, we'd be happy to have been of service to the good old USA.
We might, of course, then have to sell the Lexus. It's OK, I really prefer my Buick and Nissan.
Also, it would be back to local pizza and Chinese food, and taking the discount card to our beloved Cupsogue.