Letter to the Editor

Revisiting the FairTax discussion

Friday, June 6, 2014

Dear Editor:

In preparing these "discussion columns," a process is being developed that seeks to present ideas about important issues affecting us. My understanding is we each, Jerry Wadel and I, would present a column then move on to another issue.

One possibility was that an issue might cause a reader to express an opinion. I did respond to a letter from Dr. Ron Jones as he questioned what I had written.

Here is my response to Jerry's column of May 21 with the understanding we may each offer a "rebuttal column."

This would end my contribution but others could express opinions. My own hope was some relevant information would be offered and voters, decision makers would be better informed and could make "better decisions" as they vote or support action by legislators.

Much information is being presented as true when it is false or misleading. An informed citizenry is the foundation of true democracy.

Mr. Wadel seems to think I was in favor of no tax. I offered only one example of many possible needs, our road system. In earlier columns the benefits derived from taxes were listed as services our governmental units perform.

Values received by citizens are greater than the costs of the taxes. Education of all is an example and, as one who has received much from our system, it is a privilege to pay taxes. I owe a great debt to those laying a foundation for me.

Another question raised is what is fair? Parents pride themselves in treating all their children equally. That is a great ideal, but is that fair? John Swomley, professor, in a class on ethics, observed that, in reality, parents give to children according to need. A child, born with a handicap, is given special attention, not equality. Carry that truth into life as you know it.

Can we, as a culture, do any less for those less fortunate than we? That leads to another "principle" pushed by many who inherited or gained wealth. A fair tax would require the same percentage paid by low income and those with very high income (some are willing to grant exemption for certain levels).

Another principle has to be considered. Those with higher income, or more property receive far more in services than those who barely subsist. In fact as they move up the scale of wealth or income, they demand or receive more service.

Roads, sewers, water, electrical, police, etc. cost more to serve suburban dwellers, who may not pay all costs. An interesting observation is that slum landlords charge their tenants more rent per unit of space than single tenants in plush apartments. Mr. Wadel quotes Abraham Lincoln as saying, "some should be rich to show others may become rich." Our president was a source of inspiration to me growing up. The slate tablets he used were history for me but kerosene lamps were only a slight improvement over the fireplace or candlelight he studied by.

I also split rails and was born in a log cabin, but have not been elected president, yet. I cannot believe "Abe" ever forgot the poverty of his life and wonder what he said in other messages or would say to us today.

Details of the FairTax bill are sketchy and whether income or expenditures are taxed is not the heart of the discussion.

Prebates given up to a certain level of income. Those with low income will spend every penny earned and still not be able to provide some of the necessities of life for their family, education, health care.

Real opportunities to be what they dream to be (there are exceptions, but now many with great potential are denied any chance to be their best?). Some suggest that our real problem is not inequity of income but inequity of opportunity.

The FairTax may be more fair than our present system, but rest assured, if it is written by our current legislators, it will still favor those with wealth and power, unless we as citizens elect those who believe government is for all and each of us and provides oversight which will check and balance the self-centeredness that is so much a part of each of us and is so entrenched in our culture.

In other columns I hope to add more understanding, but cannot express all which needs to be said. Good results will come when each person makes an honest effort to learn what is best for the "Common Good" (Preamble to the Constitution says "promote general welfare") of all and contributes any gifts or abilities they have toward that end.

Lester Thornton