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Conservative Estimates


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"Wealth Care" (April 14) was the best article I have ever seen in the Journal. Kudos. The info in it is so important that I hope people are passing the article around to others.

Next on my wish list is an article on the costs of wars and the real reasons for the wars as well as who benefits. Oh yeah, and a little something about how these endless wars are costing us all of the cuts being made on the backs of the poor, elderly and helpless while they destroy the young people who are fighting in them.

Then we all need to start talking with each other about how to take back the power before the bottom drops out. We can be frightened (and should be, to some extent) or angry. I prefer anger.

Thanks, Journal. Job well done.

Sylvia De Rooy, Westhaven



Every year since 1945 the national debt has increased. Economists have long felt that a better measure of the nation's economic health compares total debt to gross domestic product (GDP): If GDP grows faster than debt we are better off, and vice versa.

In the accompanying chart [at right]I compare different presidential terms with the debt-to-GDP ratio, plus the top marginal tax rate, which applies to the top 2 or 3 percent of taxpayers.

In the 1950s the top marginal tax rate was 91 percent. In these "good old days" the U.S. prospered, public education was available to all and college was affordable.

From 1945 through the 1970s, both the Republicans and the Democrats behaved responsibly, keeping debt increases below the increases in GDP. In the early 1960s the tax rate on top earners was lowered to 70 percent. Still, even during the Vietnam War, the U.S. debt (as compared to the GDP) continued to decrease.

The picture began to change with President Ronald Reagan and the "trickle down" theory. Reagan slashed the top marginal tax rate from 70 percent to 50 percent, then down to 28 percent by 1989. He increased the debt-to-GDP ratio in both of his terms by a whopping 20.6 percent.

George H.W. Bush increased the top marginal tax rate from 28 percent to 39.6 percent, but the debt-to-GDP ratio increased 15 percent - the highest increase for a single presidential term since the onset of income taxes in 1913.

Bill Clinton kept the top marginal rate low, but the ratio of debt to GDP was kept low also. These were boom years, with much new business in electronics and online. Clinton had budget surpluses in every year during his second term.

Next came George W. Bush, who lowered the top marginal tax rate to 35 percent and increased the debt-to-GDP ratio by 27 percent. For him, wartime was time for a tax cut. He broke his father's record in his second term, establishing the highest increase in debt-to-GDP (20 percent) in U.S. history.

The "conservative" stalwarts left the country in much worse shape than when they got it - with more national debt and less taxes paid by the wealthy. This reckless economic management shows a lack of care for the U.S. citizen and the U.S. worker. In my assessment, that's not conservative at all.

Susan Ornelas, Arcata City Council




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