Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
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Government Needs to Tax Fairly, Help Needy

By Leota Ester on December 17, 2011
© Appleton Post Crescent

I was sorry to read in Rep. Reid Ribble's Dec. 1 commentary his implication that the only taxes that deserved to be pursued were those for liberty or freedom. He referred to the presidencies of Washington, Lincoln and Roosevelt and the wars fought under their leadership.

Do liberty and freedom only mean wars? No. Freedom and liberty in America are much more complex. With a little more thought, he might have acknowledged that countries pay for roads that link states to one another; for agencies that keep our food and water safe and clean; for national forests and parks that we enjoy with our families; for land-grant colleges that provide education, research and development of new products; transportation; utility plants; dams; the Center for Disease Control … the list is long. These are paid for by our taxes.

Paying taxes is not a dirty and sinful thing to do, as often implied. Instead, it's a way to pay the bills that make our country one of the greatest countries in which to live.

We're one huge family that comes together to take care of our universal responsibilities. If we need to cut back and watch our expenses, we can do that but we also can look for more revenue.

We need a system that taxes all of us fairly. We know that a few Americans aren't paying the same percentage of their income as most do. While some of us don't earn enough to be taxed, others, ironically, the wealthiest, whose tax rates have never been lower, also may not pay taxes. One percent of American citizens made $1.2 million last year or more, but, thanks to tax loopholes and expensive accountants, often paid less than the rest of us.

To those who say that we can't tax those who have money because they create the jobs, we ask, "Where are those jobs that should have been created during the Bush tax-cut years?" Good people hurt from lack of work, children are on the edge of hunger, many have lost homes, but wouldn't have had they had jobs.

Companies and banks, we're told, have "stashes of cash" but don't invest in new job creation because they don't know what their taxes will be next year or the next.

As the former owner of a local business, I didn't refuse to expand because I didn't know what my taxes were going to be the next year; I expanded because there was a need to be met and we could meet it.

To not invest and to sit on cash because of uncertain taxes in the future is selfish, short-sighted and unconscionable.

We're also told, on the contrary, that banks and credit unions would lend if the regulations allowed them to do so. Truth probably resides in both, but those who suffer would like solutions rather than blame and resistance to solutions.

The present battle over extending payroll benefits seems not to be over the benefits, but on other issues: the Keystone Gas issue or greater taxes for the wealthy. It would serve the country well if Congress would take care of the problems separately rather than to deny action on important programs because of completely different issues that benefit only political agendas. We should insist on change in this way of doing the country's business.

We would all agree that jobs bills must be passed to help create jobs, and that our national costs be cut and revenues increased. Those without work, however, need immediate help. The most vulnerable among us must have adequate nourishment, decent shelter and sufficient health care. The government, maligned though it is by many, has a role to play in establishing safety nets.

Because the supercommittee came to no agreement, 2012 budget figures and services remain. The figures, however, will be fought over in the new year as we decide what we choose to pay for.

Children who are hungry, pregnant women whose fetuses/children who will be at risk all of their lives if not nourished properly for the 1,000 days from inception to 2 years, the elderly poor and nameless others will need our voice in the coming months, as will WIC programs and international aid for developing poor countries.

Equally important is that we ask that The Circle of Protection for Medicare, food programs and earned credit for the working poor be exempted from across-the-board cuts. Across-the-board cuts would punish those who enter the ranks of the unemployed or have used up all their resources. When one is hungry or sick, one is hungry or sick today, not when finally off the waiting list.

As we sacrifice, we can ask our representatives to do three things: 1) Make sure that all who are able pay their fair share, 2) Pass job bills that provide work, and 3) Retain basic services to the poor.

Most are more than generous during Christmas and the holidays. By continuing the same spirit throughout the year, we make a lasting difference in the lives of many.

Rep. Ribble and Sen. Ron Johnson need to hear from us. Call them.

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