Robert J. Samuelson's column, "The Reagan Tax Myth" [op-ed, July 28], ignored the real myth of tax cuts during the Reagan years -- the misguided notion that people actually got a tax cut. Businesses got a tax cut, the richest 20 percent of individuals got a tax cut and everybody else saw their taxes go up.

The vehicles of the increases were Social Security and Medicare taxes (FICA, or payroll taxes) that were raised significantly and continue to go up. Because Social Security taxes are capped, the effect of income tax cuts and FICA increases was to shift the burden to lower-income taxpayers.

The current tax-cut proposals are more of the same. The House tax bill contains almost nothing for anyone who is not a millionaire.

Since Ronald Reagan's election in 1980, the Republican Party has done a marvelous job of cheating 90 percent of the American people to benefit the richest one or 2 percent.

If the average voter ever figures out the truth about taxes, the Republican Party will cease to exist as a political entity.


Little Rock, Ark.

Robert J. Samuelson's hand wringing over tax cuts is based on the fear that future revenues may fall short of current projections. He worries that if taxes are cut now, the shortfall will leave Washington without enough trillions to spend.

This would be a more impressive display of fiscal probity if the Democrats didn't want to use the same projections to justify more spending on programs. History, however, teaches us that tax cuts can be undone (Reagan, Bush and Clinton all did so), but history also has shown us that once spending has been allocated to a government program, there is almost no way to stop it. In fact, there is almost no way to hold it flat.

For many years our political discourse has become so corrupted that to simply lower the projected increase in spending allocated to every government program is called a cut in spending.

If our representatives want to be prudent about these projections, they should either leave things as they are and let the money accumulate (that is impossible in Washington -- once there it must be spent), or they should cut taxes and let us keep the money (then at least a portion of it might be saved or invested rather than spent). But what they must not do is allow it to be budgeted into new programs or increased spending.

To allow unrealized projections to become spending is the real financial irresponsibility. It is the same as running up debts now based on a raise you might get down the road. To cut taxes is simply to hold off spending. As I tell my kids, you have that money now and if you save it, you can always spend it tomorrow. But if you spend it now, you cannot save it tomorrow.


Ann Arbor, Mich.