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Letter from the Editor

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At the GOP presidential candidates' debate in Iowa last week, all the candidates were asked to "raise their hand if they would oppose a debt deal that offered $10 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases."

All the candidates' hands shot up in unison. "No New Taxes" is the new "America, Love It or Leave It" — a feel-good slogan that marginalizes dissent and the kind of rational thinking needed to solve complex problems. This bunch of theoretical presidents pledged that even if Congress were to pass spending cuts of $1 trillion, they wouldn't sign the bill if it included raising 10 percent of that amount in revenue from, say, closing tax loopholes on off-shore-based corporations and minimally raising the tax on capital gains (currently taxed at 15 percent).

This is pandering, a case of bumper-sticker ideology trumping logic. Taxes are the dues we citizens pay for our roads, bridges, schools, clean water and air, Social Security, disaster relief, armed services, police and fire departments, border patrol, postal services, food inspection, airline safety, and much more.

Taxes pay for a civilized society. Is the federal government bloated? Yes. Is the tax code inequitable? No question. But by addressing only one side of that equation, the GOP field is making it obvious that they're not serious about fixing the country's problems.

The most emailed article in the U.S. on Monday was a New York Times op-ed by billionaire Warren Buffett in which he wrote that the super-rich were not sharing the sacrifice demanded of the rest of us.

Contrast that point of view with that of the newest GOP-er to throw his hat in the ring, Governor Rick Perry of Texas, who said this week that 45 percent of the country pays no taxes. That's patently untrue. Those who make less than the federal minimum taxable income still pay sales taxes, gasoline taxes, and payroll taxes — taxes that affect us all, regardless of income. And as Buffett pointed out, the poor and working classes are supplying the troops for the endless wars in the Middle East.

The Bush tax cuts of 2003 were supposed stimulate job growth by freeing all those rich "job creators" to bring us to fuller employment. We now see how well that worked. Political candidates need to get serious about addressing our unemployment issue, not playing rhetorical games.

Bruce VanWyngarden
brucev@memphisflyer.com

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