To The Daily Sun,
Over the course of several weeks, we carried out a spirited dialogue on the Letters to the Editor pages of LDS on the effects and value of the Trump Tax Cut & Jobs Act (TC&JA). We brought different perspectives, data, analytical tools, experience, and conclusions to that dialogue. We attempted to be factual and precise, but judgments about tax and fiscal policy are never just about the facts, depending as they do on opinions about how the economy works, distributional trade-offs, and long- vs. short-term consequences. In that process, we reached some agreements.
First, the lower 60% of the income distribution benefited from lower taxes in the TC&JA, and the top 20% of the income distribution paid more in taxes in 2018 than 2017.
Second, the answer to how much to raise the tax burden of the rich depends critically on long-term deficit projections, but an increase back to the 2017 rates would be a good start. It is possible, given runaway expenses, that the tax regime on the rich may have to exceed 2017 rates.
Still, we did not reach real agreement on whether TCJA was an effective policy. But we both thought the topic important and valued the respectful tenor of our debate. And so, we agreed to meet over lunch, face-to-face, to have a discussion that we couldn’t have had on the pages of LDS and which would have risked boring readers to tears. That discussion, too, was respectful. We aired our differences in objectives, opinions, and approaches. Part of airing those differences was simply listening and trying to fully understand different points of view.
Following up, we had an exchange of multiple emails. We both now understand each other’s points of view more fully and interestingly share some key, related policy conclusions, e.g., that shifting the burden of current fiscal expenditures to future generations in our ballooning deficit is both risky and wrong.
As we both listen, read, and watch the shrill assaults of our polarized public square, whether on the nightly news, social media, between the political parties, the branches of government, or politicians, we are reminded of Lincoln’s admonition, “a house divided against itself cannot stand”. Few of us can change the quality of political debate and process, but each of us can guard the tenor of our own remarks, even our letters to the editor of the Laconia Daily Sun. And each of us can better listen to other points of view.
Reasonable men and women will routinely disagree on the issues being debated. But disagreement need not be divisive. We each need to do our part to improve the quality of our dialogue with facts, transparent analysis, clear statements of opinion and objectives, respect for other points of view, and humility in our certainty.
Eric Herr, Hill
Bruce Jenket, Moultonborough