Want to hear truth about debt and taxes?

Published 9:59 am Friday, November 27, 2009

This year the “tea party’s” around the country protested our high taxes. They continue to do so, meeting across America to fight to reduce our excessive taxes.

Experts tell us that unless we cut back on Social Security benefits and Medicare and Medicaid, the nation will face a terrible fiscal crisis.

Many states have reduced their support for the homeless, the hungry and the sick, as their revenues have fallen in the Great Recession.

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So we are told our taxes are too high and our social safety net too expensive. The only answer, some suggest, is to lower taxes and reduce the social safety net.

The richest nation in the history of the world, we are told, cannot feed its hungry, provide health care for its people or sustain our modest benefits for our seniors.

Yet we can afford two wars that have cost over a trillion dollars so far and made the nation no safer.

We can afford a tax cut during these wars, letting our children pay the costs.

We can afford to spend as much on our military as the rest of the planet combined each year.

We can allow the richest Americans to avoid $70 to $100 billion in taxes each year that they hide in off-shore and Swiss accounts.

We can bail out the nations’ largest banks, that are no longer really American at all, but international entities located in our country.

We can let companies that declare bankruptcy dump the pensions they failed to fund and allow their workers to receive 40 cents on the dollar for their retirement years while their executives rob the profits with their salaries and stock options.

The CEO of United Airlines, Glen Tilton, took nearly $100 million in salary and benefits in the years preceding the airlines’ failure to fund the $75 million required to fully fund promised pensions.

And we can afford to bail out Chrysler and General Motors with over $80 billion dollars, most of which will never be repaid.

But when it comes to helping ordinary Americans have a safe retirement … we can’t afford it.

And we can’t afford health care. It’s just too expensive.

And we can’t help our children reduce the cost of college … it’s not possible.

And we can’t fix our worn bridges and highways. Too expensive.

And we can’t afford to reduce the damage we do to our environment … too costly.

But these arguments are not true. The truth is very different.

The truth is America is one of the lowest taxed developed nations in the world, considering state, local and federal taxes and Social Security. Our 2008 tax percentage was 26.9 percent. Most of Europe averages nearer 39 percent with France and Italy at 43.5 percent.

We also have one of the lowest effective tax collections for our businesses. Our tax rate is 35 percent, but, after legal loopholes, the effective business tax rate is nearer 26 percent.

But we have acted foolishly. We have cut taxes and paid for those cuts with debt. We have paid for war with debt. We have allowed education to be greatly underfunded and health care to be controlled by people other than doctors and patients.

We have let our military spending get out of control and our response to terrorism cost trillions of dollars.

We have listened to the wealthy and the international corporations located in America and ignored the needs of the people. Our policies have wasted our wealth and squandered our potential.

We will have to increase our taxes to get out of this mess and fix our foolish spending habits, while focusing upon people, not profits.

Jim Crawford is a contributing columnist for The Tribune and a former educator at Ohio University Southern.