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Taxes should limit the gap between rich and poor

Re: 1999: globalization's first real test, Dec. 27.

This essay says that "protectionism" against globalization will create a world recession. Recession occurs when the demand for the products of civilization falls too far below the production of those products, resulting in mass unemployment and further decrease in demand, a familiar cyclical phenomenon. No mention is made of the only way to stop that tragic degenerative cycle, anywhere in the world where it occurs _ redistribution of income via progressive taxes that, in effect, take from the rich (producers) to give to the poor (consumers).

Our "globe" comprises nations of various means for such redistribution _ from the progressive taxation of democracies to the paternalism of feudal monarchies. The test of the success of the method is also obvious _ the difference (in income and population) between the "rich" and "poor," the familiar rich/poor gap. It is obvious that a stable, prosperous, compassionate society should not have an excessive rich/poor gap in an era where every man can see how the "other half" lives.

It is also obvious that the capitalistic society (which induces the best workers to work the hardest) has proved to be more efficient than the socialistic/communistic society that failed to create the essential motivation for harder work. Unfortunately, the capitalistic society has no built-in safeguards against an excessive rich/poor gap _ other than the upper rate of the progressive income tax. It is strange that this key problem receives so little attention from economists or politicians.

From the experience of the author, an octogenarian who is also a successful entrepreneur, the minimum rate of that income tax _ on the largest incomes (not average and small ones) must be a minimum of 50 percent for no less than six reasons:

1. Financial _ adequate financing for essentials (military, health, hospitals, public housing).

2. Political _ provides funding for political campaigns (the wealthy give most now).

3. Social _ reduces the social problems that accompany an excessive rich/poor gap.

4. Production _ the only way to avoid that tax is to spend the excess on expansion.

5. Psychological _ a 50-percent tax means a 50-cent value for the added taxable dollar.

6. Biblical _ a camel can go through the eye of a needle easier than a rich man into heaven.

Items 4 and 5 are related. Spending on business expansion is legitimately deductible, giving 100-cent value to that dollar. This is why business expanded so rapidly when the income tax on large incomes was 50-60 percent, as it was for decades before Ronald Reagan cut it to a maximum of 28 percent, creating the still existing trillion-dollar debt and thousands of millionaires and billionaires. Simply restore that 50-percent-plus tax; no rich man will commit suicide, and most of our financial and social problems will disappear.

Milton Aronson, St. Pete Beach

Market illogic

Re: The economic bubble may yet burst, Dec. 31.

When I worked on Wall Street in the 1950s, one bought stock based on fundamentals such as efficient management, increased sales and profits.

Amazon.com, mentioned in this article, is a classic example of the disregard for the basic fundamentals of stock purchases today.

Everyone has their own theory for the rise in the stock market! As long as there are funds available from "investors" who have a greater share of the wealth of this country than most Americans, the stock market will continue on its present course with little or no logic for its advancement other than because most "hope to sell to someone else at loftier prices."

If the market is left to advance without control (unlike interest rates in this country), the gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots" will widen further.

The low-income workers and retirees on fixed interest-bearing funds, as always , will be the innocent victims of an unrestricted stock market!

Russell Lee Johnson, St. Petersburg

Elderly shouldn't be forced to work

Re: Many elderly Americans forced to skip medications, Dec. 26.

It appalls me to read articles like this one about elderly people having to work, reducing the dosage of drugs in order to make ends meet or going without medications to buy food, etc.

I am one of the fortunate people who can obtain my prescription drugs under my secondary insurance policy without payment.

Also, why should citizens of this country have to pay high prices for drugs to pay lobbyists for pharmaceutical companies that contribute to congressmen and senators? What a "round robin" that is.

I have no objection to senior citizens working until they reach the age of 100; but if they have to work in their twilight years to pay for high-priced drugs, that is not right.

The rich can afford their drugs, the very poor can go on Medicaid, but the middle class is caught in between. Something should, and can, be done.

Bernice Troutman, St. Petersburg

Canady should have listened

Re: Waitress was out of line, letter, Dec. 30, in response to the Dec. 25 story Legislator riled; server out the door.

The letter writer says, "We all must be held accountable for our actions." I agree, but what about the actions of Rep. Charles Canady? The man overhears comments not directed to him, interposes himself into the situation, asks for waitress Carolee Westcott's opinion, is obviously displeased by what he hears and then has the gall to complain to the restaurant manager.

Where is Canady's integrity? Does this incident mean that if Canady asks my opinion on the job, I must answer with something that will please Canady or risk losing my job because he'll complain to my boss if I don't?

When Canady asked for comments from Wescott, he had a responsibility to listen to her and let it go at that. In my opinion, Canady is not a man of honor and definitely not one I would trust.

Richard De Berry, Gulfport

Waitress used the wrong forum

Re: Waitress was out of line, letter, Dec. 30.

Kudos to the letter writer, who expressed what many of us too silent citizens are thinking and feeling. To reiterate what she said, the correct forum to express opinions to our representatives and senators regarding this disgraceful presidential act, should be by letter, telephone or e-mail. The waitress should not have intruded upon Rep. Canady in public, particularly in the restaurant deemed "Hospitaliano," i.e. Olive Garden.

Many of us have watched the actions and opinions expressed by Rep. Charles Canady, and we are impressed with his integrity, high moral standard and the fact that he has under fire maintained his dignity without lashing out.

Sharon Warrington, Clearwater

Advice for the disputants

Re: Legislator riled; server out the door.

At various times in my life I have been employed both as a table waiter and an elected public official. From this dual perspective, I offer the following advice to the combatants in the tawdry episode at the Olive Garden:

To Carolee Westcott: If you don't have any better sense than to deliberately antagonize a patron at your employer's restaurant, you're lucky to have any kind of a job.

To Rep. Charles Canady: Although I happen to agree with your views on impeachment, millions do not; and if you can't abide petty critics without running to their bosses, then you should either keep a lower profile or find a new career.

And, now, a gloomy prediction: Somewhere in this great state there is a bottom-feeding tort lawyer who will try to make a million-dollar case out of this. Stay by your phone, Ms. Westcott!

Barry M. Johnston, Inverness

Disproportionate responses

It is with some amusement that I read of Rep. Charles Canady's mishap at a Lakeland Olive Garden restaurant. Canady, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, has always been one of President Clinton's harshest and most partisan critics.

Yet it was interesting to see how the congressman responded to criticism when he inadvertently overheard a waitress (and constituent) express her opinion about the congressman's vote on impeachment to a co-worker.

The eavesdropping congressman then had the manager call the waitress to the table to ask her whether she had something to say to him. Unintimidated by either the congressman or her manager, she elaborated on her point not only with respect to Canady's vote on impeachment, but also with his switching political parties nine years earlier. As a result of this taxpayer's willingness to speak her mind to her elected representative when asked for her opinion, the waitress says she was fired.

In a moment of irony that could only be lost on a career politician, Canady later stated that a reprimand for the waitress would have been sufficient and that "firing would be disproportionate for what she did." Much like firing or impeaching a popular president for lying about sex would be disproportionate when a reprimand or censure would be appropriate.

While credit is to be given to Canady for understanding the meaning of the word "disproportionate," it would appear that he still has much difficulty grasping the concept of hypocrisy.

Mitchie Lapp, Sarasota

It's not a First Amendment matter

Re: Legislator riled; server out the door, Dec. 25.

In all the heat (with, as usual, very little light) over "The Olive Garden Incident," I think it may be time to point out one fact that seems to be largely forgotten: between an employer and an employee there is no such thing as "The First Amendment."

The First Amendment begins: "Congress shall make no law . . ." There are some of us who wish the founding fathers had stopped right there, but nooo! They narrowed the prohibition to speech, press and assembly. The First Amendment protects citizens from the government, but that's all. It doesn't protect citizens from citizens.

We need to keep that in mind when an employee gets fired for violating "company policy."

Frank Clarke, Oldsmar

Share your opinions

Letters for publication should be addressed to Letters to the Editor, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. They can be sent by e-mail to letterssptimes.com or by fax to 893-8675.

They should be brief and must include the writer's name, address and phone number.

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