Op-ed: We need World War II tax plan to attack problems on home front

By Boyer Jarvis

Published: February 15, 2014 01:01AM
Updated: February 15, 2014 01:01AM
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Boyer Jarvis. Courtesy photo

During the past few years I’ve had the good fortune to meet for lunch every other Friday with a small group of friends and a special guest to talk about current issues and events at home and on the national scene.

The topics discussed at a recent meeting — the vast discrepancy in income between workers and managers, the approaching contest in Congress about raising the ceiling on the national debt, etc., got me to thinking about the contrast between the society of today and that of World War II.

With the Axis Powers on the march in Europe and in the Pacific, the United States of America became the arsenal of Democracy. Instead of making automobiles, the factories in Detroit made military vehicles. The industrial and human resources of the nation were dedicated to the production of planes and ships and implements of war. Millions of civilians joined the armed forces, and many thousands were killed or injured in foreign battles on land or at sea.

At home, to support the war effort, we accepted wage and price controls, rationing of sugar, shoes and gasoline. We bought War Bonds, and we agreed to federal income tax rates of more than 50 percent of a person’s income. Many people, almost everyone , made sacrifices “ and we won the War.

After VE Day and VJ Day, Congress adopted the G1 Bill of Rights, making it possible for veterans to attend college and to acquire homes.

That was then. And what about now? The rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer. The middle class is diminishing. It is time to pay attention to the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

That statement is the foundation of this great land of opportunity, of free enterprise and of upward mobility. But this land, however wonderful, is far from perfect.

It is out of balance. As Thomas Paine wrote on the eve of the American Revolution, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”

Now is the time for a new revolution in America. A peaceful revolution, leading to a more level playing field for all of the more than 300 million souls living in these United States.

To begin the challenging journey toward a more equitable society, I believe our country needs to return to the federal income tax structure that prevailed during World War II. If the individuals who benefit so richly from the freedom they have to make the most of their talents and their financial opportunities were to pay dues (taxes) according to World War II standards, the federal budget could be balanced, and we could begin to reduce the national debt.

My hope is that my fellow citizens will find a way to influence members of Congress to adopt a World War II income tax plan. We owe it to our children and to future generations.

Boyer Jarvis is a Salt Lake City resident, former board member of the ACLU of Utah, the Salt Lake branch of the NAACP, the Utah Heritage Foundation, Voices for Utah Children and others. , United Nations Association of Utah and the Salt Lake Chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.