COLUMBIA — With the 2001 and 2003 tax legislation passed under former President George W. Bush set to expire next year, the four 9th District Congressional candidates have been examining the nation's current tax system, ways in which it can be improved and how their suggestions would benefit the American people.
The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 and the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, also known as the first Bush tax cuts, were pieces of legislation passed under the Bush administration, which lowered tax rates — especially for the wealthiest taxpayers — and made changes to retirement and qualified plan rules more simple.
Both acts will expire after 2010, and the decision will need to be made on whether they should be extended.
Christopher Dwyer, Libertarian
While it would be impossible to find a perfect tax system, the problem with our current one is that it is a progressive system, said Libertarian candidate Christopher Dwyer.
“It punishes success,” he said. “The more successful you are the more taxes you pay.”
Dwyer said the current tax system is just a way to control people because it allows elected officials to play favorites by giving tax incentives.
He said he believes the FairTax bill would provide a solution to this problem and promote greater tax equality.
The FairTax bill, which would repeal the 16th Amendment, would replace federal income taxes with a federal sales tax. The sales tax would be collected once, "at the final point of purchase of new goods and services for personal consumption," according to the FairTax website.
It also provides a monthly reimbursement check, which allows an exemption from federal taxes for Americans below the poverty level, according to the website.
“It allows you to provide for yourself and your family before you begin to provide for the government,” Dwyer said. “It puts everyone on an even playing field.”
For Americans who do business overseas, the FairTax bill would make the goods more competitive because there would not be an embedded tax in the product, Dwyer said.
He said another benefit is that Americans can buy used items without being taxed, because the FairTax bill only puts a sales tax on new goods and services.
“I think that the FairTax, while not the perfect tax system, is better than what we have,” Dwyer said. “It treats everyone fair.”
Jeff Reed, write-in Democrat
Jeff Reed, a Democrat, said he is not a supporter of the Bush tax cuts because he thinks that "too much burden has been passed on to the middle and working class."
The number of people living at the poverty level has increased significantly over the past 10 years, he said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 14.3 percent of people were living below the poverty level in 2009, up from 11.3 percent in 2000.
Over the long term, tax cuts for the wealthy are not sustainable, Reed said.
Reed said the budget for the Department of Defense could be cut in half, and America should remove troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and "protect us here at home."
Citing the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that occurred earlier this year, Reed said America could possibly face a similar crisis because the Environmental Protection Agency's budget is stripped so thin.
"We are spending more on top-tier tax cuts than the EPA and the Department of Veteran Affairs combined," he said.
Reed said he does not believe in a tax increase for the middle class, but is in favor of taxing the top 2 percent of wealthiest people in America.
While he does not support the Bush tax cuts, Reed said any extension of the cuts should benefit the lower and middle classes rather than the wealthy. He said this would better stimulate the economy in the long term.
Reed said it would be very beneficial "if we could put together some sort of plan to get the middle class up on their feet."
"I feel like we are being obliterated out here," he said.
Blaine Luetkemeyer, Republican incumbent
Republican Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer supports the Bush tax cuts and said he believes that "all tax cuts should be extended."
He said that he sees two ways in which the American economy can create a balanced budget: First, the government needs to stop spending money that it does not have and, second, there should be additional tax cuts across the board, he said.
Continuing to cut taxes would best allow American consumers to spend money domestically and, in turn, the money will flow back into the nation's economy, Luetkemeyer said. Ultimately, he said, this would reduce debt and balance the economy.
Following a visit to JM Eagle Inc., a pipe manufacturing company in Columbia, Luetkemeyer said tax cuts would be beneficial to businesses. Like many other businesses, JM Eagle has been facing economic difficulty.
"We want the economy to get back on its feet," he said.
Ron Burrus, write-in Independent
Ron Burrus, an Independent, said he would like to see the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent expire and have them extended only to the lower and middle classes.
"We are bankrupt," Burrus said about the nation's economy.
He said the best solution would be a return to the tax system under the administration of former President Bill Clinton, without the tax increase for the middle and lower classes.
Burrus said, though, that taxes are necessary because, "strong defense, infrastructure — these things cost money." Without taxes, he pointed out, cuts are inevitable.
He cited the Bush administration's elimination of inspections by the Federal Department of Agriculture as a major cut, especially in light of peanut and lettuce recalls in 2010 stemming from E. coli infections.
The government's job is to tax and spend money on behalf of the people who are paying the taxes, Burrus said.
"I don't mind paying taxes to help a single mother get food stamps," he said.