Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Put a Stamp on the Future

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Put a Stamp on the Future

Article excerpt

CITZENS should vote. Voting is the way citizens participate in the direction of their country. This is so even when the issues are as frustrating and arcane as fiscal policy.

Today's politicians keep public attitudes under constant surveillance. Many voters resent opinion surveys, thinking they usurp their vote. Surveys enable the politician to trim his sails to the popular wind. Raise enough money to intimidate would-be challengers and stick to the trade winds of the election cycle is today's formula for political longevity.

But cynicism does the citizen little good. Neither does disengaging from the political process and forgetting to vote.

The citizen actually embraces government in thought. More instant, more complete information about government is available today than ever before. Cable TV networks carry hearings live. Radio analysis can be thoughtful. The major newspapers and magazines carry the reactions of economists and experts. Negative advertising trivializes campaigns, to be sure. But the thoughtful citizen can still follow what is going on and make up his own mind about the direction the country should be heading.

Right now the country is heading into recession, and opinion polls show the public does not like it. In 1964 Lyndon Johnson and Congress reduced personal taxes by 18 percent to spur consumer spending. The policy worked, and the economy picked up rapidly. Soon the Vietnam war added too much fuel to the spending fire and in 1968 Congress enacted a temporary 10 percent rise in personal tax payments - a "surcharge." In 1975, the economy was bottoming out again in a recession and President Ford and Congress agreed on a temporary tax cut to revive consumer spending. Taxpayers were given rebates on their '74 taxes - which they saved rather than spent, confounding expectations. Under Ronald Reagan, tax rates fell by 23 percent from 1981 to 1984, and consumer spending rebounded again as anticipated. But the deficit soared, giving rise to the central domestic political issue of today, how and when to balance the budget.

Harvard economist Francis Bator has been arguing that the US must raise taxes substantially. …

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