My Turn: Income tax is fair, hiking fees are not

Posted: Friday, January 30, 2004

Yes, I had listened to the broadcast of the City-Borough meeting, but wasn't paying a lot of attention other than the sewer and water people said maintenance and improvements were overdue. My mental question was - why? Why wasn't this done as we went along?

However, it was a real shock to receive an $82 bill this past month, up from $62 in December. This would seem to be an example of so-called enterprise funding. The reasoning goes that each department should pay its own way.

That sounds fair, but actually is not. I can afford to pay the increase, those making over $100,000 a year can easily afford this, but what about the single mom holding down two jobs and hoping to make her mortgage? What about the retired person whose Social Security is about all he has besides his house?

To continue this analogy, those who don't call the police shouldn't have to pay their salaries and certainly those who don't have children in school shouldn't have to pay toward education. The Juneau officials plead a tightened budget, but couldn't some priorities skewed towards all the citizens be set? It would seem if $175,000 can be spent annually on lobbyists for the city that somehow sewer and water rates could be lower.

To be fair, this disdain towards the common people is reflected and magnified on the state and national level at the moment. State legislators like to end each session with the good news that although other cuts were made, they have saved Alaskans from an income tax. On the national level, the stated goal of the Republicans is to eliminate this tax. Why? Because those who have money don't want to pay taxes. The current tax cuts have gone a long way towards that, but more work needs to be done.

Elected officials, if asked, or in some cases without being asked, like to trumpet their Christianity. How can this attitude towards taxes possibly be equated with Jesus' teachings? I won't go into quotations; just a reminder that the greatest law is to love thy neighbor as thyself. That seems to be interpreted as my neighbors also have big houses so we think alike, rather than obeying the injunction to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.

Reagan's "trickle-down" theory that giving the rich tax cuts would mean jobs and prosperity for those at the bottom was said to be discredited. Nope, it's back. Rich people will provide jobs this year, except for the ones that keep their obscene pay-outs.

We need to reinstate Alaska's income tax. That is the fairest tax there is; to each according to his or her ability to pay. This is more than a moral obligation; it brings in the most money. It also makes the seasonal workers pay. Why shouldn't they? We tax cruise ship passengers because they use local services; seasonal workers don't?

The effects of this state and national right-wing policy are not small. One of the side effects is to wipe out the middle class. If a few people are very, very rich and increasing numbers of citizens are very, very poor, our democracy itself will collapse. The Republic was not founded with the proposition that some are more equal than others. If this sounds alarmist, consider that every democracy in this world today has a strong middle class. When people feel personally prosperous, they vote. Poor people don't; they feel rightly that they will not be heard. Let's be proud of our country again.

• Dee Longenbaugh is a local business owner who has lived in Juneau since 1992.

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