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Debating The Debaters

May 23, 2011 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 89, Issue 21

What’s “breathtaking in its irresponsibility” is Rudy Baum’s Feb. 28 editorial (page 3). Both Baum and his gaggle of admiring letter writers (C&EN, March 28, page 4) have the gall (or perhaps a flight into irrationality) to overlook that President Barack Obama had a year with a supermajority in both houses of Congress, and he didn’t pass a fiscal 2011 budget. Baum is correct in asserting that the debate isn’t about the budget. The debate, he says, is that President Obama and his supporters in Congress are pursuing his “ideological goals that are unpalatable to most Americans,” including me.

Baum writes that we need higher taxes on all of us. I already pay well over half of my income in taxes. I vehemently disagree that I should pay any more taxes. He writes that taxes “influence behavior.” In this country of constitutional democracy, it is unconstitutional by any measure I know of to use taxes to influence behavior. Baum will argue that it nevertheless is standard practice, but I strongly oppose it. He writes that the budget was balanced before “unneeded tax cuts” were enacted. But, since this is a battle of ideology, he fails to note that tax cuts increase revenue to the government. Baum’s ideology has failed the country.

It is not ironic that the only other letter to the editor in the March 28 issue bemoans closure of a beautiful research center (page 6). I am confident that Pfizer would not see higher taxes as the way to keep its research center open.

Bill Tolley
San Diego

IF E. Todd Ryan—as expressed in his letter to the editor—thinks that federal taxes don’t affect federal income, he needs to review his history. Ronald Reagan reduced taxes shortly after taking office. At the end of his first term, the federal debt had doubled, it tripled after his second term, and it tripled again after George H. W. Bush’s term in office.

Bill Clinton raised taxes shortly after taking office and eliminated the deficit during his later years while the economy boomed. George W. Bush lowered taxes dramatically and had deficits that exceeded $500 billion in each of the years he was in office. During this period, the lack of regulation of the financial sector led to the Great Recession; unemployment skyrocketed. Unfortunately, too many of the Tea Party’s favorite assertions have no basis in fact.

Scott Lynn
Pleasant Hill, Calif.

Back in my days at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the ’50s, Pogo told us, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” This adage would appear to fit nicely into Rudy Baum’s view of the current state of our civilization. May I also suggest that Baum take the proposal to “bomb them back to the Stone Age” literally and apply it to our current society? It seems that just about everything that has happened since then has little value to him.

John Hofmann
Watchung, N.J.



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