The Salem News
---- — To the editor:
Any successful business devotes an adequate portion of its earnings to maintaining its productivity and building its strength for the future. Similarly, nations must direct a sufficient part of their productivity to maintaining and developing the functions of government that are needed to support a prosperous society.
The United States is not now devoting enough of its productivity to the functions that are essential if we are to compete economically with other advanced and developing nations. For one thing, we are failing to invest adequately in education. About a quarter of our young people don’t graduate from high school, and many of those who do graduate lack the skills that would allow them to pursue further education or enter the workforce at other than a menial level. We have reduced funding for higher education drastically, making it unattainable for many students or forcing them to borrow excessively to finance their education. Altogether, we need to train many more young people to fill the jobs that exist in our technology-driven economy. Estimates are that some 2 million jobs in America are going unfilled because employers can’t find workers with the essential qualifications. Greater investment in education would prepare more skilled workers who could fill well-paying jobs, which would allow them to afford the goods and services that help drive a prosperous economy.
Many other government activities that contribute to the country’s productivity similarly lack sufficient funding. We know that major investment is needed in roads, bridges, air and rail facilities, and research. Agencies for public health and safety, the orderly regulation of commerce, the judicial system, and a host of other services also require more support.
We must invest adequately in all of these government functions if this nation is to compete successfully in today’s world. Our government is currently failing to give such support, largely because of our reluctance to raise enough tax revenue to provide for it. Many other developed and developing nations are more willing to tax to invest in the government functions essential to a productive economy and may therefore be expected to gain economic advantage on us in the years ahead.
Most people feel that those who are benefiting the most from our productive economy should pay the most toward keeping it strong. Instead, through the tax breaks for high-income individuals and corporations, we are directing an ever-increasing portion of the nation’s productivity into the pockets of the wealthiest Americans while our nation becomes relatively weaker for lack of public investment. In the current period, the tea party Republicans in Congress, with their no-new-taxes pledge, have enforced a moratorium on raising taxes, even on the highest incomes. The Paul Ryan budget proposal, already passed twice by the Republican-dominated House of Representatives, would give even more tax cuts to the wealthiest — including provisions that would leave Mitt Romney paying virtually no tax on his income of some millions of dollars — thereby assuring still less support for the government functions needed to build a strong America. Romney has praised the Ryan budget. Candidate Richard Tisei has praised the tea party and would most probably support the Republican position if elected. Scott Brown has joined in the no-new-taxes pledge.
Romney, Ryan, Brown and their followers are committed to a course that would assure America’s decline relative to other nations in the years ahead. President Obama and congressional Democrats are trying to go the other way and have proposed modest tax increases on higher incomes to better meet our nation’s needs.
We must stop the drive to channel ever more of our productivity into the private coffers of the wealthiest Americans to the detriment the nation’s economy. We need to elect a president and Congress who have the wisdom and courage to invest more of the nation’s productive output in the government services that will help move America forward in the years ahead.