Could you be a little more specific, Mr. President? There’s been so much talk about tax and social security reform of late but so few details.
Many spokespeople and some in the general public seem ready to embrace the notion of privatizing a portion of their FICA taxes without any real understanding of what this would mean – the big picture you might say.
For example, what would an earner with wages of, say, $30,000 or $45,000 be able to set aside? Who would manage his/her private account? What freedom would a wage earner have to choose specific investments and what fees would be engendered in the management of these private investment accounts? And of great importance in terms of the national economy, what level of borrowing would be required to offset the loss of current social security taxes in order to continue payments to those already retired or due to retire in the near future?
It seems sometimes, that initiatives that sound good at first have in practice very little substance for most people. For example it might seem that it would encourage savings and individual responsibility to allow people to set aside up to $5000 tax free annually in medical savings accounts. The trouble is that the only people who would be able to take advantage of such plans are those who don’t have to worry much about their medical needs in the first place. The folks I know who earn in the middle ranges have precious little to set aside and what little they could afford would be eaten up in a flash if any serious illness occurred. How far would savings over a few years of, perhaps, as much as $3000 go in the event of large medical expenses? On the other hand, wealthier families, who were able to put together a medical nest egg of $10 to $25,000, might in fact make a dent in their expenses should the need arise.
When it comes to reforms of our medical, retirement and tax codes we need to be asking a lot of questions. It’s easy to suggest that a flat tax would simplify our tax system. Of course it would. And it’s easy to say it would be fairer to have a national sales tax and be done with all the nonsense of deductions, loopholes etc. even if it would be more regressive and provide an even bigger tax break for the wealthiest among us.
And maybe it sounds like a good idea to some to turn direct payment of Medicaid expenses into block grants to states so that when the money’s gone, it’s gone regardless of actual cost or need. These proposals, however, lead to the unavoidable conclusion that those bearing the burden of what are certain to be cuts in budgeting for such programs will be the poor and needy. If some of our religious leaders who spend so much time bemoaning the gay lifestyle and trying to overturn Roe v.Wade would take other portions of their bibles as seriously they would find biblical concerns more often directed at the less advantaged among us as in Proverb 17:5: “Who mocketh the poor reproacheth their creator.”
In the case of a flatter, simpler tax which deductions would most of us be willing to forgo – – mortgage interest payments, local and state taxes, charitable giving? And in terms of trickle down, which local and federal services would we be willing to curtail in the absence of sufficient taxes to pay for them – – snow removal, road repair, park services, police and fire departments or what charitable organizations would we begin to exclude from our tax-deductible largesse?
This administration seems to diverge from reality on a lot of these issues or at least from the reality most American people confront.
And in the case of Vice President Cheney’s reality, he’s way out there. When questioned recently about the possibility of military action in Iran he said “We don’t want a war in the Middle East if we can possibly avoid it.” This is our best and our brightest? Really? Do you think someone should tell him what’s been going on over there?

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