Readers Write: Grover Norquist is an extremist; federal spending is the problem (not the answer)

Letters to the Editor for the weekly issue of November 21, 2011: Readers respond to the cover story "Tussle over taxes." One says American antitax advocate Grover Norquist's extemist views don't merit coverage. Another says federal spending isn't the answer and proposes a new tax plan.

Should America tax the rich?

The Oct. 17 cover story “Tussle Over Taxes” gives the fairest, most coherent coverage of the “Occupy Wall Street” (OWS) movement I’ve seen, but it is marred by one paragraph that quotes at length antitax advocate Grover Norquist’s comparison of President Obama to Stalin. The comparison is preposterous; I will not dignify it by detailing the asymmetrical points.

Good journalism doesn’t have the slightest obligation to give equal time to extreme ideas. It is one thing to provide sufficient context for understanding the ideas and events. It is quite another to serve as a ventriloquist for irrational and inflammatory rants, even if they are differentiated from “tamer” arguments.

I also find it ironic that the article ends with Republican Mitt Romney’s solemn pronouncement on the dangers of “class warfare.” According to the article’s own account, “1 percent of American households now take in more than 20 percent [or more] of total US income, a figure that’s doubled in the last three decades.” Surely no one can expect the 99 percent to lie down and roll over.

Estella Lauter

Fish Creek, Wis.

Lost in OWS’s “tax the rich” argument is the possibility that maintaining the status quo in federal funding may not be a good idea. Before the economic downturn, it was common to see articles about the prolific consumption in the United States and our outsized use of resources.

It is possible that the federal government is stuck, as many of us were before the economic downturn, in a state of overconsumption. Finding more money to finance a bad habit, regardless of the source, is counterproductive. 

While our federal government has increased its spending through assumption of debt, many families and small businesses have done the opposite. They have adjusted to less income by simply spending less. Maybe it is time for the government to try the same approach. 

The limited viewpoint of whom to tax or what to cut might be abandoned for a more pragmatic approach: Everyone gets less, with all sharing equally in the reduction. An across-the-board 5 to 10 percent reduction in federal employee salaries, entitlement programs, and outside contracts would be significant fiscally, yet far less dramatic than what much of the private sector has endured.

The frustration over economic inequality with greed on the one hand and envy on the other will probably not be resolved anytime soon. However, we might be in a better position to deal with those problems once we are running lean and focused.

John Culbertson

Carpinteria, Calif.

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