Letters to the Editor

BY DI READERS | MAY 04, 2009 7:26 AM

Sales tax is best route for low income

Much concern has been expressed about the burden a sales tax places on low-income individuals. Yet on analysis, the sales tax is actually the best deal for low-income Iowa City residents. The Iowa City City Council said the proposed projects are critical, and they will be completed whether the sales tax is passed or not. If the sales tax is not passed, the revenue will be generated through increased sewer-use fees and increased property taxes. These charges also disproportionately affect low-income residents. Water and sewer access is a necessity. Low-income individuals can less afford an additional $10 on their water bill than a 1 cent sales tax. Increased property taxes will also disproportionately the affect low-income individuals. Even if residents rent, landlords most likely will pass the increased property tax onto the residents in the form of rent increases. If property tax increased by $8.57, renters will likely see their rents increased by $10, increasing the burden on low-income residents beyond the actual tax.

Increased sewage rates and property taxes will be permanent. The sales tax is for four years and cannot be extended without another vote by local residents. The sales tax also requires visitors to Iowa City to contribute to the maintenance of city infrastructure. Every fall, thousands come to Iowa City for football games. The more money visitors contribute to the cost of these critical infrastructure repairs, the less money must be raised from Iowa City residents. When all of these factors are examined, the sales tax is actually the least burdensome form of revenue generation for low-income residents of Iowa City and is the only revenue generator that will expire.

I encourage all Iowa City residents to vote “Yes” on the sales-tax ballot.

Ruth Spinks
Iowa City

‘No’ vote best for students

Elected officials in Johnson County are hoping students stay away from the polls on Tuesday, as they ask residents to vote for yet another sales tax increase, which will hit students disproportionately hard.

But students have many reasons to show up and vote against this tax increase. Some of the top reasons:

• The sales tax is the most regressive of taxes, burdening low-income residents — including students — disproportionately. (The lowest-earning 20 percent of Iowa workers already pay nearly twice the percent of their household incomes in sales taxes as the highest 20 percent of income earners do). It is unjust to increase the burden on those least able to bear it.

• We are in the middle of one of the worst recessions of the past 100 years, one that most economists think will get worse in the next year. Now is a time when people can least afford to pay more in taxes — and unlike income taxes, sales taxes are not reduced when people lose their jobs.

• Local small businesses, already suffering from the economic downturn, will be squeezed further by a sales-tax increase (which also means possible retail job losses — and students hold many of those retail jobs in Johnson County). An increase means more people will make purchases online. Also, right now our sales-tax rate is lower than most of Linn County’s new 7 percent rate, which benefits local retailers. Making our rate as high as Linn County’s will eliminate this local benefit.

• We just raised the sales-tax rate only two years ago with the School Infrastructure Local Option sales-tax vote. If this increase passes, our sales-tax rate will have increased by 40 percent in just two years. A 40 percent tax hike is not reasonable.

• Our state and local elected officials already have plans to raise many other taxes, including a property-tax hike of 5.6 percent, which renters will see in August rent increases.

• There might be better uses for our money than the flood-mitigation projects. Many believe public safety-related projects such as a new Iowa City fire station or the long-planned new Justice Center should be higher priorities than mitigation against another possible 100-year flood.

• There are other sources of disaster funding available: The state of Iowa has already secured $2.2 billion in federal funding, and other federal stimulus money is just waiting to be claimed for this purpose.

Beth Cody, Ax the Tax

Chill out on swine flu

I get it. The swine flu is scary. There are stories of public-health officials saying the new strain of the virus could soon reach pandemic levels. Even Twitter was exploding with posts about H1N1. I understand. It’s freaking people out. But what I don’t understand is why.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 5 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu; more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and roughly 36,000 people die from flu-related causes.

Tired of hearing about the flu? At the end of 2007, the CDC estimates that 468,578 people were living with AIDS in America, around 20,000 more than 2006. There were an estimated 14,561 deaths in 2007.

Tired of hearing about death? According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a woman is raped every two minutes in the United States.

Too graphic? Every 40 seconds in the United States, a child is reported missing or abducted. That translates to more than 2,000 children per day (under 18 years of age) or 800,000 per year.

It seems to me that there is too big a fuss over very little, and very little fuss over much serious issues. Remember West Nile? SARS? What about avian flu?

In the words of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, “Relax.” Soon enough, there will be a new disease for the media to sensationalize.

Preston Moore
UI student

Universal health care helps everyone

Health insurance coverage seems to be on everyone’s mind these days. Statisticians report that someone goes bankrupt every 30 seconds because he or she can’t cover the high costs of medical care. The World Health Organization ranks America’s health-care system 37 out of 191 countries in terms of performance. Travel to Canada, England, or even Cuba for health care, and you are granted full-benefit coverage, no matter the severity of the disease, its rareness, or the presence of pre-existing conditions. That’s not so in America.

A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with a condition known as spodylolisthesis, a forward displacement of the vertebrae. Although he has two insurance policies, both are inadequate. While some costs are covered, he is still left with hefty bills. He’s lucky. Many Americans who have insurance are denied medical care all together. Why is this? Health care is big business. Our health-care system is run by insurance and pharmaceutical companies, which decide who gets health care and who doesn’t. They determine costs, what doctor to see, and whether or not specific treatments or drugs should be given. Employees who work for these companies receive bonuses for denying coverage. These denials may save their respective companies billions of dollars every year, but as a result, many Americans suffer needlessly, or die waiting for much needed care.

The outlook seems dire. Eventually, we’re going to have to find solutions which ensure coverage for all. The Obama administration vows to implement health-care reform, but opposition to the president’s suggested policies runs rampant. Clearly, prior policies and systems have failed. As American, we should come together to convince the legislature to pass laws for universal health care. In the end, shouldn’t every American have the safety net of coverage without the fear of future financial woes?

Sarou Ngoy
UI student

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