Recently, a reader objected that a column on taxing the very wealthy was "cherry-picking" material cited to support the argument.
His description was accurate. In writing this column, I cite material that supports the points being made. The selected references do not attempt to cover all sides of a complex issue.
Readers who believe there is a counterargument are welcome to offer the information. But the reader disputing the tax column did not provide documentation for his objections. In his email, he did not identify himself, had no information on his expertise on tax policies or economics and offered no citations of books or essays that support his view. He did not establish his expertise.
This column is based on what I have read or experienced in 40 years as a reporter in Hawaii. It will cite sources in print or online to allow readers to decide the credibility of points being made.
When critics do not support their arguments with references or details about their expertise, it doesn't mean their views are not valid. But when there is no empirical support, there is no reason to take them seriously.
Conversely, reader Malcolm Findley, fearing the impact on Maui of a conflict with Iran, offered a commentary with references to support his view as well as information about himself. Whether I agree with him, I could agree to post his comments on the Haku Mo'olelo blog page (mauinews.com/page/blogs.list/).
On the issue of President Barack Obama's proposal to increase the tax rate on the very wealthy, there has been a great deal written in opposition. But I have not seen an economic model showing that a higher tax rate on individuals drawing more than $1 million in annual income will lead to loss of job opportunities.
There is data that suggest high taxes on businesses prompt businesses to defer investment, cut jobs or hold back on creating jobs. But business investment also can involve new equipment that eliminates jobs with higher return on investment.
When the reader protested selective references, it also was apparent he held to a Tea Party argument that taxation of the very wealthy will lead to higher taxation of all wealth.
It is a valid argument. Federal, state and local governments through the last half of the 20th century demonstrated that they prefer to expand programs over reducing tax loads.
But that is true over that past decade as well, when the tax load on individuals, including the very wealthy, was sharply reduced. After tax rates were cut in 2003, the federal government increased spending and grew the national deficit, spurred in large part by the costs of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Over the same period, the very wealthy did little to provide new job opportunities in the United States. Economic growth through 2008 was generated largely by expansion of credit, building on a flimsy foundation of subprime loans promoted by a financial market intent on increasing wealth, not American jobs.
"The captains of finance and the public stewards of our financial system ignored warnings and failed to question, understand, and manage evolving risks," according to the National Commission on the Causes of the Financial and Economic Crisis in the United States ("Financial Crisis Inquiry Report," January 2011).
Lower tax rates on the very wealthy promoted wealth creation through leveraging of risks in financial markets. Is it unreasonable to suggest that those who benefitted most from reduced tax rates contribute more to reducing the national debt?
If the issue is cutting government, that requires agreement on the role of government - including policies for economic growth. The Obama policy proposes tax incentives for wealth that creates American jobs while increasing taxes on wealth that does not. Whether it is a valid policy won't be known if it isn't implemented.
* Edwin Tanji is a former city editor of The Maui News. He can be reached at email@example.com. "Haku Mo'olelo," "writing stories," is about stories that are being written or have been written. It appears every Friday.