Posted on Wed, Jan. 22, 2003

Letters | Focus tax debate on priorities for society

We are supposedly the richest nation on Earth. You might not think so from the nature of the political conversation now going on or from the ragged state of our infrastructure or the straitened circumstances of some of our fellow citizens.

Our President has proposed cutting (mostly wealthy) people's taxes by $600 billion over 10 years, in addition to the cuts he made last year. Yet we have fellow citizens who have to choose between paying the rent, feeding themselves and buying medicines. We have millions of citizens who are functionally illiterate, and many more so badly educated that you wouldn't want them in your operating room or repair shops.

Our schools are underfunded, the U.S. Department of Agriculture does not have enough inspectors, the Securities and Exchange Commission, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the IRS and other vital government agencies are understaffed. There aren't enough air controllers. Most of the states are facing huge deficits.

Taxes are the cost of a civilized society. However badly it may do some things, government is the only provider of many services we demand and need. Most of the proposed tax cuts will go to people who don't need the money.

I have always believed that, among other things, "liberty and justice for all" meant that there was a social contract among the people of this country.

I have not heard any politician or anyone else discussing what the priorities of an affluent and civil society should be. The question of taxes is not just about surpluses and deficits, but about what resources we as a people want to employ to make this country a better and fairer place to live.

Ronald Kaiserman

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