Letters to the Editor

Posted: September 27, 2012

Basics of American democracy

We are coming up on the anniversary of one of the greatest speeches in American history, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, Nov. 19, 1863. In just over two minutes, Lincoln laid out the basics of American democracy, calling it government "of the people, by the people, for the people."

Now that we have heard Mitt Romney say to wealthy donors that it's not his job to worry about 47 percent of the American people, might we say that he thinks of American democracy as government "of the rich, by the rich, for the rich"?

Richard K. Taylor, Philadelphia, rktpbt@me.com

Charitable giving speaks volumes

I do not know why people, or The Inquirer, care about the tax rates of the presidential candidates ("Romney releases '11 tax returns," Saturday). Whether they manage their own wealth or have it in a blind trust, I imagine no shortcuts were taken and that all available deductions were applied properly by their tax accountants. Everything will be accurate and legal and they will say nothing about the candidates. However, one might get some insight into the character of the candidate by looking at their charitable giving over the past decade. If one candidate was giving 1 or 2 percent to charity when no one was looking, while the other was giving 10 to 20 percent, that speaks volumes.

Timothy W. Byrne, Wayne

Policy is not class warfare

Low-tax, no-regulation government policy based on a belief in bogus "trickle down" economics has accelerated the redistribution of income from the many to the few. It is my opinion that this policy is a fundamental cause of our current economic woes.

Economic prosperity does require capital, but in America's better days that capital came from a strong, prosperous, consuming middle class. Henry Ford recognized this when he priced his cars so his workers could buy them. Yes, prosperity is and was funneled through the wealthy and corporations, but its source was primarily the middle class.

Redistribution from the many to the few has been supported by government taxation policy for more than 30 years. In the world of supply and demand, we have dramatically reduced domestic demand by this redistribution. Initially, the negative economic effects of this redistribution were masked by the increase of two-income families and then excessive personal borrowing.

Reversing the distribution of income to the lower quintiles is not class warfare. It is an economic necessity. Achieving a healthy economic distribution will take patience over many years.

Don Jones, Southampton, djones446@comcast.net

Redistribution an ongoing process

The federal, state, and local taxes we pay create a system in which the less one earns, the higher the percentage of our income flows into public goods and services. The use of a figure of 47 percent simply does not conform to everyday realities. At the same time, at all levels of taxation, there is a process of redistribution that takes place.

For example, some states have a larger population of people who are collecting from their Social Security and Medicare payments over the years. Military spending, is marked by a net outflow of cash from some communities and a net inflow of money to other communities in the nation. In addition, while the cost of borrowing to cover the costs of redistribution exceed revenues, there are some segments of society that benefit from the system of loaning money to public entities.

One would hope that candidates will explain how they intend to make taxation more equitable and redistribution more likely to stimulate community and national economic growth.

David R. Applebaum, Philadelphia

Weakening bonds of society

The editorial "Redistribution isn't a bad word" makes the case that it is necessary for the government to redistribute wealth to help "get a family through a rough patch or give young people a chance to excel." The Inquirer forgets that every generation has had its "rough patches."

It was not until FDR's New Deal that people began looking to the federal government for help. Before that, they turned to their families, their churches or synagogues, or their communities, for assistance and solace in hard times. Granted, a family or church couldn't do what an omnipotent central government could, but relying on family and friends strengthened the bonds of community, and steeled these individuals to face the rigors demanded of an independent people in a free - and consequently, often harsh - society.

When the government becomes the first and foremost source of succor in hard times, the bonds of family, faith, and community are weakened. Why look to Uncle John for help, when Uncle Sam is all too ready to assist? Why save Auntie May's graduation gift to put down on a house, when Fannie May is ready to step in and finance that mortgage with little or nothing down?

This is the central issue in this year's elections: How much of our destiny are we willing to turn over to our benevolent benefactor, and what does this say about the once unique and indomitable American character?

R.J. O'Brien, Richboro

Keep founders out of it

If the writer of the letter "Representation without taxation" (Monday) checked his facts, he would discover that the 47 percent of households that "did not pay federal income taxes" includes those who had met tax obligations through taxes withheld and some who are receiving the Social Security they paid for in taxes throughout the years they were employed. I am in the latter group, having paid Social Security taxes for more than 50 years. I think the Founding Fathers, to whom the writer refers, would rather be left out of his exclamations.

Dale Scannell, Flourtown

The specter of tyranny

Once again The Inquirer has sought to scare voters away from Mitt Romney, not by criticizing his ideas in any substantive way, but by raising the specter of Ayn Rand.

Another observer of the American condition, however, drew a conclusion at variance with yours. In the early years of the 19th century, Alexis de Tocqueville toured our infant democracy. He admired our industriousness, our Christian values, our willingness to help one another, and our lack of class envy.

He also perceived a possibly fatal flaw. If people could use their votes to take from some in order to give to themselves, that's very likely what they would do.

When people seek to help others in need through charities or the church, there is an essential voluntariness that respects the rights of all. When government programs no longer express this spirit of neighborliness, but are intended to funnel money to political constituencies whose votes an administration wishes to purchase, they become coercive. When this happens, redistribution does become a bad word, one indistinguishable from tyranny.

Daniel Mercer, Pennsauken

Entitled to representation

The fact that 47 percent of households in the United States do not pay federal income tax does not mean they pay no taxes. If they buy gasoline, they pay taxes; if they buy cigarettes, they pay taxes; if they own a home, there are school and real-estate taxes. Our Founding Fathers would agree that there is no reason they shouldn't be entitled to representation.

Theodore J. Blinder, Wallingford

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