January 3rd, 2013
07:33 PM ET

Letters to the President #1445: 'Taking responsibility for good...and bad'

Reporter's Note: The payroll tax holiday has expired, so we’re all pretty much paying more this year. Thank goodness I have my extra income from writing these letters…oh wait, I don’t get paid for this…hmmm…

Dear Mr. President,

I’ve been thinking all day today about something that just drives me tree-climbing-bark-chewing crazy. From the time my kids were very small I’ve taught them that decent people take as much responsibility for the bad news they must deliver as the good. If you have poor report card, you must tell your parents as readily as you would about straight A’s. If you scratch the car, you must report that with the same alacrity with which you’d mention that you filled it with gas.

I know this is not easy. It requires a depth of character that puts the good of others, whether a family, a school, or a neighborhood, above your own. But it is the sort of thing we should strive for even if we know from the start we can never be perfect at it.

So it makes my head spin to work in D.C. where all you political types seem to work aggressively counter to that ethos. My latest case in point: The payroll tax. When you were running for re-election, you said time and time that you’d reduced the tax burden on almost everyone…and a central mechanism of this claim was this payroll tax holiday. So if you wanted credit then for lowering taxes in this fashion, should you not also accept responsibility now for raising them?

Understand, I am emphatically not complaining about the act itself. I fully understand that the reduction in payroll taxes over the past couple of years was a temporary thing. It was called a “holiday” specifically because it was not going to last. And considering all of our budget problems, I can easily see the logic in letting it expire now and expecting everyone to pay more.

But I think people would trust politicians a lot more if you…and all your colleagues, Democratic and Republican…would just be a lot more forthcoming about these matters. I wish you’d campaigned by saying, “Hey, I’ve given almost everyone a tax break in the past couple of years because I wanted to spur our economy. We will be taking that back shortly after I am re-elected and your taxes will go up, because frankly we can’t sustain such a break indefinitely. But I still think it was the right move and I’d appreciate your support.”

I’m sure that is a ridiculous way of campaigning, and Axelrod would have probably thrown himself into the river. But I think it might be a great way of leading and restoring a sense among voters that you political types can be trusted.

Just a thought. I hope all is well where you are. Call if you can.


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