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After reading the opinion of Senator Bernie Sanders in the August 11 edition, I felt compelled to respond to some of the opinions and scare tactics of the senator to convince the American public that the federal government can’t cut spending and that the “rich” along with corporations should pay their fair share.
I comment on this because I have been a Vermont homeowner (non-resident) for close to 30 years and am dismayed at some of our elected officials’ attitude that the federal government cannot survive on smaller budgets because of the impact on the disadvantaged of this country.
These are tough times. The economy is stalled, unemployment is high and the bottom line is that the federal government is spending way more than it takes in. There is no way to balance the budget unless spending is cut dramatically; otherwise we face debts that generations of Americans will have to live with. There is also the opportunity to grow the economy, which grows revenue, and this is accomplished by helping corporations or the wealthy improve their business, not by taking investment dollars out of their pockets.
Let’s look at the fair share comment which many of the democratic politicians throw around with the media. If you look at the top 50 percent wage earners (of which I’m a member) in the U.S. they currently pay 97.5 percent of all federal taxes. The remaining 50 percent of the wage earners pay less than 3 percent of taxes. Now if that is not a “fair share” then I have to ask the senator what is? 100 percent? And, when you look at this with respect to Vermont where the average annual income is approximately $21,000, the vast majority of Vermont wage earners (about 66 percent) fall into the second category which means that Vermont's contribution to the federal tax system is significantly less than most states. Ironically, even if taxes were raised on the wealthiest individuals in the US, the CBO has determined that this would bring in less than about $700 million. Now this is no small amount, but when you compare this to our national debt of $14 billion and the recent approval to increase debt by another $2.5 billion as well as the projected debt increase under the Obama presidency by another $10 billion, it is easy to see that taxing the “rich” will just not get it done. So where does Senator Sanders find the other $20-plus billion to close the budget gap?
The senator says any cuts will impact the poor and Vermont by cutting student loans, feeding the poor and providing child care. What the senator does not address is the unfathomable waste with our federal government. Any individual can Google search and find stories that you would think are fantasy—programs that buy shoes for amputees, building bridges that go nowhere and even tremendous waste in farm subsidies, which I think would be near and dear to Vermont residents. How about the $1.3 billion in farm subsidy checks that are sent to urban zip codes over the past decade? What is urban? Try $1.3 million to the urban farmers in Beverly Hills or the $54 million to Miami farmers. Even $7 million to New York City “farmers.” Is this the untouchable dollars that Senator Sanders is referring to when he talks about health care cuts? Hard-earned American dollars for farm subsidies that never make it to a farming state like Vermont?
While the decisions to make the budget balance is no easy question to answer, the concept of raising taxes on the rich just doesn’t make sense. As a Vermont homeowner I have also seen my local Vermont taxes increase tenfold over the years of my home ownership. I have the honor of living in one of the areas designated a “gold” area, thereby paying even higher taxes. Top this off with additional non-resident taxes I pay and you begin to question the rationale of Vermont homeownership. I support the local economy by spending time and money in the area at local businesses. I have renovated my home and hired local help as well, which helps the local economy. Tax me more at the federal level (or even at the Vermont level) and it leaves that much less that I invest in the local Vermont economy. This amounts to one less dinner out, one less ski pass or holding off on my next home renovations. These are the dollars that support the local economy and local jobs. To take it a step further, ask Win Smith, owner of Sugarbush, and his perspective on paying his "fair share." Tax him more at the federal level and I can guarantee that it leaves less for him to invest in The Valley, an area that could not survive without a successful ski industry or operations.
So the next time you think that the “rich” should pay more in federal taxes, consider that these “rich” folks are many of the vacationers and second-home owners that you bump shoulders with every day at the ski area, local hotels, restaurants and stores. And the current definition of "rich" by the Obama administration is anyone with a household or business income exceeding $250,000. Have the federal government take more of this disposable income and you will surely feel the economic impact here in The Valley.
Mike Malekoff is a happy Valley second-home owner.