Don’t protect us, government

Recently, one particular reader took me to task over a column ("Cut gas taxes and prices will drop,” Right Hook, May 11, 2006.)

The reader writes:

“To say that cutting taxes is the solution to high gas prices is like saying that cutting taxes is actually helping the middle class of the country right now. Please be serious and reflect on whom these tax cuts really benefit. Also, you might want to reconsider your tired right-wing approach to blaming all problems on taxes, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore and other objects of your simplistic thinking.

“Might it not be possible that your party, the very same one that has driven the deficit to astronomic levels and increased spending beyond any liberal administration, be responsible for the mess we are in? Your cutting taxes idea will simply saddle your grandchildren with more debt and less services, but I don’t suppose people like you know how to think about anyone else but themselves.

“Get a social conscience, and learn how to help people instead of hurting them. You might also consider getting some professional help to figure out what it is inside you that renders you completely compassionless. Once you find out what the dark place inside you is all about, you might consider that you could actually help someone.”

And here is my response (ignoring the platitudes, of course):

Thank you for your letter. I always appreciate a good debate. But I am slightly confused by some of your comments.

First. I don’t know about you, but I’d like an extra 41.4 cents per gallon in my pocket these days. Incidentally, that would be the combined taxes Nevada and the federal government charges on each and every gallon of petroleum. You seem to be implying that the current tax cuts are not helping middle class America. If that is the case, then perhaps you can explain how not cutting gas taxes more would be detrimental? Or is it that we should be raising taxes more? If so please explain how that would help? So it would seem to me that cutting gas taxes would in fact help everyone. Or is it that only “certain types of people” should be helped?

Also please be advised that I have seriously considered whom (income) tax cuts benefit. Oh, yes—that would be the people who actually pay taxes. According to the IRS ( 50 percent of the population pays 96 percent of the taxes. (Conversely only about 4 percent of taxes are paid by the other half.) So I’m thinking that if you don’t pay a whole lot in taxes, you shouldn’t receive much in the way of tax cut benefits. That seems eminently fair to me.

Also I am absolutely delighted that you’ve discovered government deficits to be a travesty. (A pity that you’ve nothing to say about Democrats who ran the show that way for 40 years.) But, granted, we may well agree here. Deficit spending has to go and all politicians who think that way should go with them.

Lastly, I do have a “social conscience.” It begins and ends with my family, my community and my country. The first is the only mandatory obligation I have. The beauty of the constitution is that nowhere in it does it say that you have to do anything for anyone.

The point is that I don’t need a “social conscience"—"someone” needs a lesson in basic economics and the United States Constitution. Neither are “simplistic thinking,” but both are deceptively simple to understand.