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Forum, Nov. 9: When Is Wealth Enough?


Wednesday, November 08, 2017
When Is Wealth Enough?

The Nov. 7 Valley News article on the “Paradise Papers” identified some of the billionaires and corporations that used offshore accounts to shield assets from taxation. But the article underplayed two key points that should be part of the debate over the GOP’s tax package.

First and foremost, if the current tax laws provide loopholes that make it possible for individual billionaires and corporations to stash huge sums of money overseas, those loopholes need to be identified and closed. Tax avoidance on the scale reported in the “Paradise Papers” erodes the well-being of our country and our collective sense of fair play.

Secondly, we need to develop a tax code that explicitly defines “Enough” and levies high taxes in excess of that figure. Is a salary of, say, $500,000 per year enough? Is passing along an inheritance of, say, $1 million enough? Are profits of, say, 4 percent per year enough?

High tax rates for those who have “enough” are not unprecedented. Under President Eisenhower, the top tax rate was 91 percent and our economy was healthy. If we could agree on what constitutes enough and levied higher tax rates above that figure, we might find that there is enough money to rebuild our infrastructure, provide affordable health care to everyone and upgrade our schools and public services.

The tax sheltering practices described in the “Paradise Papers” and the amounts of money taken out of the economy as a result of those practices should compel Congress to close loopholes and engage voters in a debate on the question of how much is enough.

Wayne Gersen

Etna

Button Up Your Home

Five Upper Valley towns are coming together Saturday to host Upper Valley Button Up Day at the Dothan Brook School on Route 5 in Wilder. Cold weather is on its way and now is the time to learn easy steps you can take to make your home more comfortable and energy efficient.

A walk-through model home, hands-on projects, and expert presentations on heat pumps, mobile home efficiency and weatherization are just some of the planned events. Karen Glitman, director of Efficiency Vermont, will present remarks at 1 p.m.

Thousands of homes across our region are leaky and expensive to heat. Why not learn what you can do to your home to reduce your home’s heating bills and increase your comfort? Upper Valley Button Up Day will run from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. and is hosted by local energy groups in Hartford, Hartland, Norwich, Thetford and Woodstock. See you there!

Peggy Allen

Hartford Energy Commission

Where This Leads: Remove Trump

It has been proven that in 2016 a hostile foreign nation, Putin’s Russia, flooded internet media with false, negative news ads about Hillary Clinton to help the Trump campaign win our presidential election. Greedy corporations like Facebook, Twitter and Google accepted such slander, reaching 150 million Americans, and apparently that number of citizens received their news only via such media.

I don’t participate in social media; I remember wondering why I heard people commenting last year on “terrible things’’ Clinton had supposedly done, often obviously ridiculous lies. The right-wing conservative TV channel Fox News, which has become solely a propaganda voice for the Trump administration, repeated such false news eagerly, assisting the Russian government and treasonous Trump campaign in these filthy, slanderous efforts.

Putin’s army of hackers also stole computer documents from the Democratic campaign and approached the Trump campaign to try to give them this material — and other unspecified “dirt’’ on Clinton — in return for the favor of the Trump administration lifting U.S. sanctions against Russia if they won the election (Trump reportedly did attempt to lift such sanctions immediately upon being sworn into office in January 2017).

The Russians were eagerly received by Trump campaign officials, including Trump’s son, Don Jr., and the stolen material was strategically released late in the election cycle to harm Clinton, with certain swing states especially targeted — states that turned out to be critical.

I believe Trump campaign officials, including current Attorney General Jeff Sessions, have repeatedly lied to the FBI and Congress about numerous contacts and meetings with these Russians. Trump himself is photographed at a campaign committee meeting in which contacting Putin was discussed, in contradiction to his many lies denying such. Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort is under indictment for financial crimes related to Russian interests and Trump’s family business has suspicious financial ties to Russia as well.

There is now no doubt that these events affected the outcome of the 2016 presidential election and thus that the Trump presidency is illegitimate. He and his Cabinet should be removed from office immediately.

Alice Morrison

Newbury, Vt.

An Opportunity in Bradford

I write as a member of the Bradford, Vt., Historical Society concerning your fine story about the Old Church Theater (“New Life for the Old Church,” Nov. 5). Its proprietors wish to move the building to front Main Street. Another idea of interest to me is to move the building along Wright’s Avenue and North Pleasant Street to the site of the Low house — destroyed by fire years ago. The “Waitsville 1” old firehouse could also be moved to the same location to form a hamlet within the existing Bradford Village Historic District. This proposal would necessitate a fair deal on the part of the current owners of the Low property. It is worth looking into.

John Fatherley

Bradford, Vt.

Attention, Young Orators

District 6 American Legion Department of New Hampshire will be holding its 19th consecutive annual oratorical runoff of the National High School Oratorical Contest on Jan. 20 at the Soldier’s Memorial Building in Lebanon at 10 a.m. This marks the 78th year the American Legion has sponsored the contest.

We would like to have all area schools send a representative to compete in our district contest. Informational packets and posters have been sent to the schools by the American Legion Department of New Hampshire. I am requesting that perhaps parents and schools get involved and try to entice students into pursuing the possibility of earning a national scholarship award of as much as $18,000.

If interested, parents or students need to contact the English, guidance or social studies teacher at their school. This contest is also open to certified home-schooled students. It is open to students from freshmen to seniors. There is also a Junior High School contest — more details will be forthcoming. The contest is based on the U.S. Constitution and one must speak an oration which takes not less than eight nor more than 10 minutes from memory of some aspect of the Constitution. In addition, be prepared to speak on an assigned topic on a selected article or amendment for three to five minutes. Further information may be obtained by contacting your local American Legion Post Oratorical Chairman.

Larry Greenwood

District 6 Oratorical Chairman

Lebanon

Newbury’s Land Revote

Regarding your article Nov. 6 concerning a revote on whether Newbury, Vt., should acquire and conserve 635 acres including the tops of Tucker and Woodchuck mountains:

1.)The largest parcel, 435 acres, conserved in 1992 by the Leach family, is in current use with a forestry plan and logging has been performed. Logging for income is not feasible in the near future.

2.) Logging caused enormous damage to the road up Tucker Mountain, requiring repairs this spring at a cost of $12,000, including the placement of four culverts with 16 more expected to be placed — at town expense, prior to any purchase.

3.) We presented 135 names on a petition for a revote to the Selectboard, about as many as voted for the purchase the first time. I believe that this shows many folks are concerned, and feel the need for have more information before casting a vote.

4.) Because this is a special meeting, we are not allowed to have all-day voting.

5.) Newbury is a town of 2,155 residents, with 1,500-1,700 registered voters, out of which 218 voted at the first meeting.

6.) Newbury has odious zoning regulations which do not allow any competitive businesses to become established in town, thus burdening the taxpayers with excess taxes.

If, as the board says, future costs are unknown, why was this not brought up at Town Meeting each of the last three years?

Why is there no property appraisal of the 635 acres for voters to consider?

If the 135 voters who voted in the affirmative on Sept. 26 really want it, why don’t they buy it as a group? At $200 each, they would have the purchase price of $25,000 plus an extra $2,000 to put in their kitty for taxes. That way the ones who want it would buy it and maintain it, including fixing the road and policing it, etc.

Sukie Knight

Newbury, Vt.

Lebanon Story Buried a Key Fact

The Nov. 6th article on Lebanon’s proposed budget increase was an example of accurate facts but less than the truth.

If instead of the headline “Lebanon Spending Proposal Up 21%,” it had read “Lebanon Budget Increases Infrastructure Spending,” it would be much less sensational and much more in the spirit of the actual article and the truth of the proposed increase. Since most people are interested in how any budget will affect their taxes, you should also have moved the paragraph describing the tax impact much earlier in the story.

It is likely that the headline you did use sold more papers, but while that is certainly important, any good newspaper also has a responsibility to convey in the most accurate manner the news it reports. This headline and the placement of the tax impact paragraph did not meet that standard.

Arthur Pease

Lebanon