August 11, 2011

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if we required politicians to provide a bibliography for every speech, interview or sound bite? Remember back in school, when you first learned how to write a report using reference materials from the library? Anytime you offered something as fact, you cited the source, giving credit to Encyclopedia Britannica or the World Almanac.

I'd love to see the sources the president would cite following his recent speech regarding the nation's precarious financial situation following the downgrading of the United State's bonding status from AAA rating for the first time in history.

President Obama told the nation on August 8th "Our problems are eminently solvable. And we know what we have to do to solve them.

"Last week, we reached an agreement that will make historic cuts to defense and domestic spending. But there's not much further we can cut in either of those categories. What we need to do now is combine those spending cuts with two additional steps: tax reform that will ask those who can afford it to pay their fair share and modest adjustments to health care programs like Medicare."

I'd like to ask the president to please define those who can afford to pay it, followed up with his definition of paying their fair share.

Granted this was a raw, raw speech meant to boost American's spirits in the aftermath of the demoralizing debt ceiling debate and subsequent credit rating debacle. So, I guess we shouldn't expect actual ideas on what those two vague terms mean.

That doesn't keep me from wondering what is going through our leader's mind when he paints such broad strokes.

I'm assuming he isn't thinking like me, a fiscal conservative.

According to Merriam-Webster, fair is free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism.

So what is a fair share? Is it fair that according to the Tax Policy Center, approximately 46% of American households will not pay income tax in 2011?

According to the Congressional Budget Office's latest data, "in 2007, households in the bottom fifth, or quintile, of the income distribution paid about 4 percent of their income in federal taxes, while the middle quintile, with average income of $64,500, paid 14 percent, and the highest quintile, with average income of $264,700, paid 25 percent."

A Heritage Foundation Report shows that the top 1% of wealthiest Americans paid a total of 38% of the total federal income tax collected in 2008, up from 19% in 1980. The top 5% of incomes paid nearly 60% of federal income taxes collected in 2008.

A 2007 report by the Tax Foundation noted "America's lowest-earning one-fifth of households receives roughly $8.21 in government spending for each dollar of taxes paid. Households with middle-incomes receive $1.30 per tax dollar, and America's highest-earning households receive $0.41 per tax dollar.

The report also noted that "Government spending targeted at the lowest-earning 60 percent of U.S. households is larger than what they paid in taxes in 2004. Overall between $1.03 trillion and $1.53 trillion was redistributed downward from the two highest income quintiles to the three lowest income quintiles through government taxes and spending."

So I guess what I'm trying to say, if the president wants to insist on asking for even more tax revenue from the wealthy, he should probably leave out the references to paying their fair share, and instead thank them for all that they are already doing, before demanding even more of their money to waste.

Obviously I don't agree with his assessment of "fair". So it stands to reason that I'm also going to question what "modest" adjustments he has in mind for his healthcare reforms, and what he means by "not much further" we can cut domestic spending by big brother.

Even in the context of this speech, the President could not help himself but end with a plug for more government spending. "The good news here is that by coming together to deal with the long-term debt challenge, we would have more room to implement key proposals that can get the economy to grow faster," the president stated in the speech.

Can someone please confiscate this shopaholic's credit cards before the great United States of America ends up in bankruptcy court?

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