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September 16, 2011 at 3:00 PM

Advice for the deficit-reduction committee: taxes, entitlements

Posted by Letters editor

Haves have enough

With regard to cutting the deficit, my overriding concern is this: I want there to be fewer “have nots” who are there because the “haves” have sucked up too much, both in the U.S. and around the world.

This concept isn’t socialism, it’s just basic fairness. One percent of the population should not have 20 percent of the resources — not nationally and not globally. This inequity is a root cause of poverty and ultimately conflict, i.e. war.

So here are my priorities: Eliminate the Bush tax cuts, cut the military, have Social Security be needs based, and, most important, fully fund foreign aid — not the paltry less than 1 percent of the national budget that we spend now, but a robust amount that signals our commitment to ending hunger, disease and illiteracy. It’s smart and it’s fair.

— Marsha Hedrick, Seattle

Taxing wealthy not the answer

The administration is clearly using the deficit crisis as an excuse to move to extract more funds from the wealthy. And to benefit the poor? No. All the funds confiscated from the wealthy to fund President Obama’s “jobs” bill would go where? To the government or to their union cronies.

Isn’t it the “wealthy” who run the small business we keep hearing politicians talking about as the fuel for the engine of our economy? Isn’t it the wealthy who are the “angels” who fund the innovative startups who keep us at the leading edge of technological development? So why do we want to kill off the wealthy?

Meanwhile, there is all this talk about taking a “balanced approach” to balancing the budget — budget cuts and “revenue enhancements,” aka tax increases — as if these taxes are a needed part of getting our deficit problem under control.

When the budget gets cut to the point where reasonable tax increases could actually balance it, then I’ll support “revenue enhancement.” But ‘till then, why should I support Washington’s addiction to other peoples’ money?

— Mark Ursino, Sammamish

Increase rates on dividends, capital gains

Increase tax rates on dividends and capital gains and include dividends and capital gains above $100,000 in self-employed income.

Make dividends tax-deductible at the corporate level but include offshore income in taxable income, to include wholly owned subsidiaries.

— David J. Toner, Federal Way

The wealthy can afford it

Raise taxes, especially on the wealthy; which my wife and I are.

We feel that we should pay a more fair share.

— Martin Paup, Seattle

Cuts and taxes — and pay as you go

First: Cut spending across the board — all programs no exceptions — 1 percent or more.

Second: Let the Bush tax cuts expire for everyone making $250,000 or more a year.

Third: Pay as you go! No new programs without a way to pay for them.

Figure out how to pay for them before they are passed, including the new Obama jobs plan.

— JoAnn Wilson, Edmonds

End Bush tax cuts

Immediately remove the tax decrease for the rich which Bush invoked and earmark the saving for a specific debt reduction.

Immediately cut all public employees salaries and elected officials. This would be scaled. Higher paid, larger cuts.

Eliminate double dipping: receiving salary from one agency after retiring from an other and receiving a pension at the same time.

All public employees compensation and pension programs must be completely overhauled, by the private sector. There is to much motivation to go to work for a “nonproducer,” which the government is. Initially, make sure they have exactly the same pension plan, Social Security, the private sector does. Make them pay into our SS plan.

Two-term limits on all elected officials. They become tainted, more powerful, and corrupted.

— George M. White, Seattle

Simplify income taxes

First, we must treat all forms of income alike, regardless of their source or character. This includes: wages, benefits (including health insurance), commissions, interest, earnings, dividends, capital gains (long or short term), gambling winnings, insurance payouts, inheritances, and any other forms of value received.

Second, we must treat all citizens alike by having a uniform tax rate, while maintaining the progressive character of our tax system.

Third, we must increase the size of the individual exemption to a level that exceeds the value of all the deductions, deferrals, credits, and loopholes now considered essential, eliminating all the complexities of the code. Increasing the individual exemption to $20-30K accomplishes this. All income, beyond the exempt amount, and charitable donations, should be subject to a 30 percent tax rate.

An individual exemption of $25,000, plus $5,000 per dependent, and a uniform rate of 30 percent relieves a family of four or more of taxation until their income exceeds $60,000.

These recommendations achieve true tax simplicity with a uniform tax rate and a system that is progressive from the bottom up.

— Bob Geary, Newcastle

We can pitch in

To help reduce the deficit, I would like to see the line on IRS Form 1040 earmarked for the “Presidential Election Campaign” revised to apply direct to reduce the deficit. In addition, I would raise the amount to $5 — or better yet, make it variable with matching.

— Bruce A. Beckmann, Mukilteo

Half cuts, half taxes

I consider myself a fiscal conservative and usually vote Republican. In order to reduce the deficit, I believe there should be spending cuts and tax increases.

Tax increases should probably comprise at least 50 percent of the deficit reduction. All programs (including Social Security, Medicare, defense, etc.) should be analyzed for possible cuts.

Tax increases should fall mainly on upper-income taxpayers and large corporations. Any individual making more than $250,000/year should see their taxes go up.

Tax incentives (often referred to as loopholes) should not be available to large corporations (perhaps those with over 1,000 employees or over $1 billion in revenue). I believe raising taxes on upper-income taxpayers and large corporations will not have a significant impact on economic activity. I believe lower- and middle-income taxpayers have borne the brunt of the economic decline that started in 2008. It’s time for the wealthy (and that includes me) to make a larger sacrifice.

— Charlie Pratt, Redmond

Everybody pays the same

Change the income tax to a percentage: everybody the same percentage, no deductions. Make the percentage high enough to run the government and pay off the deficit.

— Robert Walton, Oak Harbor

The Willie Sutton plan

The deficit commission should follow the wisdom of Willie Sutton: Go where the money is.

The top 1 percent of Americans now own 40 percent of our country, and pay little or nothing in taxes. We won’t be able to solve a $13.5 trillion problem without a very substantial contribution from them.

Unfortunately, our overbribed Congress and administration have no appetite for any solution that might adversely impact the wealthy, so we will likely see the deficit commission continue the time-honored policy of beating up working people, the unemployed and our retired seniors. That will only make things worse.

— Steve Graham, Vashon

Burn the tax code

How to address the deficit? First, take the current tax code, all 16,000 pages, and burn it. Then let the politicians rewrite it in any way they wish, with only one rule: It can’t be longer than 25 pages.

Can you imagine if every interested citizen could actually read and understand what the tax code is? People would be empowered as never before and we could begin to have a real debate. Until then, we’ll all be shortchanged by the moneyed interests who thrive off hidden loopholes written specifically for them.

The only way to make taxes transparent and fair is to shorten the tax code. Twenty-five pages are plenty. This will get right to the roots of our debt problems, and to the dysfunction of our political system that is too often ruled by money and quid pro quos.

— Rick Kosterman, Seattle

Reverse the tax cuts

Over the past 30 years our middle class has been devastated. From Regan’s nonexistent trickledown theory to the current tea-party nonsense about lower taxes for job creators, we now have the income distribution of a Third World country.

The solution is obvious — raise taxes! We should reverse the Bush tax cuts entirely, eliminate the carried-interest provision and let hedge-fund managers pay regular income taxes, increase the capital-gains rate and move the top marginal income tax rate to 50 percent on those who earn more than $1 million per year.

Second, we should bring the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan immediately and reduce our military presence all over the globe. The last thing we should be doing is resorting to military action and putting our dedicated and brave troops at risk for no good reason. Enough is enough!

Third, we should not be trying to balance the budget on the backs of the infirm, elderly and disabled. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security should not be touched.

Last, we should significantly increase our support for education to insure that our citizens can compete on the world stage.

— Terry Mercier, Woodinville

Reduce mortgage-interest deduction

Reduce the itemized tax deductibility of mortgage interest by allowing deduction only for a primary residence and limit qualifying mortgage amount to no more than $500,000.

Make Social Security “means tested.” Eliminate Social Security payments to receipents who are still working and have an adjusted gross income of more than $100,000 (married filing jointly) and $75,000 (single/head of household) annually. Social Security eligibility should be determined on both current income and “retirement age” instead of just “retirement age” alone.

Immediate freeze of increases in all federal government entitlement programs.

— Thomas Piasecki, Edmonds

See the discrepancy

As long as the rich get richer, the poor get poorer and the middle class is fading away, the United States is in serious trouble. What’s with our politicians who can’t or won’t see this obvious discrepancy?

Maybe I’m naive, but it seems to be just plain common sense to have richer people (and corporations) either pay more taxes, prevent offshore hiding of assets or get rid of some of their tax loopholes. Doesn’t it seem apparent that once you’re worth millions, that a few bucks less isn’t going to disrupt your life style?

Of course, the zillions of dollars we’re squandering on our wars is a whole other matter.

— Matt Nadler, Seattle

The big picture

The Times demonstrates how skewed to the right discussion of the deficit has become, when it states incorrectly, “Their [deficit-reduction committee] task is to reduce budget spending ” In fact, the task is to reduce the deficit, which can be done with revenue increases.

The big picture for framing this discussion are these four key facts:

— U.S. taxes, according to the CIA World Factbook, are already lower than in any other advanced democracy. Our taxes are lower than many countries that are outperforming us.

— The U.S. has the highest income inequality of any advanced country. The top 1 percent takes in more than 20 percent of all income, while median income is declining. We are becoming a Banana Republic. Forty years ago, the top 1 percent took in 9 percent of income.

— The social-safety net in the U.S. is weaker than in almost all advanced countries.

— The U.S. spends nearly as much on the military as the rest of the world combined.

The deficit should be reduced by raising taxes on the wealthy — which would have the least adverse effect on the economy, since the wealthy are least likely to spend it — and by cutting military spending.

— Pete Frawley, Bainbridge Island

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I agree with the flat tax. 5% across the board - no deductions. Everyone pays, nothing 'extra' back either. The other 40-45% of our...  Posted on September 17, 2011 at 3:23 PM by FMRPLT. Jump to comment
Increasing taxes on the wealthy (or letting the Bush tax cuts expire) would be bad because the wealthy are funding all sorts of innovative...  Posted on September 16, 2011 at 3:43 PM by Reality Based Human. Jump to comment
As a starter one needs to define the term "loophole" and cite examples. Next, we need to scrub all special legislation (spcial...  Posted on September 16, 2011 at 3:28 PM by glg7. Jump to comment

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