Participatory Democracy

I called my congressmen today to let them know that I think they should let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire, and if that means the cuts expire for everyone, so be it.

If you’ve been paying attention, you know that the temporary “Bush tax cuts” enacted in 2001 and 2003 are due to expire at the end of 2010.   Politicians are scampering because they know the money is needed to keep the country from sinking in a sea of red ink but if they let the cuts expire they’ll be open to charges that they raised taxes from their opponents in the next election.

I happen to believe that it’s important , both morally and practically, to pay our bills.  We need to reduce the deficit to avoid bankrupting the country and we need to combat the sense of entitlement that Americans seem to have these days and accept that we need to pay for the services that government provides.   It was horribly irresponsible of the government to enact tax cuts without enacting appropriate program cuts to compensate for the reduced income.  Allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire is a significant step towards getting the country back on a sound fiscal footing.

Unfortunately, I don’t run a wealthy Political Action Committee, and I don’t have millions of dollars to bribe influence support the politicians who agree with me, so the only chance I have of influencing my congressmen is to contact their offices and let them know what I think.

I live in Arlington, MA so Ed Markey is my representative, and Scott Brown and John Kerry are my senators.  The phone numbers for their Washington DC offices are readily available via Google.  I called each of them and gave my message to the staffer that answered.  Coincidentally, each office had a young (or young-sounding) woman answering the phone.

Senator Kerry’s staffer was the most professional.  She listened to my message, promised to pass it on, and asked for my zip code, presumably so they could better track the comments that come in.  I got the feeling that my call might not be a major influence, but at least it was tallied and might possibly have some minor impact.

The experience with Senator Brown’s office was laughably different.  I had to wait on hold for a couple of minutes, then when I told the staffer that I preferred to let the tax cuts expire, she told me that Senator Brown agreed with me that is important that we lower taxes.  I corrected her, but I was left with the impression that it wouldn’t matter.

My experience with Representative Markey’s office fell somewhere in between.  The staffer listened enough to understand that I was talking about taxes, but seemed much more interested in reading me a prepared sound bite from Markey than in tracking what I had to say.

I wonder if any of this made any difference?

Note: If you’re interested, you can use the calculator created by the Tax Foundation to calculate the impact to you of the various options under discussion.  Disclosure:  If the tax cuts expire only for those making over $250,000 a year, we’re not affected.  If they expire for everyone, it’ll cost us somewhere around $4000.

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