We must put aside political polarization and work together on a more progressive taxation system


The financial ratings agency Fitch Ratings recently downgraded U.S. government debt. Its rationale emphasized our dysfunctional political system characterized by repeated, polarized debt ceiling confrontations and the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot.

Tax cuts, with the majority benefiting the wealthy; massive defense budget growth; and spending initiatives all contributed to a record $31.42 trillion in national debt by the end of 2022. Fitch believes the government lacks “a medium-term fiscal framework” that could put the country on a more stable path.

Fitch also point to a lack of progress in addressing fiscal challenges to Social Security and Medicare. The 2023 Social Security and Medicare trustees report states that these social safety nets will fall short of the funds they need to pay full benefits after 2033 and 2031, respectively.

An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll this year found that more than two-thirds of Americans are against changes to Social Security, including cuts to benefits and a rise in the program’s eligibility age. For Medicare, more than two-thirds of Americans do not see increasing premiums or raising Medicare’s eligibility age as solutions. The poll found that 58% of Americans were in favor of raising taxes on households earning more than $400,000 a year to pay for Medicare — but not surprisingly, raising taxes on higher earners was more popular with Democrats than Republicans.

In the paper “Top-End Wealth Accumulation: The Forbes Lists and Wealth Inequality,” Thomas Remington, a visiting professor at Harvard University, shares evidence that political-institutional forces, as opposed to market forces, shape how people accumulate wealth in our country. The richest 1% of Americans now own 35% of the nation’s wealth, according to Americans for Tax Fairness.

The market and wealth concentration are the result of deliberate fiscal and regulatory policy choices. We are at war with a changing climate, a pandemic virus and geopolitical instability. I wish to remind people that the top U.S. tax bracket was 77% in 1918 after World War I, 94% during World War II and no lower than 70% in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, which saw the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Culture wars and political polarization should not obfuscate the truth that we need to come together to design a more progressive taxation system in this country to rescue America from its fiscal cliff.

— Donna Limper, Bloomingdale, Illinois

Is it still age discrimination if it is the government doing it?

I just got a driver’s license renewal notice in Illinois. And I have to actually prove I can drive by taking a driving test. Why? Because it has been two years since my last driving test. No other reason. What is the difference between living two more years and getting two years older?

I now have to take the driving test after only two years. So, you say, no problem. Just drive over, take the test and drive home. Only I don’t own a car. I drive when I rent a car. So I have to take public transit to a car rental place, rent a car, pay for collusion and liability insurance, and drive to the nearest driver service facility.

Because I have to use the CTA to get there — we all know how reliable the CTA is — and take time to rent the car, I’ll probably have to get an appointment at the driver service facility. Remember when senior citizens used to get head-of-the-line privileges? Now I’ll have to sit around and wait and wait. Pass the test, get gas, drive back to the rental agency and take the CTA home. It should take about five or six hours and about $100 for the rental.

And in two years, I can do it again.

— E.L. Foertsch, Chicago

Reading the Tribune’s recent detailed coverage of a controversy over lakefront property in Winnetka (“AG sides with Winnetka over Open Meetings Act,” Aug. 6), I thought a different perspective might be worth considering.

When a billionaire moves into your quiet neighborhood on Lake Michigan and starts buying up and demolishing old homes in order to create a mega-estate crowned by a mega-mansion, and then he asks the village to agree to a trade for a key piece of lakefront property, you might start losing sleep, feeling that you have been invaded by a very wealthy and well-connected vandal.

But what if the billionaire in question were to donate his waterfront paradise to this city’s wave of migrants, who were conned by demagogic red-state governors to take a bus trip north and desperately need a place to stay? What if he were to display his compassion and civic-mindedness by providing these unfortunate people with upscale accommodations, gourmet meals, beach access, tennis courts and the other amenities that he and his family are used to?

Wouldn’t you begin to see this person in a different light — not as an entitled one-percenter driven by selfishness and arrogance but rather as a philanthropist dedicated to using what he has (which is too much) to house the homeless and help his city cope with a humanitarian crisis? Wouldn’t you be proud to have this individual as your neighbor? And wouldn’t this person feel less lonely in sharing his good fortune with those in need, rather than grabbing everything for himself and fencing out the rest?

It is a classic win-win solution.

Chicago Tribune Opinion


Read the latest editorials and commentary curated by the Tribune Opinion team.

— Elliot Zashin, Merrillville, Indiana

Is the Tribune running a Ron DeSantis fan club?

Who really cares about a DeSantis campaign manager shake-up (“DeSantis ousts campaign manager,” Aug. 9) when democracy was on the line in Ohio? The good news about Ohio’s important vote was buried inside the paper (“Ohio voters reject GOP initiative,” Aug. 9). That is the story with national ramifications.

In February, a story about a DeSantis speech at an Elmhurst Catholic men’s club was the major headline on Page 1 (“Florida governor visits Elmhurst,” Feb. 21). This was deemed more important than President Joe Biden’s visit to Kyiv (“President Biden makes surprise visit to Kyiv,” Feb. 21).

— Susan Langan, Winnetka

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