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July 4, 2015

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Letter to the editor:

A possible solution for the ‘fiscal cliff’

Another view?

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It appears that nearly everyone has an opinion about the approaching “fiscal cliff” and what to do about taxes and deficits. So do I. One common-sense approach to changing federal income tax law is to simply cap the total combined amount of federal income tax a taxpayer can deduct.

For example, if the allowable non-itemized “standard” deduction for a particular family is $15,000, cap their itemized deductions at two times the allowable standard deduction — in this case $30,000. This formula would apply to every taxpayer and would include items such as home mortgage interest, property taxes and charitable deductions.

Under current tax code, why should a wealthy person receive a 36 percent deduction for their charitable contribution (subsidized by nearly all other taxpayers) and the lower-income person only 15 percent? Maybe some taxpayers don’t care to support any of their chosen charities. Is the reason for giving the tax deduction, establishing a tax shelter, the need to give?

Level the playing field for all taxpayers and just cap the aggregate deduction amount. This way, everyone gets to pick and choose but within limits.

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  1. The first paragragh reads incorrectly by stating:
    "One common-sense approach to changing federal income tax law is to simply cap the total combined amount of federal income tax a taxpayer can deduct"

    It should say " the amount of itemized deductions a taxpayer can deduct".

    This was an idea that Romney pushed and one that is under discussion in the fiscal cliff negotiations. As long as the itemized deductions are high enough not to hit middle income taxpayers, and therefore hits only the high end earners, it seems like a good idea.

  2. President Obama, and hence the Democrats, will not agree to this for 2 reasons. One is that this point was introduced during the presidential campaign by Governor Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan. The other is that the President insists on raising rates on the wealthy, despite saying he was open to all new ideas for raising tax revenue.

    The raising of tax rates on the "wealthy" is symbolic for President Obama. It does 3 things that have no impact whatsoever on the debt/deficits. First, it appeals to his base. Second, it sends a message that he was right when he ran on a platform that the rich have to pay their fair share, and the Republicans were wrong. And third, the President wants to rub the noses of the losers in it.

    It's called overreaching. All second termers do it.


  3. I admire the simplicity of the writer's suggestion. Some might change the numbers slightly but the idea has appeal. Too much of the tax code has been customized to benefit too few. The ability to deduct mortgage interest on a second home comes to mind as an example.

  4. "It's called overreaching. All second termers do it."

    The real name for it is governing.

  5. Why not a "Flat Tax?" Too simple? Everybody has "skin" in the game, so why shouldn't everyone pay at least some tax on their earnings, Social Security, unemployment, disability or welfare checks? Those that earn more, pay more; those that earn less pay much less but at least they pay something, even if it's a minimum of $100 a year. Then, if the rate goes up 1%, they pay $101. That might slow down the parasites who pay nothing and are more than happy to vote to increase taxes on those who do. And don't give me the bleeding-heart apcray about how the "poor" can't afford to pay anything. They have money to gamble, drink & smoke with. They can cough up a hundred bucks a year; less tha 2 bucks a week. Take it out of their "benefit" checks just as taxes are taken from employees paychecks. They won't miss 2 bucks a week.

  6. Rychtarik,

    Most of us would be willing to accept your proposal if you could please explain how we run the Federal Government on the day after all-of-this-extra-tax-revenue is spent. Most likely after two or three days.

    The 'floor' is yours, Rychtarik.


  7. No matter how we change the tax code, if taxes are not raised substantially on ALL Americans (rich, middle class and poor) there is NO WAY to match revenues and spending.

    President Obama and everyone in Congress knows this. But our government continues to lie to us.

    In the plan President Obama put forth, current and new spending far outpace revenues, which means more deficits and more debt, with no end in sight. Why? Because he wants the money to spend but he is unwilling to impose the 'real' taxes required to pay for the spending.

    Their is no appetite by Americans for drastic spending cuts and why should their be. Americans are only paying for 60 % of what they are provided. The other 40 % is printed and or borrowed.

    Until all Americans are asked to pay for 100 % of what they are provided, they are not going to go along with spending cuts.

    President Obama is right to raise taxes on the wealthy, but he too is disingenuous when he claims we can resolve the fiscal problems we have with those tax increases and some small spending cuts. Math puts the 'lie' to that claim.

    Republicans are making an argument that has no chance. They should just tell the truth, which is that we need both tax increases, on all Americans and 'real' spending cuts instead of faux spending cuts. That is the only way to fix the fiscal problems we have.

    The fact that Congress and this President set up the fiscal cliff should tell Americans that they know how serious the issue is and they realize that a 'real' solution has to have substantial raising of taxes and substantial spending cuts. The people on the Simpson Bowles commission also knew the truth, and that truth guided their recommendations.

    We badly need one of these people, who all know the truth, to tell it to Americans so we can start the tough work needed.


  8. "The real name for it is governing." @Jim Weber

    You wouldn't have a source reference for that definition would you? ;-)

    History tells us second terms are perils for presidents. Even the best of the best suffered. President Obama will not be an exception. He has a plethora of unresolved problems on the homefront and worldwide, in large part from inaction in his first term, that are coming home to haunt him, the country and the democrats. It's going to get very interesting very quick.

    BTW, not to worry. For the third weekend in a row, actuallly Sunday morning, President Obama hit the links. This time with former President Clinton.


  9. ANOTHER potential solution: spending cuts enumerated by the administration: let's see what they've put on the table: NOTHING, no cuts. No one is arguing that SS / Medicare can be reformed yet retain benefit levels--more funding from higher paid employees, do SOMETHING about hospital fraud, ID theft and fraudulent claiming of benefits.....
    So let's cut "discretionary" spending: defense AND domestic programs: WHICH ONES? I see the challenge to the Mayor (Newark NJ) to live on food stamps, or just under $30 a week. Says he'll eat beans, corn, and apples. OK, but the experts at DH&HS tell me food stamps are just a SUPPLEMENT--you're supposed to pay for your own food and use the food stamps to upgrade a little.

  10. "spending cuts enumerated by the administration: let's see what they've put on the table: NOTHING, no cuts.' @ Roslenda

    President Obama has said he wants to reform entitlements eventually, someday, AFTER REPUBLICANS raise taxes. [Sound familiar: Same line Dems used on Presidents Reagan and Bush1]. That's the reason the GOP wants to get the president to sign onto entitlement reforms this year.

    That's the current budget impasse. President Obama thinks he has the upper hand, because he won. GOP thinks it does because it kept control of the House. And truth be told the 6th year into the sitting president's term, the mid-term elections are brutal on the incumbent party in power: read Dems. President Obama knows how that feels he suffered the worse shellacking in the mid term elections in 2010 of the past 60 years. And likely will again in 2016 even if he gets a grand bargain. And from the looks of it, he won't.


  11. Correction: 2014.


  12. Carmine,

    What happens in the 2014 mid terms will not be controlled by what has happened in the past. It will be controlled by the state of the economy at that time.

    If the economy in 2014 is improving and we have not slipped back into recession, Republicans will be repudiated in that election. If however, the economy is doing poorly at that time, Democrats will be repudiated.

    Personally, I will be surprised if the economy is in good shape in 2014, whether the President gets most of what he wants or we go over the fiscal cliff.

    I continue to believe the Republicans take a large risk by appearing to force us over the cliff. I'd prefer they give some ground but make it clear that their agreement is ONLY in the interests of avoiding the fiscal cliff and NOT because they think this is the right course.

    Republicans can set themselves up to be in a good position when the President's prescriptions don't result in a good economy or they can be successfully portrayed as the 'reason' the economy is bad.

    It's their choice.


  13. I don't know if this will fly, but it must be addressed. I have not been as engaged as I used to be on this blog for one reason: there is no immediate reply button to comments posted. For example: If I want to reply to a comment by Michael Casler, Freeman, PISCES41, Houston Jack, et al; my comment is buried down the line, and therefore not relevant to the thread of comments posted. I should be allowed to reply DIRECTLY to a comment posted, and not have my reply buried so far down the line that it becomes irrelevant. Create a button that allows all commentators on this blog to address comments that they are responding to immediately. The reply can be indented under the comment addressed. This will allow a more coherent thread to be established. A reply buried amongst, lets say, 85 comments previous, does nothing to advance an otherwise pertinent conversation. Thanks.

  14. Excellent suggestion, Gary! I agree...

  15. Thanks Michael! I think it would improve conversation on this blog, and make for a more coherent discourse on the topics we all enjoy. Cheers!

  16. Gary, Michael,

    This is going astray, but I would agree with you only if replies were limited to a single, *small* amount of indentation to show threading, especially given how narrow the actual text display column width already is.

    Appearances really do matter.

  17. Jim,

    There are a number of 'technical' ways this could be done, but the main focus of Gary's suggestion is valid, which is to attach or connect replies directly to the comment. That would really make the comments more meaningful and make it easier to follow a thread and see how different people react to the initial comment. It would be a great improvement... at least in my opinion.


  18. I comment on the Huffington Post. There is a "reply" button posted on every comment. There is no restriction on the "reply" comment button, as it should be. I see no difference in a reply as opposed to an initial comment. My whole idea is to have a direct response to comment, as opposed to a reply buried under many previous comments.

  19. Moderator or Editor.

    Let's get this done. Or, if not, give an explanation. A "reply" option is needed, and required to make the Sun's blog relevant among other blogs that offer this option. I am a citizen of Las Vegas, and I have been a fan of the LV Sun for a long time. Let's get this blog up to speed with most other blogs.

  20. Since we are now completely off-topic ...

    I run or administer a number of blog and other types of websites. My personal preference to configure comments just as the Sun has. I have two reasons for doing so.

    First, I think that level after level of indentation rapidly becomes very ugly and hard to read, especially if the "author block" is at the side and takes up any significant amount of column width.

    Second, and more important, a long, convoluted series of replies can make it hard to find other original comments that are replies to the main item.

    I can see a reasonable compromise being only one level of indentation and showing only the first three or four replies with a "show more replies" link if you are interested. (The latter would be a javascript function.)

    You can see an example of this compromise approach here: (We're talking technology, not content.)

  21. Carmine 11:38. I suspect that a standoff is exactly what O. is after. You may recall that O. only wanted one more year of tax cuts. He "needs" the working class tax revenue to go up, much higher, so he can keep spending. Just heard where some of the media commentators are into this thread--O. wants federal spending at 25% GDP to be the norm--gone are the days when ALL government was 20%. And, if we go over the cliff, SOME of the refundable credits to the parents with many kids and minimal income go away--you think any Congress or President would take on that? But it NEEDS to be done. You don't have to be a mathematician to figure out that giving and giving and sending our money overseas, in wars, military bases, economic aide, foreign aide, gifts.....and endless domestic programs, education that is so NOT cost controlled or effective......

  22. ressince73, The Reponse Button Suggestion.

    Excellent suggestion on the reply button. However, it appears the Sun's main focus is to expand the discussion within the framing of a featured article.

    The Sun's Comment Policy has a key word that defines why your suggestion cannot be implemented. "Comments should be RELEVANT..."

    Your right about the comments being at the end, and some get lost from responses from discussions developed outside the article. But what could happen, certain commentators would become the blogger of an article, sort of like taking over the article as being the chief moderator without having authority to actually moderate.

    In direct words, a hijacking of an article.

    For instances, a threat develops from a posted articles. A commentator poses a question, a discussion begins. The commentator starting the threat controls the discussion whether it's related to the article or not. The threat could be very long, either related to the article are not, making other comments on the article meaningless, or the readers would say, why brother with the other responses.

    The focus is the article. The person writing the article deserves all responses to be in one area, in the order of each response.

  23. "Carmine,

    What happens in the 2014 mid terms will not be controlled by what has happened in the past. It will be controlled by the state of the economy at that time." @ Michael

    Yes and No. In the Senate, 20 Dems are up for reelection in 2014 and 13 Reps. President Obama is out after 2016. These Dems, seeking reelection, will break ranks with the president if they think he's gone afoul. The Dems have everything to lose with bad policy by the President, the President does not.


  24. Re boftx: I agree about limiting the initial number of replies with an additional button to find further replies. Huff Post does the same thing. I know my initial comment was off topic, but it garnered the desired response I was seeking, rather than a letter to the editor which may or may not elicit a response at all.