Town Crier: Political dysfunction might be our reflection
by Mickey McGuire
Feb 15, 2013 | 3717 views | 14 14 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Many of us wonder why our politicians are so uncompromising.

Our elected representatives hear a cacophony of conflicting demands to provide us with more services and tax us less. Some say that we should help the Syrians, place armed guards in each of our 40,000 schools and repair our crumbling infrastructure. Others want further tax cuts. Many want both.

Perhaps we’re the problem. It seems that there is a fundamental mismatch between what we want from government and what we are willing to pay for. The crisis-like atmosphere in Washington, D.C., might be little more than a reflection of us.

My parents were part of the Greatest Generation. Married during the Great Depression, my dad, like so many others who went down to the sea in ships, served in the Pacific Theater.

World War II was financed through taxes (40 percent) and borrowing (60 percent). But members of the Greatest Generation borrowed from themselves through the purchase of Liberty Bonds. And after the war, they paid it back by taxing themselves.

During the Vietnam War, there was a 10 percent surcharge levied to help pay for the war. But that was then.

There are those who wonder if our obsession about cutting taxes, even in a time of war, is a serious affliction. Twice during our decade-long wars in Asia, in 2001 and 2003, we passed large tax cuts.

Are there any other examples in history of a nation cutting taxes during a time of war?

We have paid for our wars largely by borrowing. But unlike the Greatest Generation, we have borrowed in ways that will weaken the country in the future.

About half of our borrowing comes from domestic sources. The other half comes from foreign sources, like the oil-exporting countries, Europe and China.

With an all-volunteer military, our servicemen and servicewomen and their

immediate friends and families have carried the burden of our wars. We’re not even paying for them.

Has our obsession about cutting taxes over the past several decades gone too far?

Taxes don’t feel good. Nobody likes to pay taxes. But we have to be adults.

Whether we feel that we pay enough in taxes is ultimately a subjective judgment. But objective comparisons can be made between our tax burden today and what is paid by citizens in other countries and by Americans in the past.

The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development is a group of 33 free-market democracies.

In 2007, the last normal year before the Great Recession, the United States ranked 30 out of 33 OECD members in the size of our government relative to our Gross Domestic Product. Only three members — Mexico, South Korea and Turkey — spent less of their incomes on government than we did. This is particularly surprising when you realize that we spend more on our military than all of the other

32 OECD nations combined.

From an international perspective, Americans pay very low taxes. But what about comparing our tax burden to Americans in the past?

Tax rates, particularly on the wealthy, have fallen precipitously over the past 30 years.

For decades after World War II, the top marginal tax rate ranged between 70 percent and 94 percent. Over the past 25 years, the top marginal tax rate has ranged between 28 percent and 39.6 percent. A median-income family of four paid 12 percent income tax in 1980, but 5.6 percent in 2011.

Many people think that the federal government continues to grow in size and spending relative to the rest of the economy. Truthfully, the share of the nation’s revenue absorbed by the federal government today is roughly where it was in 1950.

The federal government’s size relative to the Gross Domestic Product has moved within a fairly narrow band, averaging around 18 percent of GDP for the past 60 years.

The government’s share of the nation’s GDP rises during wartime, because we spend more. The government also spends more for unemployment and safety net programs when the economy slows. When you have both wars and falling GDP, the government’s share of the GDP grows, as do deficits and debt.

We need to balance our demands for military and social spending with our willingness to tax ourselves. The Greatest Generation did.

• Mickey McGuire is a retired high school social studies teacher.

He is one of several local residents who writes for the Town Crier

column. Comments can be sent to
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March 29, 2013
I agree with Mr McGuire. We have cut taxes too much and have the crumbling infrastructure to prove it!

When most of us were growing up Cal State was the fallback; inexpensive and always close to home. Now most students end up with lifelong debt to go with their second rate education.

The last study I saw said 20% of our bridges needed serious work. The state of the roads is obvious to anyone who rides on them.

Other portions of our infrastructure are no better maintained.

Imagine if you didn't keep paint and a roof on your house; eventually it would fall to ruin.

How bad does the state of things in our country need to be to convince someone that more tax money needs to be spent on them?

Sure, we pay some taxes and whine about it, and maybe if we were not the policeman for the planet, the taxes we pay might cover our needs. Just not in today's contentious world. So we all need to pull up our big-girl panties and pay a little more tax.
February 16, 2013
Anybody notice a trend with mick's letter writing abilities?

I don't know for sure, but it seems to me that anytime Obama is on the campaign trail, Obama Campaign, or state of the union .. All of a sudden mick's tax ideas spring forth? Why is that?

How on earth can anyone justify more taxes in America? Some of our corporations are deciding that the majority of their growth will be overseas.

Is this guy a customer at the Byron Road "Farmacy" store?

I don't mind voting for a democrat or two, but what's happening in America is appalling. And there are fewer and fewer on both sides I would vote for.

I can spot them a mile away.

I read this newspaper in my driveway this morning and took it out to the trash can. But I felt someone needed to speak out against this crony.
February 16, 2013
I take umbrage with Mick's usage of th term Greatest Generation.

Greatest? Are ya really serious? If they were so great, an don't get me wrong cus I love em all dearly, why didn't they teach successive generations ta solve thair problems in a better way?

Why did it take th next generation ta finally, though not completely, eliminate segregation of people by race in the mid 60's?

Why is thair still a wage gap between women workin fer less than men who are performin th same jobs?

Did they teach us that liberalism an entitlement was th way ta survive in our society taday?

Yep fer certain they were a great generation but th greatest?

Mick, ya talk somewhat like ya thank that they didn't have any problems or leave us any negative legacies.

Funny, hangin around thet "Greatest Generation" as a kid in th local town barbershop, a place whair politics was usually th theme of th day if thair wasn't somethang in th sports arena ta discuss; as I recall most of that "Greatest Generation" complained very loudly about how much tax an social security they paid out of thair salaries, th same guys that fought WWII in both theaters.

So much fer selective nostalgic moments in history.
February 16, 2013
To Hahahahaha:

I assume you are talking about the last half of my post. Mickey has for whatever reason developed a dislike for my nickname and has so stated.

February 15, 2013
The article sounds more like the ramblings of a liberal progressive than intelligent insight. Mickey (if that's your real name) I am surprised. But what bothers me more than your opinion is the fact that taxation is nothing more than confiscation!

By the way, I have no problem accepting nick names but you must feel the same or prove your arrogance. It has now been over 26 years since I earned mikmik10. Yes I know, not as old as yours, but old enough to stick. So what do you say? Do you want some real discussion on the topic or are you going to let your arrogance get in the way?

February 15, 2013
While I disagree with almost everything Mickey McGuire has ever written here in the Tracy Press, I do have to give the guy credit for at least writing coherently.

That said, could you please translate your comment for sober people to read?
February 16, 2013
"Writing coherently" doesn't make propaganda any less offensive. I believe this author's metaphysics is incredibly biased. It is difficult reading his "coherent" assertions.
February 16, 2013
HaHaHaHaHaHa, etc.,

"Whether we feel that we pay enough in taxes is ultimately a subjective judgment. But objective comparisons can be made between our tax burden today and what is paid by citizens in other countries and by Americans in the past."

Above is a sample of the author's "coherent" thinking. The author would be wise to dispense with the terms "subjective" and "objective." Furthermore, the comparisons he suggests we make is a disingenuous argument for his position.

Would his advised "comparisons" be truly "objective."?

I would like to think history teachers are philosophically competent.

February 16, 2013
I would like to think history teachers are competent too. But sadly some of them became little more than highly trained political lobbyists and forgot the rest of the Americans.

America was once great because we were not divided over lobbyissm. But now people use their education to push their political agenda and think folks cannot see through a prima donna. If egos oppress others, the only thing left, great about America would be Yosemite.
February 16, 2013
I did not say I agree with what Mickey McGuire has written here (or any time in the past). What I said was that because he writes coherently and with grammar proper enough for the average reader to understand, I am easily able to know his opinions and intentions, as well as readily see how flawed the guy's thinking is.

Though I disagree with Mickey on probably all of his views, at least he can intelligently write them out, regardless of how moronic it makes him look in the process. That may very well be partly due to the editors of the Tracy Press who weed out the grammar errors before Mickey's letters go to print, but I doubt that theory due to what they allow to slip by in all of Denise Ellen Rizzo's stories.

While Mickey McGuire could certainly learn a lot about the real world by simply taking his own puppet strings back away from Obama and Pelosi, many of those who regularly comment here could also learn a few English and writing lessons from Mr. McGuire (just don't look to the guy for an intelligent or unbiased social studies lesson).
February 16, 2013
The Tracy Press probably can't afford an editor. Didn't they get bought by a Patterson newspaper, in bankruptcy court? If you graded teenagers papers for 20 years you should know how to use a spell checker by now. When it comes to using technology to communicate, the rest of us are still trying to figure out what my nephew meant when he texted ROTFLMAO. Ok. I figured it out now.

Back in the day, I used to hand write my papers. We took typing class but wrote our papers in study hall in our notebooks. My nephew tells me he uses the cloud to submit papers online through Google docs. And he even has a Google email and a Google phone number. As a high school teacher you get privy to more gadgets than anyone from our generation ever thought possible.

Still, it is not an excuse to raise our taxes. We don't need to pay more taxes just so a retired high school teacher can afford to upgrade his iPad's spell checker. He can hand write that on the back of a hundred dollar bill and wipe himself with it. The rest of us can keep our money in our pockets.
February 15, 2013
Though we are already headed in this direction, perhaps Obama can "universalize" prenatal care, along with preschool.

Perhaps our retired educator continues to ask the wrong questions because of his "rusty" metaphysics.
February 15, 2013
I don't think his metaphysics are rusty. His math does not add up though. Listen, Jerry McNerney just emailed a letter that touted higher pay for women, while men and women are being laid off. And Nancy Care takes American's benefits into a tailspin.

Most of the cars on the highways are foreign made. Meaning more foreign jobs and well, mainstream America is left with only service oriented jobs. Think Jerry McNerney's female worker fixing copier machines is going to make more than her male counterpart after 2.3 maternity leaves?

Maybe Nancy makes more than Jerry, but the rest of women in this country are left holding the bag. In fact, it gets worse. The taxes the liberals want to raise pay for very few services. In fact, the world can't afford a woman with 2.3 children holding down a service job trying to run a headhunter business out of her bedroom after her second maternity leave and paying for her second boyfriend's child's diapers.

Truth is, there are people in other countries who will work their nights calling the jobless asking for your resume. For a manufacturing sweatshop job that pays $18 an hour with a six month contract and is about to be sent 2 an overseas mommy
February 15, 2013
So why do liberals tout the female agenda, when we all know darn well they will never make a drop in a bucket (except to make Nancy richer)?

I'm guessing it is an effective distraction to keep your eyeballs off the other end of your paycheck, ladies. Your taxes.

That is the only thing liberals will ever change, because if they cared about women they obviously could push back on the unions and demand change. Oh, wait, the unions OWN the liberals.

Heck, next year I'm voting for Jerry just because the rest of the liberals deserve to pay more.

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