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April 14, 2008


Dear Brian,

You state: "Much, if not most, of the time, government spends money more wisely than individuals do." Even though you qualify this assertion by your criticism of Bush's present administration, I differ from your standard(s) of judgment on this issue. It appears to me that "public" money is quite often dealt with much less scrupulously than most people do with their own personal funds. I believe you are being too generous in your opinion about our economic history (as well as those of other nations).

Robert Paul Howard

Robert, what I meant was that government mostly spends money on public goods: stuff that benefits the general welfare.

Schools. Roads. Defense. Environmental protection. Health care. And so on.

Private citizens, by and large, spend their money on themselves. Much of that is for necessities (food, shelter, etc.), but a lot is frivolous.

Is a big screen TV a better use of money than trying to find a cure for cancer through a NIH grant? I'd say it is, and government is the one providing that money.

Individuals, me included, are selfish. Government offers an opportunity to override our selfishness and provide for the general welfare, helping others as well as ourselves.

It doesn't always succeed as well as it should. But I seriously doubt that, left to themselves, individuals would choose to support essential public services (fire, police, education, health care) voluntarily if government and taxes didn't force them to override their inherent desire to spend on me, me, me.

Dear Brian,

We appear to agree in our general opinions about the prevalence of human selfishness. Nevertheless I quite dislike the use of "force" to provide "essential" (as defined by whom?) "public services" - or anything else. Further, it is not true that "government is the one providing that money" for these services. The money is provided by the taxpayers.

I welcome you (and all others) to "override [y]our selfishness and provide for the general welfare, helping others as well as [y]ourselves" without the use of governmentally exercised "force."

I opine that too many government actions (and office-holders) go astray far too often in their courses. As you say: "It doesn't always succeed as well as it should." Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

I do, however invite you (and others) to put aside your (frequently referred to) expenditures on yourself, in order to donate those funds for a cure for cancer, etc. That would be a fine thing to do - voluntarily, and unforced. (Like as if maybe "karma" actually did exist - quite aside from "enlightened self-interest.")

Of course, do as you see fit - but please don't work to have government(s) force others to do as just you see fit.....when numerous taxpayers might quite disagree with your standards of judgment. The items you enumerated would get wide support. I'm less sure about other policies/decisions/determinations that various government bodies force upon us.

Robert Paul Howard

Let's see, having worked for a government agency, I can verify that federal and state agencies do not have discretionary income. They have budgets and those budgets are only for two year periods.

What we could spend our budget on was limited by what the enabling statute would permit, limited further by what the Governor said we could spend.

Now, what taxes are spent on is driven by what the People want. I use "People" because we delegate those responsibilities to our elected representatives. What they enact is what the democratic process permits and requires.

Sometimes, more often than not from Robert Paul Howard's perspective, what is approved to be funded exceeds what he would want. That is both the strength and weakness of a system such as ours.

I, too, was unhappy about my taxes, not the paying of them, but the apportioning of the tax burden across the population. Being a fifties sort of person, I would have been much less bitter had I been able to look at my tax burden relative to others by examining the tax tables. Tax tables today are far simpler because they are far less progressive.

It makes met bitter to read that those more wealthy that I do not pay their fair share.

In Oregon, according to the Oregon Center for Public Policy (www.ocpp.org), the state and local tax rate of the best off one percent of Oregon families - those with average incomes of $672,000 - is 8.9% before accounting for the tax savings from federal itemized deductions. After the federal offset, the effective tax rate is 6.1%.

The next 4%, with average incomes of $182,000 pay an effective tax rate of 6.7%.

The next 15%, with average incomes of of $90,900 pay an effective tax rate of 7.3%.

The next 20% pay 7.9%.

The middle 20% pay 8.1%.

The 2nd lowest 20%, with average incomes of $21,000, pay 8.9%

The bottom 20%, with average incomes of $9,300, pay 9.4%

I think we should all pay taxes until it hurts; such being the price of living in a democracy in the 21st Century, one that requires constant upkeep based upon commitments made by our parents that we, especially it would seem, Mr Howard, are reluctant to bear.

Unfortunately, in this world, either the wealthy have a very low threshold of pain, or they are not paying enough.

Just a short comment, have you looked at the national health care of England or Canada. We have family in England and the wait for care is 6 months to a year, is that what your looking for? If so, your taxes will be greatly increased and your benifits will be reduced. Raise the taxes on all big business and who's job do you think will be cut to pay that tax, the poor little guy. Come on people wake up, a vote for this change will be the death of us all.

Dear Richard,

I regret to learn that the "People" of Oregon - through their "elected representatives" - apparently "want" to structure their taxes in what I regard to be a most unfair design. As I asked above: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

While I welcome you to your opinion that "we should all pay taxes until it hurts," I personally am not such a masochist as to wish to do that. Nor am I such a sadist as to desire to inflict such a pain on others. By your citation of information, however, I would apparently be paying the highest tax rate you indicate, were I living in Oregon.

I offer my hope that Oregon's "People" might become aware of your information and change their seemingly unfair taxation structure.

Robert Paul Howard

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