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Letter: Stick to the Facts, Please

To the Editor:

Robust political dialog is alive and well in the Upper Valley. But it would be so much more productive if the arguments made by those who write thoughtful letters to the editor were based on facts. In the past two weeks, a number of letters have put forth strong arguments on important policies, but in each case, relied on inaccurate information. Let me cite just four:

1.) “Fifty percent of American households pay no federal tax.” Forty-seven percent pay no federal income tax (because they are poor), but well over 95 percent of households pay federal taxes. In fact, the regressive payroll taxes account for a larger share of federal revenues than does the income tax.

2.) “China owns most of the American debt.” The fact is that China, as of April 2012, owns 7.3 percent (note the decimal point) of our debt. Americans own over 75 percent.

3.) “Cutting taxes increases revenues; tax cuts pay for themselves and more.” There may be good reasons for cutting taxes, but the evidence is clear that tax cuts never pay for themselves. Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush learned this the hard way, incurring large deficits and having to later raise taxes.

4.) “Raising taxes on those earning over $250,000 a year will hurt small businesses, and ultimately cost us jobs.” Whatever the supposed merits of such a tax hike (or not), the truth is that just over 97 percent of all small businesses do not earn a quarter of a million dollars. (My guess is that most wish they did and would then be happy to pay slightly higher taxes.)

The thoughtful and energetic sharing of ideas is key to a democratic society, but only if we stick to the facts, not the spin.

James H. Wilson