Sunday, August 15, 1999
What readers said
We asked readers last Sunday to make some choices about how to use a projected federal budget surplus.
How should a federal budget surplus be used? A. Cut taxes or B. Pay for new retirement savings accounts, increase spending on education, defense, Medicare and other programs. Which is more important? A. Reducing the debt or B. Cutting taxes.
Because of the volume of response, only some of the correspondence can be published. Answers were edited for space and clarity.
It seems obvious that fiscal responsibility would require the reduction of the debt acquired by our past spending. The reduction in interest costs should then be passed along in the form of reduced taxes. However, it is not that we are paying too much in taxes, the problems revolve around the basic unfairness in our incomprehensible tax code.
Gary Crawford, Maineville
The budget surplus is a projection and not a reality. By paying down the debt we can benefit everyone economically without committing funds that may not actually exist.
Hugh W. Lowrey, Madeira
If we don't reduce the debt in the best of times, then we probably never will try to reduce it.
Gil McLean, Westwood
The young people today are having a hard time raising a family, just clothing them and sending them to schools is 10 times more costly today. After taxes are taken out, there just isn't enough to get by.
Betty Cloe, Westwood
An Enquirer editorial commented that taxpayers deserve a tax cut. This attitude is what gets Americans in financial trouble, both individually and as a nation. Taxpayers don't deserve a tax break or spending on new programs until we pay our national debt, just as an individual doesn't deserve a new car until his previous debts and current obligations are paid.
Sharon Crall, Loveland
Writer Thomas Merton said: If you don't like taxes, be poor.
Margaret Warminski, Newport
If the dummies in Washington, both Republicans and Democrats, would pay off the national debt, they would have $345 billion in saved interest to spend.
C.J. Goyert, Finneytown
Reducing or eliminating the debt could result in the largest tax cut of all. Congressional members should not lose sight of the fact that they are only trustees of our money. If there is a surplus it should be used for debt retirement and tax cuts not for new more expensive pet projects which may have to be eliminated when there in an economic downturn.
Terry Gaines, Mariemont
Nobody realizes what the interest on our national debt costs the taxpayers. Every possible effort should be made to pay off this debt. This is the first principle in running a successful business.
Richard Van Veen, Anderson Township
The entire surplus should reduce the national debt. During prosperity no one needs a tax cut. It could overheat the economy.
Richard Zimmerman, St. Bernard
A way back when we were growing up we were told, Save for a rainy day. A debt was to be avoided if at all possible, and pay it off as soon as you can. I believe it still.
Marjorie Behrman, Norwood
The economy is strong and the standard of living is better than anyone ever saw. So why cut taxes?
Eddie Boone, Sycamore Township
We taxpayers have overpaid taxes! The Clinton administration has been increasing government and government spending and will use our money to do so. We have the right to use money as we want. It is not Clinton's money.
M. Patricia Denker, Sharonville
The so-called surplus should be returned to the taxpayers, especially the married couples who both work out of necessity. This is not the way the country was founded the citizens being held in bondage by the U.S. government.
Jean Hudepohl, Southgate
The Democrats always believe they can spend money better than the taxpaying people. It's our money to spend as we see fit. Republicans are right to cut taxes.
James Collins Sr., Delhi Township
Taxes are the food supply of the government monster. Reduce the nourishment and the monster is less able to thrive.
David Keller, Covington
Add together your federal income tax, Social Security tax, Medicare tax, state and city income taxes, sales and real estate taxes, and you'll see we're being taxed to death. A modest tax cut may put us back on life support.
John Banner, Clifton
A tax cut would be nice, however, we don't need it. The economy is great. Let it alone. It makes more sense to pay off our bills (national debt, social security, Medicare). If a family has a very large credit card debt and discovered a surplus of money at the end of the year, should they distribute it to all the family members to spend as they wish or would it be more prudent to pay down the credit card debt. No brainer.
Bob Mitchell, Anderson Township
A tax cut will increase investing and drive the economy to increased heights, spur additional savings, and will allow the individual the freedom to decide how he wishes to utilize his own money. Surplus money kept by government will be spent on the usual pork.
Terry Merrill, Anderson Township
What happened to tax simplification? Set a standard that congressmen must do their own returns without help.
John B. Goering, Crescent Springs
If the Senate and House would reduce, no, stop earmarking $100 billion of our money for pork barrel projects each year, more money would be available for debt and tax reduction. Perhaps then a Congress could spend some on Social Security and Medicare. We know the Congress can spend our money foolishly. The question is, can Congress spend our money wisely?
Herb Moyer, Batavia
I think they key to this issue is that the budget surplus is projected. Until it is reality, it should not be used in any way.
Ronald Thomas, Price Hill
We can reduce the debt and cut taxes if we decrease the size of the federal government. I don't trust them to reduce the debt if we leave the money in their hands, so give it back to us.
Brent Ness, Loveland
This one-way money funnel has to stop. Politicians will constantly spend any and all excess, then raise taxes in the future. Return all excess to taxpayers.
Don Jones, Bridgetown
Paying down debt due Social Security strengthens Social Security and reduces debt. Cutting taxes increases the economy, which generates additional revenue at the same tax rate.
John H. Schaefer, Blue Ash
Retirement accounts are good. But it should be put in the name and Social Security number of the recipient. I would take tax cuts. It's not spending. It's ours and should be returned penny per penny.
John Donnelly, West Chester
We live in a society that allows elected leaders to use our money for public good. When it is obvious that too much funding was given to the elected leaders, there seems to be only one choice as to what to do with the excess: Give it back.
Ken Koller, Cheviot
How can the government possibly cut its income while having such a huge debt? Would I accept a cut in pay while my mortgage debt continues as is or even increases? I think not. How can anyone project 10 years of surpluses? Just a few years ago the government was projecting deficits!
Steve Topmiller, Mt. Airy
I fully support the GOP's tax plan and am amazed to learn that a large segment of the American (public) actually believes that the federal government has money to spend that didn't come from the collection of taxes. If your mortgage holder applied a rate of 8.5% interest for your mortgage but you contracted with them for 7.5% rate, then you would expect, quickly demand, that the mortgage lender pay back any amount that was overcharged.
George E. Bryant, West Chester
Use some of the surplus to make up the deficit that would be caused by ending the marriage penalty. Penalizing a couple for being married and waiting to have children is not right.
Jessica Gilman, Greenhills
We work hard for our money and by cutting taxes, we could see more of it. Yes, it would be nice to see some of this money go toward education, etc., but we should be the ones to decide this, not the government. Tax cuts would benefit everyone, not just the wealthy. Besides, if the wealthy would be getting greater tax cuts, oh, well, it's their money, they earned it!
Mary Carol McMahan, Bridgetown
Part of the money should be used to shore up Social Security. Taxes were only to be a temporary thing to finance war, etc. They are getting way too high. It's impossible to get ahead.
Mary Werle, Westwood
Self-employed and small-business owners need a break from these high taxes. They pay the full percentage of Social Security taxes plus the income taxes.
John Conklin, Delhi Township
Please introduce me to any banker that would not require me to pay off my debt.
Martin Wade, Blue Ash
The most important reason for cutting taxes is to reverse the trend.Democrats will always invent ways to spend the money as long as they are able to keep collecting from taxpayers.
Pat Lapple, Reading
We are older Americans and think that reducing the debt for the next generation is the most important thing now. This generation would just go out and spend the money; they are not a saving generation.
Allene Gastrich, New Richmond
In this continuing era of me, me, me, with a lot of folks buying things which you can't take with you when you die, I opt for leaving a huge legacy to America's kids cutting the debt. On the other hand, having the Pentagon spend $7,600 on a coffeemaker infuriates me, which is why most taxpayers want their money back.
Judy Merz, Mt. Carmel
The Republican Party should be ashamed of itself. To advocate ANY tax cuts before the national debt is completely taken care of is nothing short of irresponsible. Although I would certainly support domestic social spending over tax cuts, I would forego such spending in favor of liquidating the national debt.
Kent Peterson, Oxford
We need to reduce the debt, it should be the top priority and can be done while we taxpayers are treated to getting some of our money back. Washington needs to cut back on spending. Democrats say the country can't afford a tax cut. I say they never asked me if I could afford a tax increase when they gave us one!
Dennis Wheeler, Montgomery
It's time the U.S. government recognize that we citizens are outraged at having to give the tax people 50%-plus of our incomes. That's our money not yours now send some back!
Vince Facciuto, Finneytown
It is my money and I want it back. You can't trust the politicians to do with the surplus as they say they will do, so send it back to the ones who pay, but have little say. As for the debt, most companies and individuals incur debt that is reasonable for growth. Thus, as long as the national debt is reasonable in relation to our gross national product, forget about it.
Bob Pape, Union Township, Clermont County
The surplus is a result of a strong economy and the highest tax rates since WWII. The overpayments should be returned to the people who made these overpayments, enabling them to make their own spending choices. The longer Bill Clinton keeps his big nose in that surplus the more likely it is to be spent.
Jim Kash, Maineville
As many economists have pointed out, a tax cut would tend to be inflationary and add heat to an already hot economy. Although all of us feel we pay too much in taxes, the current state of the economy and the low rate of unemployment indicate that we have adjusted to the current level of taxation and our government should take the responsible approach of paying down the deficit, securing Social Security, and maintaining and improving Medicare.
Jim Warren, Fairfield
The United States is one of the lowest taxed countries in the Western world. Americans have the highest lifestyle of any major country, consume 25% of world resources, and yet have the highest personal debt ratios in the world. This while our infrastructure is failing, and social services are depleted. We should pay our bills like a solid business does. Invest in education, infrastructure (roads, rails, networks, utilities), and secure Medicare and SSI funding.
Jeffrey Jarboe, Independence, Ky.
The federal government is not capable of making sound decisions on retirement investments or education. Give me back my money and I will spend it more wisely.
Jim Ireton, Deerfield Township, Warren County
I feel we should take advantage of the tax dollars rolling in and pay off or begin to pay down our debts, which in reality are the obligations of the taxpayers.
Carl Schmoll, Groesbeck
Congress should take six months off, rest and get plenty of sleep and eat lots of green veggies, and put the government on autopilot.
Irvin Grothouse, Colerain Township
I may be oversimplifying the situation, but applying the surplus now to reducing our current debt will lead to a reduced interest payment on the national debt burden. This should free up additional dollars for both reducing taxes (in the near-term future) as well as for further debt reduction, thus compounding the savings.
David B. Greenberg, Springfield Township
If 5 percent of the people pay 95 percent of the tax and 95 percent of the people pay 5 percent of the tax, there is no doubt what should be done. (Cutting taxes)
Barbara Twehues, Ft. Thomas
Sucessful businesses would first pay down the cost of borrowing and prior expensive debt before taking on a new project. Reducing the cost of current debt frees additional surplus and would allow for the security of the Social Security system and Medicare with that surplus. Possible tax reduction for both income and Social Security/Medicare taxes could then be real and not temporary.
Thomas Bell, Bridgetown
Whether we are Democrat or Republican, when someone as astute about finance as Alan Greenspan tells us we should pay down the national debt, why would we want to cut taxes or seriously increase spending? Both will lead to the return of an unstable economy and flat business growth. Paying down the debt will lower interest rates again and spur economic development and consumer confidence.
Shirley Sanders, Ft. Mitchell
The wage earners of today should pay off the debt of the past. I do not want to pass this debt on to my children. As boomers retire, the income tax revenue will shrink and the surplus may not last.
Sandra Wetzel, Hyde Park
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