Madison County Opinion...

JUNE 25, 2003


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
June 25, 2003

Frankly Speaking
Reduce taxes and strip away gov’t programs
The President’s tax cut is set to take effect in a few days. The Democrats are crying about the unfairness of the tax. They issue their usual cry that the tax favors the rich, that there is nothing in it for the nation’s poor.
The fact is that most of the tax cut will benefit working families with children. New child credits and deductions will give young families a substantial boost. The “poor” that the Democrats are crying about are the same ones that pay no taxes, and receive excessive welfare benefits already.
There is one group that has been sadly neglected by the tax cut. They are the young, single people working at entry level jobs. These folks have just moved out on their own. They are trying to establish a residence, buy furniture, a car, pay fees to establish utilities and still have a bit of money left to look for a potential spouse.
Most of these young people work for low wages. Typically, they earn $20,000 per year or less, a pittance in today’s economy. Yet they pay a heavy percentage of their earnings for federal income tax, state income tax, and social security and Medicare tax.
A single person earning $20,000 per year with only himself as a dependent will typically pay $1,500 in federal income taxes. The President’s tax cut will reduce their bill by only $50. After the tax cut, they still pay $1,450 in federal income tax. That is less than $1 per week in savings.
Did the tax cut treat everyone fairly? Of course not. All taxes are unfair because they take away money that we, the taxpayers, work hard to earn. It is no fairer to take money from those whose hard work and ability generates large incomes than it is to take the pittance others of us earn.
The only somewhat fair tax plan is one that takes away the least possible of our earnings. To do that, we have to strip government to the limits set for it by the Constitution. It means taking welfare out of government and returning it to local charities. It means ending government financing of scientific research, medicine, the arts and all the other pet projects cooked up by politicians. All these areas should be supported by businesses and individuals who benefit from them.
I believe that by eliminating most government programs, and the taxes that pay for them, businesses and individuals would have an abundance of cash to contribute to the programs we feel deserve our support. We would be deciding for ourselves how our money was being spent, not some government bureaucrat.
We are a smart and generous people. If such things as the arts, medical research, even space, were financed by public donations, those programs that benefit us individually and as a society would be fully financed. The pet projects of a few people who demand that government take our money to pay for them are the only ones that will be unfunded.
The only fair tax cuts are the ones that leave money in the pockets of all working people, and allow us to decide for ourselves how our money is to be spent.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His e-mail address is frankg@mcga.net.

Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
June 25, 2003

From the Editor's Desk
The bad rap on ‘the environmentalist’
Say “environmentalist” and many conjure the image of a scraggly haired man, with sandals, some weed, a peace pipe and the lack of a good job.
The “environmentalist,” as a faceless man or woman, has an image problem in much of mainstream society, dismissed by some as a promoter of a “hippie” way of thinking, of being too high to give a durn about practical matters; written off by by others as a peddler of misinformed “alarmist” notions: that we’re going to run out of water, that man-made gasses are leading to global warming, that we’re becoming overpopulated on this planet and eating up the habitats of a variety of creatures as we deplete our resources.
I bring up the “environmentalist” image because that’s what many see whenever they hear the environmentalist’s declarations. They don’t think of the message but the caricature of the speaker, the “hippie tree hugger and owl lover.”
It is this scoffing dismissal, this elbow-nudging ridicule, that is the first obstacle of any community-based plan that seeks improvement of an environment.
We all recognize those who care deeply about the environment range from the NRA Republican to the bike-riding Democrat. The love of outdoors crosses all political boundaries.
No, I’m not pushing any particular environmental agenda here.
But our way of thinking about “the environment” seems flawed in general. We tend to view it as a second-tier political campaign “issue,” somewhere behind taxes, defense, health care and a politician’s nose length. In fact, “the environment” is our life support system and we tend not to appreciate that.
An article I read in the June issue of Harper’s Magazine about the decline of the Mayan civilization in Mexico offers more than just an analysis of how sustained drought conditions were a primary factor in the fall of that civilization.
Author Jared Diamond talks about “dangerous misconceptions” that our society has about “the environment,” including the notion that we can expect technology to solve our environmental problems.
“Whatever environmental problem you name, you can also name some hoped-for technological solution under discussion,” said Diamond, noting, for example, the hope for a replacement of fossil fuels.
The author writes that those with faith in scientific advances assume that new technology will be implemented quickly enough to make a difference and that the technology itself won’t create new, unforeseen problems.
Diamond also addresses the notion that environmentalists, in general, are “fear-mongering, overreacting extremists whose predictions of impending disaster have been proven wrong before and will be again.”
He points out that the environmental problems of billions of people elsewhere in the world affect us in America, noting that any ecologist would list the following countries as facing some of the worst problems of environmental stress and overpopulation: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burundi, Haiti, Indonesia, Iraq, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Rwanda, the Soloman Islands and Somalia.
He added that any first-world politician “who knows nothing, and cares less, about the environment” will list the same countries when asked to name the world’s worst trouble spots in terms of collapsed state governments and civil wars. These are places that take a toll on richer, first-world nations with a deluge of refugees, money in foreign aid and military confrontations.
The environment, obviously, extends beyond the parameters in which we naturally think. It is the core difference between much of the first world and third world. It is something that can’t be categorized as “an issue.” It is, instead, a fundamental element of most all issues.
I think of “environmentalists” and I too can see the long-haired man obsessed with saving the snail darter or the spotted owl, the man who seems somehow disconnected from a good grasp of priority.
But, to me, “environmentalist” is not a derogatory word. It is, in fact, someone who loves the world in which he lives, someone who sees a big picture of how the earth should be and tries to do what he can to improve it, even if it is in small ways.
It’s those who ridicule that notion who don’t get it.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.

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