Responses to Aricles in the Election Issue
RE: JUSTICE AT THE BOTTOM LINE
Tuesday, 9 November
Sadly, Mr. Berry has chosen to overlook
some glaring problems with the so-called FairTax. Firstly, he uses some
wildly optimistic numbers. The Brookings Institute estimated in 1998 that
a national sales tax would actually have to be 68 percent to cover all
current government expenditures, while the conservative National Review
put the percentage at 57.
Also, consider some pragmatics. In a theoretical free market, reducing
corporate taxes should result in lower prices, but in our corporate-crony-run
market, reducing corporate taxes will result in bigger pay packages for
the top executives. Finally, it is wildly unfair to the middle class.
Mr. Berry admits that the tax is regressive. Small rebate checks (estimated
at $5000 a year) do nothing to combat the regressive nature on a grand
scale, which means that the rich will pay for a substantially smaller
portion of the tax burden than they do now. Since the poor get a full
rebate, this means that the full weight of the tax code will be set squarely
on the shoulders of the middle class.
The author, a sophomore in Timothy Dwight College, is
Treasurer of the Yale Political Union.
Jonathan Berry responds:
Wednesday, 10 November
The Cato Institute estimated in 1997 that a 17.6 percent
tax rate would in fact cover all expenditures, while Americans for Fair
Taxation claim that 30 percent would do the trick. Regardless of this
factual dispute, the rate does not matter—the revenueneutral FairTax
collects the same amount as the income tax, just levied differently. As
it is, the middle class already shoulders the income tax burden. The poor
do not pay taxes, and the rich can afford to cut corners with high-powered
tax lawyers and accountants. The inimitable Teresa Heinz Kerry, for example,
paid a tax rate of 12.4 percent on her $5 million income last year, while
the top 50 percent of taxpayers, whose contributions comprise 96.1 percent
of tax revenue, paid 15.9 percent of their incomes.
By leveling the playing field for all citizens, the national sales tax
would shut down even the best tax shelters money can buy.
Thursday, 11 November
expenses and the national debt have risen more than a little since 1997.
To compensate for these increases, the national sales tax would have to
be higher than Mr. Berry’s sources predict. Moreover, a high sales
tax threatens to disrupt the economy completely. A dramatic change in
the cost of goods, whether sudden or phased in gradually, would be disastrous.
The middle class does pay a lot in taxes, but they would pay even more
under the FairTax system—the poor would continue not to pay and
the rich would get off easier. By saving money and investing it, the rich
can leave large sums of money untaxed. Even if some of the income from
these investments is later taxed when it is spent, theoretically, millions
or even billions of dollars can go untaxed. Thus, the very rich would
achieve an actual rate of taxation much below the sales tax rate. That
leaves us with an increase in the only place left to increase taxes –
the middle class.
RE:SEEING THE FOREST FOR THE TREES
Thursday, 11 November
I was somewhat
heartened to read Mr. Tung’s article about the United States’
comparative success in curbing environmental pollution. Unfortunately,
accusing the environmental lobby of hypocrisy and pointing a finger at
China will not solve the very real environmental problems we still face.
If China has
problems now, just wait until the average Chinese man or woman starts
consuming as much as the average American. If car ownership per person
there paralleled that in the U.S., there would be more drivers in China
than there are in the world today.
the United States ranks second (behind an unpredictable Canada) in energy
use per capita. The U.S. is also the single largest emitter of carbon
dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels. As if that is not enough, the
new “it” car is the Humvee, whose EPA-exempt fuel economy
stats compare favorably with only the Abrams M-1 Tank.
As any new homeowner can attest, property rights come part in parcel with
property responsibilities. People do not own just cars and houses; they
also own the emissions and garbage produced by these possessions. We are
a nation of extraordinary wealth, and with rights of ownership come obligations.
Until we succeed
in meeting those obligations as effectively as we have protected our property
rights, we should keep those fingers pointed squarely at ourselves.
The author, a junior in Calhoun College, is Ambassador
Plenipoteniary of the Progressive Party.
Eric Tung responds:
Friday, 12 November
agree that we have obligations to care for our environment. I just think
the best way is through a strengthened system of property rights, which
China lacks, and not through governmental regulation or concessions to
highly politicized environmental groups. I support encouraging responsibility,
but government regulations often have unintended consequences. In the
summer of 1995, utility companies in Chicago were forced to raise prices
because of federal caps on emissions. As a result, 700 apartment residents
died from dehydration or heat strokes because they could not afford to
turn on their air conditioners. This is one of many examples of political
As many studies
have shown, the United States’ status as the most environmentally
aware nation in the world is a direct function of our wealth. Companies
can invest in waste-recycling technology, and demand for clean land and
air grows as citizens have more time and money to worry about these things.
Whereas China ranks close to bottom in the Environmental Sustainability
Index, a measure of overall progress towards sustainability, the U.S.
is one of the leading countries. This is a result of greater wealth and
less government intervention.
Sunday, 14 November
Suggesting that government intervention is unnecessary to
protect the environment is akin to suggesting that companies would correctly
report earnings and deliver taxes without SEC and IRS enforcement; it
would be nice if it could happen, but we are not living in Candyland.
“The most environmentally aware nation in the world” is also
fifth in waste generation per capita, fifth in CO2 emissions per capita,
and a low fortysecond in carbon efficiency. If corporations and individuals
were so good at regulating themselves and acting to conserve a vital public
good—the environment—the choices of manufacturers and consumers
would reflect this. They do not. Car buyers certainly are not among the
environmentally aware elite. The average fuel economy for cars arriving
in junkyards through the 1990s was more environmentally friendly than
was that of the average car purchase. Environmental awareness involves
more than a Greenpeace membership and a “Save the Whales”
bumper sticker. As consumers, we must make conscious and informed choices
when we buy. Without government regulation, those choices, along with
our environmental resources, can and will be taken from us.
RE: WHERE HAVE ALL THE STATESMEN GONE?
Thursday, 11 November
I have some
bones that require picking with Mr. Olson’s article. First, I disagree
with his assertion that differences between Bush and Kerry were negligible.
I recall a Ralph Nader flier from 2000 depicting Democans and Republicrats
and asking, “Do Gush and Bore make you want to Ralph?” During
that campaign, one could argue that the differences between candidates
were hard to distinguish, but Bush had not yet had the opportunity to
demonstrate how radically right-wing, hawkish, and ultimately selfish
his domestic and foreign policies would be. In 2004, the Democrats and
Republicans have shown real differences; this is why liberals were far
less willing to entertain the candidacy of Nader in this election.
argues that Kerry, like most contemporary politicians, is not compelling,
distinctive, or otherwise destined for Classic status because he is a
career politician. Yet the only reason our Framers did not envision career
politicians was that they had no idea this democracy mumbo-jumbo would
fly. Who could have predicted that the U.S. government would even qualify
as a hobby, let alone a career? If our ancestors knew how big of a deal
it would become, they certainly would have recommended that the people
running it devote more of their lives to leadership than to, say, whaling.
lovable James K. Polk (Napoleon of the Stump and possessor of a superfluous
initial), how many politicians can we admire for their well-roundedness?
Did George W. Bush’s slew of failed business ventures help prepare
him for failure in Iraq? Did Ronald Reagan’s acting career make
him better at hiding his dementia and convincing himself that the missile
defense shield existed? Did Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stint as a body
builder do anything but make him slightly more reminiscent of challah?
to enter politics should be planned and purposeful, not an accident or
The author, a junior in Calhoun College, is Chairman
of the Progressive Party.
Andrew Olson responds:
Friday, 12 November
issues that the exit polls showed most important in this election, Bush
and Kerry’s positions seem strikingly similar. Both vowed to fight
for American interests anywhere in the world. Kerry’s stated “plan”
for Iraq consisted primarily of training Iraqi forces to take care of
themselves, and brilliant as this may sound, Bush began doing this months
ago. On moral issues, both candidates support civil unions for same-sex
couples, and Kerry worked hard to show himself to be as religious as the
the Constitution, the Framers sought an appropriate mechanism by which
to implement democracy, because experience had proved the decentralized
government of the Articles of Confederation ineffective. They never questioned
whether this “democracy mumbo-jumbo” would work—they
knew it would. Well-versed in history, the Framers knew the success of
Greek democracy. They also did not expect people to enter politics lightly,
but hoped that proven leaders in other fields would rise to the challenge
the vast majority of our politicians fail to qualify as good statesmen
does not indicate a poor definition of statesmanship, but rather poor
Saturday, 13 November
am still not convinced that experience in politics makes one less prepared
to govern effectively than does experience in some other field. As for
Bush and Kerry, I agree that on paper their similarities may have been
just as striking as their differences, and that, frankly, Kerry was not
the inspiring figure that the Democrats needed to win.
That said, their campaigns made very different appeals: Bush to fear and
steadfastness, Kerry to—if not exactly optimism—a desire for
reform, at the least. Votes must have perceived these messages as distinct,
since Bush was, regrettably, reelected by a palpable margin.