Republicans in Congress and the White House have enacted a tax reform package that will decrease government income, while increasing the federal deficit and the national debt. These outcomes would not always be bad, but in present circumstances, they are inexcusable.
When could one justify reducing government income — i.e., tax collections? This would make sense if the government had a large surplus or was making substantial programmatic cuts. Neither of these is currently the case.
Increasing the federal deficit and the national debt could be motivated by the need to support essential services, like maintaining infrastructure or financing new initiatives. Despite serious infrastructure needs, tax reform simply gives money back to the citizens, most generously to those who need it least.
There is talk of making up some of the increased deficit by reducing Social Security and Medicare payments. This would amount to robbery, turning contributions into taxes.
Social Security and Medicare are government-managed retirement accounts. Federal agencies hold funds contributed by working people and pay them out later in life. These are not government operating funds; they belong to those who contributed. These are not entitlement programs in the sense usually meant. In fact, the government has an obligation to distribute this money back to working people.
Reducing taxes is, in itself, not a laudable goal.
We establish governments and pay taxes in order to do things collectively that we cannot do individually, like providing for national defense, establishing schools, enforcing laws, and sustaining broad infrastructure. If these functions cannot be fulfilled with current income, taxes should be raised, not lowered, or funds should be borrowed through responsible bonding.
Let me give one very small local example. Shortly after the current downtown library was built, the Salt Lake City Council was asked to raise property taxes very slightly to help fund continuing library operations, which were understandably more costly in the new building. As a property owner and an supporter of the library and its programs, I attended an open meeting on the topic and explicitly asked the Council to “Please, tax me.” It seemed then and seems now that this is exactly the sort of thing our taxes should support.
The tax reform package shirks government responsibility in numerous ways. We can only hope that future administrations will reverse its damaging effects.
Dana Carroll is a Salt Lake City resident, a taxpayer and a Social Security recipient.