The Importance of NATO
To the paragraph about President Trump’s getting NATO mostly wrong (the Week, February 6), I would add the following: Yes, Article 5 has been invoked by NATO just once in history, and it was for the U.S. Most Americans are unaware that, following the atrocity committed on September 11, 2001, NATO sent six of its AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft to Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., to fly cover over our great country. The reason they came to our aid with these aircraft is that most of our own AWACS aircraft were scattered all over the globe ensuring the security of the free world. Having spent more than a couple of years in NATO, I can tell you it was a warm feeling having our NATO partners at Tinker flying cover for us.
I would also add, for what it is worth, that, yes, our allies ought to pay their share of NATO costs; but whatever the cost to the U.S., it is most assuredly worth every penny to keep this important alliance together. NATO has kept Europe safe for many decades.
Colonel, United States Air Force (Ret.)
Kevin Hassett, in exhorting Congress to implement a VAT-like consumption tax to “move the tax base toward the international norm,” appears to be unaware of two things. The “international norm” in terms of the advanced VAT economies is now low growth at best and more typically stagnation. The EU had a 2015 growth rate of 1.8 percent; its major economies (Germany, France, and Italy) were well below that. Japan has not achieved sustained 2 percent growth for over a decade. Both have VATs at or near the “international norm.”
Mr. Hassett also appears to be unaware of something more fundamental: There is small chance of a VAT-type consumption tax replacing the income tax at the inception. Congress might express an intention for an eventual phase-out of the income tax, which also has an approximately 0 percent chance of ever really happening. Once a VAT is implemented, the income tax would find its sunset fading away into a distant future as government grew accustomed to having more money than even it ever thought possible. A VAT would be precisely what it has become in the slow-growth countries that have implemented it: an undammed river of fresh private-sector dollars flooding into the government’s bottomless pocket to augment high income-tax rates. It is an odd sort of economics that regards that as optimal, and an ingenuous political outlook to believe that something better might happen.
John L. Rogitz
San Diego, Calif.