To the Editor:
We often hear conservatives say that government should “live within its means.” I agree. As a nation or a family, we have the option of living within, above or below our means. Living either above or below our means has negative consequences on both a family and a nation.
Since the 1980’s, America has been acting like a family whose primary earner has decided to work less than part-time, earning just enough to provide the bare minimum of essentials. This decision is not based on any physical or intellectual limitation, or the inability to earn much more than they are capable, rather it is a conscious decision, that, as a result, deprives its family of basic essentials like quality health care, education, a proper living environment, and quality child care. This is the America of today.
From 1945 to the 1980’s, the highest marginal tax rate in America never fell below 70 percent (N.H. Gazette), and in the 1950’s, under a Republican President, it was as high as 92 percent. During these almost three decades, America experienced unprecedented economic prosperity and growth. We rebuilt Europe through the Marshall Plan, educated millions of veterans with the G.I. Bill, creating a prosperous middle-class, we built the Interstate Highway System, passed Medicare and Medicaid, and provided a strong national defense. And throughout this period, our budget deficit and national debt were almost non-existent, and the wealth disparity between the rich and the middle class was reasonable. America was living within its means.
Unfortunately, since the 1980’s America has steadily reduced its earning power by lowering tax revenues, especially on the most wealthy. Today, the highest marginal tax rate stands at 37 percent and, as a result, our budget deficit and national debt have skyrocketed and our wealth disparity is at an obscene level. Currently, the top one percent own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent (New York Times). America is intentionally living well below its means in order to allow the most wealthy to avoid paying their fair share. The result is that we are unnecessarily depriving our “family” of quality health care, a clean environment, quality public education, child care, a livable wage for all workers, and a modern and well maintained infrastructure. In the long-term, such a situation is not sustainable for either a stable family or a nation.
Welcome back to our literal pages. We’ve missed you.
Thanks for making this extremely important point so eloquently.