Readers Write: Herman Cain, Rick Perry tax plans fall 'flat'; Europe soul searches

Letters to the Editor for the weekly issue of December 5, 2011: One reader takes down Herman Cain's and Rick Perry's flat-tax plans, arguing that a progressive tax is the only fair, functioning policy. Another reader says that Europe's debt crisis is forcing a generation to rethink 'real value.'

Flat tax falls flat

The Oct. 31 D.C. Decoder story, "Flogging the flat tax," mentions Herman Cain's "9-9-9" and Rick Perry's "flat tax" proposals, under which all earned personal income, regardless of the amount, is taxed at the same percentage rate.

Their rationale seems to be that the career each member of society pursues is strictly a matter of individual choice. And since in a democracy, everyone has the opportunity to choose to earn a fortune as an entrepreneur, executive, broker, or financier, rather than choosing to be a teacher or factory worker, it is consequently "unfair" to penalize the pursuit of wealth by subjecting it to higher income tax rates.

The problem with this rationale is that civilization cannot function if "everyone wants to be a millionaire." In that case, there would be no teachers, professors, public safety officers, researchers, soldiers, health-care workers, or any of the myriad other professions civilization requires to function, and hopefully to advance over time. In fact, civilization only works and thrives if 99 percent of the population don't want to be – or can't be – millionaires.

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A simple progressive income tax (i.e., consisting of three to five progressive tax rates without any deductions, loss write-offs, shelters, or credits against or from total personal earned income) is the only truly "fair" tax compared with any of the alternative proposed replacements for the current Internal Revenue Code (i.e., value added tax, national sales tax, and flat tax).

It is the only form of individual taxation that takes into account the disparity in economic rewards between those who have careers essential to the functioning of civilization that are not highly rewarded economically in "free market capitalism" and those who have careers that "free market capitalism" does reward highly.

Furthermore, the elimination of all loss offsets against earned personal income will deny financiers who make poor business or investment decisions the means that exist under the current tax code for "writing off" losses. This would also encourage sound business and investment decisions in the economy generally and for individual retirement savings.

Craig Cotora

Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan

Europe's soul-searching

The Oct. 31 cover story, "Generation disillusioned," describes Europe's "collective identity" as "increasingly fragile." Far from being fragile, Europe's identity is robust, energetic, and creative.

Economic adversity is causing Europeans to search for spiritual values and to consider the true nature of substance, worth, and supply.

The effects of such searching are difficult to measure but may contribute to a stronger, more resilient – and ultimately more satisfied – population throughout contemporary Europe.

Alistair Budd

London

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