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Supercommittee must adhere to standards of fairness

The League of Women Voters of the United States has important positions on federal policies and programs that promote social and economic justice, including education, health care, human needs and the environment. We wish to share these as the new congressional committee on deficit reduction begins work.

The committee is a 12-member bipartisan, bicameral group appointed by party leaders. Its mission is to identify $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years. The deficit reduction must be completed by the end of 2011 or automatic cuts begin in 2013.

As the committee begins its work, we urge members to consider the following league positions, adopted at the national League of Women Voters convention in 1984. The positions promote tax fairness and reasonable approaches to deficit reduction and support economic and social justice:

The league believes the federal tax system should be fair and equitable; provide adequate resources for government programs while allowing flexibility for financing future program changes; be understandable to the taxpayer and encourage compliance; and accomplish its objectives without creating undue administrative problems.

The league believes that the federal tax system, taken as a whole, should be progressive, not proportional. The league supports income as the major tax base for federal revenues; believes that the federal income tax should be broad-based with minimal tax preferences and a progressive rate structure. We oppose a value-added tax or a national sales tax in the federal revenue system as regressive. Further, the league supports taxing capital gains as ordinary income and urges removal of loopholes in tax laws.

The league recognizes that deficit spending is sometimes appropriate and therefore opposes a constitutionally mandated balanced budget for the federal government because it would disrupt the balance of power among the three government branches.

The league could support deficit spending, if necessary, for stimulating the economy during recession and depression, meeting social needs in times of high unemployment and meeting defense needs in times of national security crises. The league opposes across-the-board federal spending cuts.

The league believes that the federal government has a role in funding and providing for old-age, survivors, disability and health insurance. For such insurance programs, participation should be mandatory and coverage should be universal. Federal deficit reduction should not be achieved by reducing Social Security benefits.

The existing federal tax system is neither fair nor adequately progressive. Program cuts can negatively impact social and economic justice programs. The federal government has a critical role to play in stimulating the economy and promoting equal opportunity and justice for all.

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Joan T. Parks is president of the League of Women Voters of Buffalo/Niagara.

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