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About the Author

Jonathan D. Miller

Jonathan Miller is a partner and co-owner of Miller Ryan LLC, a strategic marketing communications consulting firm to the financial services and real estate industries. Miller has more than 25 years of communications and marketing experience in the real estate industry, counseling many leading executives. For the past 15 years he has also authored Emerging Trends in Real Estate, the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) premier annual industry forecast and speaks extensively on suburban and urban issues. He is also author of ULI's Infrastructure 2008: A Global Perspectives, a major analysis on the looming changes facing the


U.S. on infrastructure and land use issues. He has led marketing/communications teams at Equitable Real Estate, Lend Lease, and GMAC Commercial Mortgage (Capmark Finance), overseeing re-branding programs for those firms as well as for COMPASS, Boston Financial and Amresco when they were acquired by Lend Lease. He has extensive crisis communications and corporate-change experience. Miller graduated with honors from Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism and earned a law degree cum laude from American University. Contact Jonathan Miller.

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The major premise of your criticism towards "tax cutter politicians," as you characterize conservatives or libertarians (and politicians labeled as Republicans), could be described as overly simplistic or narrow in historical perspective. Taxes have been a political issue since the before the Articles of Confederation. You broadly brush over pork and the crippling entitlement programs without addressing their flaws or the proposed changes feared worse and more expensive at the same time, and your comments on successful tax policies may be misunderstood as a promotion for more taxes for more government.

First, I say that keeping taxes, interest rates, inflation and unemployment low, are all good things. To date, we still have all of the above, as even 7% unemployment is historically low compared to the 1970s and 1930s. That's a history of successful tax policies. We've been spoiled rotten! It's illogical to suggest that low taxes have "wrecked a good economy." It's just as blind to suggest that deregulating banks so they can have branches across county lines or ATM machines across state lines has caused the Wall Street meltdown or real estate bust.

Taxes must first be adequate to support the nation. On this, you and I apparently agree. The two other key tax policy goals of fairness, which we seem to hear a lot now (just not both ways), and economic vitality, must be viewed within the prism of what functions government must undertake before adding debt or increasing taxes. We must get our house in order. Aye, we must respectfully disagree on spending policies.

You say that we should expect higher taxes "[i]f the country wants strong defense, health care, an old-age safety net, decent schools, and paved roads," but only one of those is truly a core function for our central government: national defense. The rest is the result of decades of stretching the commerce clause and the growing view that our answers are all federal - all in Washington.

It is true that there are "tax and spend politicians" on the left, and there are "borrow and spend politicians" to the right. To heck with all of them. Let us control our national spending and reckless borrowing with a new approach to the appropriations and budget process, but let's not increase taxes to continue funding failed entitlement programs or, even worse, more programs. Is it too much to ask that appropriations bills be drafted, proposed, debated and passed one item at a time after (within a balanced budget) the basic needs are met for our three branches of government to operate (no government or defense shutdown). Only then can we have a try spirited national debate on what's worth (a) borrowing for, or (b) taxing our employers more.

Turning to the spending areas you mentioned, education has historically been a state issue, and while our national security depends on a skilled workforce, national education programs like Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, and similar programs along with direct aid to struggling states, should still be a minor budget item relative to a 3-4 Trillion dollar budget.

Health care can be summed up this way: Physicians (and especially those internists caring for our elderly and pediatricians caring for our children) and hospitals are being reimbursed less and less every year by the Medicare/Blue Cross/UHC oligopoly, every year for the past decade; and reimbursements are falling fast. So if doctors and hospitals are getting paid less now than they were 10-20 years ago, it's no wonder where "the skyrocketing health care costs" have been coming from because a generation of youngsters are not eager to spend 4 years of touch college, followed by MCATs, 4 years of expensive medical school, residency and fellowship to watch the drug device rep (with nearly zero professional and personal risk) netting larger salaries. Let's do something about our crippling nationalization of subsidies for Big Pharma, rather than further nationalize our health care system, which would have disastrous results.

More on health care would require a personal story of a young American experiencing socialized medicine in France; the lack of subspecialties in states of socialized medicine because "those patients don't exist over there because they die before they can even get diagnosed;" and similar short stories.

The elderly "safety net" means social security, a program with a history of being there for everyone, and it should stay there - for everyone. The only fix is to either increase taxes or decrease benefits. Anyone telling you different isn't telling the truth. Only raising the cap on taxable wages, or further capping compensation benefits for higher wage earners (or reducing medical benefits for higher compensation categories) would contradict the program's history in how it was created with the delicate balance for people of all incomes. In other words, an attempt to fix it at the expense of those "who can afford it," as they say, will be the beginning of the end of a good program. So there are cutters on the left and cutters on the right. To heck with all of them.

And as to the world's defense from the beast, "Carthage must be destroyed!" (Cato)

Tom
Posted by comment_user_455088 | Saturday, February 28 2009 at 4:49AM ET
Let's go back to the govt defined by The Constitution. There were NO provisions for govt sponsored health care, education, etc., etc. That was Karl Marx! Sorry, Socialism does NOT work. The defined govt system was a Republic (the rule of law), and NOT a democracy (the rule of the masses), which ultimately leads to anarchy when those that "need" can no longer be satisfied. Unfortunately, we seem to be nearing that position. No, Virginia, the US govt. is NOT Santa Claus!
Posted by comment_user_455087 | Wednesday, February 11 2009 at 5:46PM ET
Silly revisionist Liberal boy. So the next Demo plot is to blame low taxes on this recession? Low taxes spurred a strong economy for 3.5 decades. Out of control Democrats caused this imploding disaster via the looting of Fannie & Freddie, Neighborhood Reinvestment Act, etc., etc. Further, the stock market has been in freefall since it was clear that a Super-Liberal was going to be the new Commander In Chief. So let´s add $1,000,000,000,000 in paybacks to our Liberal buddies under cover of the recession. Never let a good disaster go without exploitation. That will fix things? If you have any honesty left in your body, you know that the only way to avoid a severe recession-depression is to lower this country´s tax rates, which are the highest in the industrialized world. Silly boy.
Posted by comment_user_455086 | Wednesday, February 11 2009 at 12:27PM ET
Jonathan,

A famous New England university has a policy whereby a student whose family income is under $60K attends for free, if the income is between $60-120K they pay 10%, and this formula or something like it determines their tuition revenue. If the university needs more revenue, should they raise the tuition for a minority of the students who actually pay full fare?

Isn't this a major problem with our tax system as well? It's not just tax cuts, it's not taxing everybody in proportion to the benefits they receive. That's what gets you the votes!

Charlie
Posted by comment_user_455085 | Tuesday, February 10 2009 at 3:59PM ET