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Some simple steps to avoiding fiscal cliff

December 16, 2012|By TIM ROWLAND | timr@herald-mail.com

This was my feeling before this whole fiscal cliff nonsense began: Please, raise my taxes.

Before hyperventilating over that statement, understand that there were some conditions attached. And the first condition is that everyone stop talking about taxes for at least a year. No more parsing taxes vs. revenues. No more stupid calendars on the nightly news showing the “countdown to the fiscal cliff.”

Maybe this is the Democrats’ goal — get everyone so sick of the word that we will effectively pay to stop hearing it. But really, the price of milk goes up, the price of gas goes up and if taxes occasionally go up, I have no real problem with that.

So here we go: One, the payroll tax cut should expire, as Republicans want. I’m more worried about the stability of retirement funds than I am about what amounts to dinner out once a month.

And I will live with it if they phase out the mortgage tax exemption. This pains me, because I get two exemptions for having two houses. And I know closing this time-honored loophole hurts Realtors and is an assault on the American dream and all, but when I rented many moons ago, it always bugged be that homeowners got a tax break — and families got a bigger tax break — and I didn’t, even though I used far fewer government services. So chalk this one up to closing old wounds.

Third, raise the retirement age by two years, which is a de facto tax hike because we’ll all be paying an added two years of revenue into the public till. Yes, all these Medicare and Social Security “reforms” are in actuality tax hikes. Don’t pretend they’re not, because there is no way to shore up entitlements without money, and that money will have to come from us.

OK, there. As you can see, I will be directly affected by these tax hikes, so it’s not as if I’m only interested in goring someone else’s ox. But for various reasons, I believe that all these tax hikes would lead to a better country.

As mentioned, however, in exchange for this hit to my financial situation, I have some very specific demands in return.

First, that Grover fellow must be pushed out of the picture. Who is he, where did he come from and who cares what he thinks? He’s a lobbyist who is currently making a lot of money for himself while facilitating gridlock and destroying America in the process. Get rid of him.

Second, the fiscal cliff never bothered me. The military is going to be cut anyway, as it always is when we wind down our wars. The cliff would eliminate the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, which got us in this mess in the first place. And if the global economy crashes as a result? Well, next time we’ll know.

Third, if my mortgage deduction goes away, then everyone’s loophole must be closed. No more offshore tax shelters. No more laundering corporate profits through six different nations so they pay no tax to the nation and the people that have blessed their business so. No more subsidizing sugar and tobacco with one hand and then spending a fortune on advertisements spewing the evils of sugar and tobacco. No more multimillion-dollar subsidies for Big Oil’s “exploration” at the same time we’re making a federal case out of a solar start-up that failed.

Fourth, let Paul Ryan rewrite Social Security and Medicare law. He’s interested in it; I’m not. I would rather these programs be there for me when I need them in some reduced form than not be there at all. And I think that’s probably what would happen if Ryan gave it his best shot.

OK, to recap: We have enacted the Democratic priorities of taxing the wealthy and cutting the military. We have enacting the Republican priorities of closing tax loopholes and cutting entitlements. From top to bottom, we’ve all been stung, probably in direct proportion to our ability to absorb the pain. In exchange, our deficit problem would be solved; our individual future would be secure, if not as generous; the nation would have the revenue it needs to finally pay for the things we’ve put off for years, like road and bridge projects, modernizing the electrical grid and shoring up our national parks.

Fifteen years ago, an interesting parallel existed in Washington County. The sewer department built out extravagantly, but the commissioners feared raising sewer fees in order to pay for it. The result was a $54 million debt. So new leaders devised some “revenue enhancements” and scaled back a bit on the new construction. Problem solved. And on the federal level, there’s really not a whole lot more to it.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. His email address is timr@herald-mail.com.

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