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Letter to the Editor: Debt and tax increase

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Much discussion has taken place during the present campaign about cutting taxes and balancing the federal budget. This is not the first time these items have been on the national agenda.

Taxes were cut during both Ronald Reagan's administration and during the presidency of the second George Bush. Consequently, the ratio of the national debt (ND) to the gross domestic product (GDP) increased under both of these administrations. When Reagan was president this ratio increased from 32.5 percent to 53.1 percent. During the fiscal years of George W. Bush that preceded the recession (2002 to 2008) this ratio again increased. This time from 56.4 percent to 69.7 percent. These numbers demonstrate how difficult it is to fight a war or dramatically increase defense spending while cutting taxes.

Since the Eisenhower presidency, federal income has exceeded federal expenses only during the Johnson and Clinton administrations. These balanced budgets occurred in fiscal year 1969 following a temporary tax increase to help finance the Vietnam War and following the tax increases in the 1990s while Clinton was president. For the record, when Lyndon Johnson was in office the ND/GDP ratio declined from 49.3 percent to 38.6 percent. During Bill Clinton's administration the ND/GDP ratio declined from 66.1 percent to 56.4 percent.

In spite of what the candidates for public office may argue, recent history shows that it will not be possible to reduce the national debt and increase defense spending without a significant tax increase. A bit more candor on their part would be welcomed.

JOHN PIEPHO, Cape Girardeau