I take time each day to read newspaper columnists, more so today than in decades past. Agree or disagree, I honor each for taking the time to voice his or her opinions and for suffering the slings, arrows and other adverse reactions. I certainly have the scars.
Occasionally an opinion column tells my gut something is wrong. Last week's commentary by J. Karl Miller did just that. His position concerning the federal budget and deficit, coming from his conservative views and his personal experiences as a Marine liaison to Congress, did not sound right.
Karl, along with others on the same battle picket line, believes simply cutting spending and lowering taxes will fix a multi-trillion dollar deficit and hundreds of billions in outstanding federal debt. That appeared to be Karl's theme. That is my opinion.
Yet there is much more to the discussion.
Writing about the Franklin D. Roosevelt era economic policies for Kellysite.net, Conrad Black said, "The country was entitled to something more bracing than (President Herbert) Hoover's defeatist, self-exculpatory gloom." The same gloom is being perpetrated on the American people today through an "it's not my fault" fear of an economic breakdown and loathing for government. We are at fault.
The late New York governor Al Smith was right; one must look at the record — not selectively, but at the entire record — to see patterns, losses and successes, and determine the causes for each. Franklin Roosevelt's tax increases, for example, helped reshape the American economy for the positive. Yes, the war effort helped, but that alone would not count for a reduction in unemployment from 33 percent in 1932 to less than 10 percent in 1940. The recovery was a direct result of Roosevelt's work and social programs, the safety netting that helped the American people to recover from the 1929 conservative, laissez-faire-induced financial crash, paid for by increased taxes.
Sunday's "Meet the Press" raised an interesting fact: The vast majority of Americans want Congress to "fix it" but not raise taxes or touch Medicare and Medicaid. Americans have the erroneous belief that not paying taxes is somehow patriotic.
To quote Roosevelt, "Taxes, after all, are dues that we pay for the privileges of membership in an organized society." We need to pay our dues; it is the patriotic thing to do. And if you think the taxes in the U.S. are high, consider this: Belgium's tax rate is 50 percent of income and Denmark's highest rate is 51.5 percent. Their people are also some of the most politically and socially content. The U.S. effective tax rate is for the average earner ($40,600) about 12.9 percent, with the marginal rate, which is based on the next dollar earned, is 15%, one of the lowest on the planet.
Conservatives and anti-tax anarchists ignore the real history that "No new taxes" is a promise that has not and cannot be kept, and not just by George H.W. Bush.
Ronald Reagan raised the taxes every year from 1984-87 because "trickle down economics" was not doing the job and the economy was not improving. The result: Business boomed. Clinton dealt with a massive deficit when he took office with spending cuts and tax increases. The result: Business boomed. Somehow the anti-tax movements forget the facts.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) told "Meet the Press" host David Gregory that removing tax credits was not raising taxes. Yet that is exactly what it does. Tax credits allow a company not to pay certain taxes by agreeing to certain business practices. A prime local example is the tax credits given to IBM for moving to Columbia, a good business move but a loss of revenue that might or might not be offset by increased income and personal property taxes. The removal of these credits is a business tax increase.
Doom, gloom and fear-mongering are not the answers. Promises that cannot be kept are not the answers. The answer is that we all must pull our own share, for it is our collective fault we are in the mess we are in today. Let's go back to pre-2001 tax rates and get rid of unnecessary tax credits. Scrutinize spending for duplication and squander. Demand the tax codes be simplified to promote federal economic stability. Demand that safety net programs remain, especially in this prolonged recovery. Let's watch America grow once again.
David Rosman is an award winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics. You can read more of David's commentaries at InkandVoice.com and New York Journal of Books.com.