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WORLD FOCUS: What’s fair?

September 11, 2012

Letters to the editor of the Lake Placid News and essays published recently in The Virginia Gazette reaffirmed that people care deeply about issues that affect our nation or localities where we live. The writers don't hesitate to take a firm public stand.

Charles Misak, a former commercial pilot, took issue with President Obama's position that the rich are not paying their fair share of income taxes and must be compelled to do so.

Misak buttressed his argument saying, "a progressive tax structure is wrongheaded to start with," by pointing out, "a rich man and a poor man pay the same amount for a coffeepot, a steak dinner, lawn service, a new car, etc. A rich man is not expected to pay more in the name of fairness, except in the amount he is taxed by the government. Why is that fair?"

He, than quoted a prominent economist Frederick Bastiat who stated that a progressive tax structure is simply "legal plunder." Misak, added: "I couldn't agree more."

He could have quoted also our nation's founders, to whom income tax was anathema. They wanted uniformity and equal protection bestowed on all citizens. Thus, it was stipulated in the Constitution that all duties and excises taxes must be uniform throughout the United States. But in 1913, a constitutional amendment was ratified that permitted progressive income tax legislation. The reason was simple. Historically, the nobility were supported by taxes on the poor. But modern social security systems required the support of the poor. In addition, there was a need for the income tax to be applied to fund the military, infrastructure and a host of other national requirements.

Even Adam Smith has acknowledged that a nation's tax system reflects communal values. "In a democratic nation the choices who pays the taxes and how much, reflect the type of the community the public wishes to create. Where the public doesn't have influence over the system of taxation, that system may be more of the reflection of the values of those in power."

Yet, there are many who would agree with Misak that everyone should be paying for government services they receive. Supporters of progressive taxation, however, like to point out that in the U. S. the Communists Party was never able to make headway among the American working class. Neither was our country subjected to military insurgency from impoverished masses, as have been the case in many Latin American countries. And one of the main reasons, they argue, is that the distribution of the tax burden, who will pay taxes and how much they will pay and how the taxes collected will be spent, have traditionally seen in our country, as fair.

Another essay, by Robert Scholnick, I read, hailed the Supreme Court decision supporting the Affordable Care Act. He pointed out that it "may well be the most momentous decision of the first half of the 21st century." He compared the Supreme Court's decision to the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling that outlawed racial segregation in education.

"The Affordable Care Act," he wrote, "seeks to ensure that each citizen enjoy a fundamental human right: health care With health care, there should be no second-class citizensToday approximately 50 million Americans do not have health insurance. They are just one serious illness away from bankruptcy, or worse."

He noted that America is the only nation in the developed world that does not guarantee health care as a basic right of citizenship. Although we are spending twice as much as any other nation on heath care, he wrote, according to the World Health Organization, America is ranked in the 37th place in providing its citizens with those services.

Critics of the American medical system argue that developed nations, including neighboring Canada, provide their citizens with health care coverage that is more efficient, more effective and less costly that ours.

I have questioned many American's who have lived in European countries or Canada. Most conclued that when considering adopting a version of the health care system other developed countries have, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

Frank Shatz lives in Williamsburg, Va. and Lake Placid. His column was reprinted with permission from The Virginia Gazette.



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