Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

Issue: "Highway 65 hopefuls," April 20, 2002

Bill Gates isn't the typical top 5 percenter. The group includes many who are traditionally considered middle class, with the boom in two-income households placing more families in the top tax bracket. Also, the category includes millions of small businesses and partnerships who pay graduated personal-income tax scales instead of the flat corporate rates.

For 1999 (the most recent year with complete IRS statistics), 6.3 million taxpayers whose incomes were in the top 5 percent paid more than 55 percent of all income taxes. They had adjusted gross incomes above $120,846 a year, meaning spouses could earn a bit over $60,000 each and be considered "rich" by the federal government.

Taxpayers in the bottom half paid only 4 percent of income taxes in 1999, according to the IRS. These 63 million taxpayers earned, on average, less than $26,415 a year.

The Bush tax cut won't necessarily change matters for top income earners, because these households have incomes too high to benefit from its major provisions. The child tax credit, for example, is currently $600 and gradually will rise to $1,000. The IRS reports it is a major factor in taxpayer refunds. Yet this year the credit starts phasing out for married couples filing jointly who earn more than $110,000 a year.

Oprah's final chapter?

Winfrey: Good books are harder to find

Is Oprah Winfrey closing the book on her book club? The TV host told her audience she's cutting back on selections, saying high-quality picks are becoming harder to find.

Many fiction authors consider Oprah's book club the literary equivalent of a lottery: a financial windfall almost impossible to win. But now, she says, "It has become harder and harder to find books on a monthly basis that I feel absolutely compelled to share."

Critics claimed the book club chose sentimentalism over quality. A minor backlash against the Oprah phenomenon came when author Jonathan Franzen, whose novel The Corrections won her seal of approval, criticized some of the book picks as "schmaltzy" and "one-dimensional."

The last Oprah pick (at least for now) went to an author who doesn't really need the publicity: Toni Morrison. The host and the author have been close for years. Ms. Winfrey produced and starred in the disastrous 1998 movie adaptation of Ms. Morrison's Beloved.

Lethal requirement

N.Y. makes abortion training mandatory

Many up-and-coming New York City doctors face mandatory abortion training starting this summer. A program backed by Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg requires that obstetrics and gynecology residents learn procedures to kill unborn children unless they opt out for moral or religious reasons.

The plan was cooked up by the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League and takes effect in July. Currently, such training is elective, as it is in most residency programs nationwide, according to Dr. Van Dunn, senior vice president of New York's Health and Hospitals Corp. "In the past, the residents would have to choose to do it," he said. "This way they know that it's part of their rotation, so they would then have to say they don't want to do it."

Lori Hougens of the New York State Right-to-Life Committee objected to the concept of abortion as part of basic health care: "They're trying to steer the consciences of residents and make [abortion] just a normal thing for them to do."

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