Magazine | April 21, 2014, Issue

Letters

Tax Talk

I fail to understand why National Review deems a proposal to eliminate the federal tax exemption for state and local taxes paid a “welcome” reform (The Week, March 24). The exemption attempts to achieve some degree of parity between residents of high-tax and low- or no-tax states. Perhaps I’m missing something, but these goals seem in tune with conservative principles. For New Yorkers like me, eliminating that exemption would mean a fairly hefty increase in their yearly tax bill. And moving to another state is not always an option: Tearing up one’s roots in a locale chosen for family or work reasons may be neither possible nor desirable. NR’s editors seem to think the federal government should, in effect, stick it to those who suffer under burdensome state and local taxes. Frankly, I’m surprised.

Kay Fiset

Syracuse, N.Y.

The Editors respond: Far from promoting parity among the states, the deduction for state and local taxes rewards and enables high-tax states. A revenue-neutral tax reform that eliminated the deduction would allow low-tax states to reap more of the benefits of their relatively healthy political cultures. People who are stuck in high-tax states might benefit, too, because their governments would have to worry more about driving taxpayers away.

 

In Government We Don’t Trust

I would have wholeheartedly agreed with Arthur Herman and John Yoo’s article “A Defense of Bulk Surveillance” (April 7) prior to 2008. I spent 30 years as an attorney inside the federal bureaucracy and was proud of the high ethical standards expected of federal employees. Now, witnessing how easily the power of the federal government has been turned to reward political friends and punish enemies, I no longer agree. Lois Lerner gives a green light to bureaucrats to do as they wish. It is stunning — not only the corruption of power but how the whole world stands aside and watches with barely a whimper. Terrorists are a threat, but so is unrestrained government. The latter has killed many more than the former. Interestingly, I attended a seminar about balancing public safety with individual rights and found myself agreeing with an ACLU attorney, not something I usually do. He said: “It all comes down to whether you trust the people with the information.” I used to trust the federal government with information; I don’t any longer.

Dave Hickman

Duvall, Wash.

Arthur Herman and John Yoo respond: We share the writer’s concern about the abuse of government power by the IRS, which smacks of Watergate-era scandals in which taxing authorities were used to pursue the political enemies of the White House. There is always the threat of tyranny from the concentration of power. But we think that the Framers, who understood this problem well, chose one system for domestic affairs and another for foreign. With domestic affairs, the Framers infused the Constitution with several checks and balances and limits on government power because domestic affairs allow time to consider legislation and the states stand by to handle social problems. With foreign affairs, the Framers gave the benefit of the doubt to government action that could be swift and decisive. Even though they understood that the chances of tyranny were higher, they believed that only an executive could act with speed and unity of purpose to stop threats to our national security in which the costs of delay might be very high and there would be no alternatives, such as the states, to protect the American people. It’s also worth noting that not even Edward Snowden has found an example of any NSA employee’s abusing his or her power the way Lois Lerner and her colleagues apparently have done at the IRS.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

In This Issue

Articles

Features

Politics & Policy

Maneuver Warfare

It was February of 1991, and six weeks of brutal aerial bombardment were still no match for Saddam Hussein’s hubris. His continued refusal to evacuate Kuwait had triggered a coalition ...

Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

The Lawless

Just a few months ago, Secretary of State John Kerry was praising “our Russian partners” for their role in making possible a second “Geneva peace conference” on Syria. Having spent ...

Sections

Politics & Policy

Letters

Tax Talk I fail to understand why National Review deems a proposal to eliminate the federal tax exemption for state and local taxes paid a “welcome” reform (The Week, March 24). ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ The get-together between President Obama and Pope Francis was a meeting of giants: One is held by his flock to be infallible, the other merely the Vicar of Christ. ‐ ...
The Long View

From the MSNBC Archives . . .

April 19, 1886: “President Cleveland a ‘Father’ to Many” President Grover Cleveland took the extraordinarily brave and forthright step today of acknowledging his son. A lifelong Democrat, President Cleveland, as of ...
Athwart

Too Darn Hot

The International Court of Justice, which would get more respect if they appended “and Pancakes” to its name, has asked Japan to stop whaling. Japan has agreed, which must have ...
Politics & Policy

Poetry

TO AN EARLY BIRD, MID JUNE To-we, to-woo, to-woe! Must you sing so early, bird?  Can these announcements wait until a better time: say, half-past eight? You don’t think this cacophony will bring a friend ...

Most Popular

Culture

White Cats and Black Swans

Making a film of Cats is a bold endeavor — it is a musical with no real plot, based on T. S. Eliot’s idea of child-appropriate poems, and old Tom was a strange cat indeed. Casting Idris Elba as the criminal cat Macavity seems almost inevitable — he has always made a great gangster — but I think there was ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Other Case against Reparations

Reparations are an ethical disaster. Proceeding from a doctrine of collective guilt, they are the penalty for slavery and Jim Crow, sins of which few living Americans stand accused. An offense against common sense as well as morality, reparations would take from Bubba and give to Barack, never mind if the former ... Read More
Health Care

The Puzzling Problem of Vaping

San Francisco -- A 29-story office building at 123 Mission Street illustrates the policy puzzles that fester because of these facts: For centuries, tobacco has been a widely used, legal consumer good that does serious and often lethal harm when used as it is intended to be used. And its harmfulness has been a ... Read More
Politics & Policy

May I See Your ID?

Identity is big these days, and probably all days: racial identity, ethnic identity, political identity, etc. Tribalism. It seems to be baked into the human cake. Only the consciously, persistently religious, or spiritual, transcend it, I suppose. (“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor ... Read More
World

Wolf Warrior II Tells Us a Lot about China

The Chinese economy is taking a big hit as a result of the trade war with the U.S: A leading export indicator has fallen several months in a row, Chinese companies postponed campus recruitment, and auto and housing sales dropped. A number of U.S. manufacturers are moving production outside of China. So ... Read More