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Teddy Roosevelt and the burden of taxation

Contributed To The Press • Dec 10, 2017 at 12:00 AM

I was taken with Murphy Johnson’s imaginative column on Nov. 22 of the economic workings and societal benefits of the estate tax. He linked it to the autumnal leaf drop at the end of deciduous trees’ seasonal cycle, or trees’ final end when they fall. In both events, he described the trees as giving back to the soil the borrowed nutrients which had enabled their successful growth and stature in the natural community of life.

Returning those nutriments — to the “financial soil” in the case of the estate tax — gives future generations of seedlings a fair chance to reach the measure of height they are capable of.

This discussion brought to mind somewhat similar arguments by another, well-known tree lover, Teddy Roosevelt, who gave us the national forests and promoted Arbor Day “in recognition of the importance of trees to us as a nation, and what they yield in adornment, comfort and useful products to our communities.”

Roosevelt saw “the inheritance tax [as a] far better method of taxation” than other types of levies, such as on work or personal income. It should “contain the progressive principle” such that, “after a certain amount is reached,” very large fortunes bear, in proportion to their size, “a corresponding increase and burden of taxation.”

He noted that “these principles are recognized already in the leading civilized nations of the world” and stressed that,”when our tax laws are revised [they] receive the careful attention of our legislators.”

Teddy continually urged a more just system where “the men of wealth” carry a proportionate and fairer share of the tax burden. Only then, he reasoned, the nation could fully realize its democratic ideals, such as that, through education and properly maintaining the “common schools” all men would have “equality of opportunity to make a living.”

FRANCES LAMBERTS

Jonesborough

Zero tolerance

You should always do what is right no matter who is there to notice. Sen. Al Franken has done what’s right by resigning at the request of his colleagues, and I believe that was the correct decision. Unfortunately, while my party has done the morally upright thing by sending a message of zero tolerance for sexual abuse or misconduct, I fear that this will go completely unnoticed by Republicans, who seem to have no issue with the fact that our president has been accused of sexual misconduct by 19 women and is currently being taken to court by one of them, or with the fact that a man running with full Republican National Committee backing for the U.S. Senate is accused of the molestation of underage girls.

Republicans, if they really claim to be the party of family values, ought to immediately act by cleaning their house of those who abuse and assault women and girls. Zero tolerance should always be a bipartisan issue.

KATHERINE SIGLIN

Johnson City

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