Tax reform is speeding to a vote in the House and in the Senate. The centerpiece is a substantial reduction in U.S. corporate tax so that corporate tax rates, which are now nominally as high as 35 percent, may sink to 20 percent, thereby — we are told — enabling U.S. corporations to be robustly competitive in an international market filled with countries that have low corporate taxes.
It should be noted that the current effective U.S. corporate tax rate (the rate at which U.S. corporations now actually pay) is already 18.6 percent (per the Star Tribune Nov. 3).
A couple of years ago, when Walgreens was considering a corporate tax inversion that would move its headquarters to Switzerland, I took a peek at the taxes in Switzerland. As a matter of fact, Swiss corporate taxes were lower. But how about Swiss personal taxes? The Swiss federal government had a maximum tax rate of 11.5 percent. Hmm, not bad. The canton and municipal tax combined, however, could be as much as 35 percent. Many cantons and municipalities also had a wealth tax. Of course, each Swiss worker paid 5.15 percent for Swiss social security and 1 percent unemployment tax. It is helpful to know, too, that like many countries other than the U.S., Switzerland has a value-added tax. That tax is a national sales tax and is another 8 percent. So Switzerland pays for highways, hospitals, schools, etc., by lightening up on corporations and loading up the average person’s taxes.
Every day you and I drive on four- and six-lane divided highways that stretch on for miles and miles. When we fly, we typically depart from an airport that has the size and complexity of a small city. Then there are all the branches of the military, the 15 Cabinet departments, veterans hospitals, the FBI, the CIA, U.S. Customs and its border patrols, public schools and universities, agricultural research, urban development, natural-disaster recovery, the federal banking system, national parks, the foreign service — these and many more services that we citizens need and very much want.
When corporate taxes are hugely reduced, someone has to pick up the slack. The overall tax burden of individuals will inescapably increase under what Congress chooses to call reform.
Frank Malley, Minnetonka
MASS VIOLENCE AND MENTAL HEALTH
Antisocial personality disorder should be society’s real worry
I admire the courage of Jeff Ernst, who wrote about his mental illness and stated that the “overwhelming majority of violence is committed by people we consider sane.” (“I am the ‘other.’ And I’m tired of being a scapegoat,” Nov. 9.)
I wish we were more informed about the facts of mental illness. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists more than 15 major categories of mental disorders, including learning disabilities, dementia, substance-abuse disorders, psychosis, and mood disorders such as anxiety, etc. But the most likely disorder pertaining to mass killings is antisocial personality disorder, characterized by years of cruelty to family members, children, animals, lack of empathy or remorse and other acts of violence. These people are not “deranged,” have not “snapped,” nor are out of touch with reality or driven by compulsion beyond their control. Their killings are well-planned.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 18.5 percent of us will experience mental illness in a given year. Prof. Martha Stout, a Harvard clinical psychologist, states that in the U.S. about 4 percent of the population has an antisocial personality disorder. China and Japan have a rate of 1.5 percent. The percentage in the U.S. appears to be increasing, and Stout presents evidence that the higher rate and the increases are driven by cultural as well as biological factors. Of course, most people who have an anti-social personality are not killers. A large number become business and political leaders who are able to succeed by manipulation and deceit, lack of concern for others, risk-taking, and lack of emotional response.
Richard DeBeau, Northfield
Atrociousness of Editorial Board’s support is now fully apparent
Sam Clovis recently withdrew his nomination as prospective chief scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Earlier in the week, it became clear that he had encouraged another Trump campaign adviser to meet with the Russians last year about their possible role in the U.S. presidential election. Clovis had been widely criticized as failing the minimal criteria of expertise for the post, yet the Star Tribune Editorial Board boldly declared in May that he was “not a political hack” (“Trump’s expected pick for USDA post deserves benefit of the doubt but faces heavy lifting,” May 18). Well, now it appears he is just that. Months ago, the Star Tribune downplayed Clovis’ denial of climate change, although it was highly relevant to managing crop futures. His failure to respect scientific consensus was surely the first signal that he allowed politics to trump responsible decisionmaking. The Editorial Board owes its readers an apology for having defended this political hack and, at the same time, devaluing expert science.
Douglas Allchin, St. Paul
PERSECUTION IN MYANMAR
Civilian groups make difference, but it’s time for U.N. support
The article about the Karen people from Myanmar in Minnesota who are now rallying behind another minority group in Myanmar — the Rohingya — is another story about the tragedy of ethnic hatred and armed violence that appears to be genocide in the making (“Faraway heartache strikes nerve with Karen,” Nov. 7).
A Minnesota-based nongovernmental organization, Nonviolent Peaceforce, has been on the ground in that country since 2012 working together with local society, including Karen and other civil society peace groups, to monitor the cease-fire agreements signed in 2011. They do this work without the use of guns or other violence. Both men and women are also trained to protect civilians affected by the continuing violations and armed clashes and to guide them to safer areas when armed groups are fighting in their villages.
During their first skill-building training, the monitors engaged with local police officers who visited the training, building a respectful relationship with the department. Because of this, the monitors were able to negotiate the release of 19 civilians over the next few months. Just before Christmas last year, the monitors negotiated a three-hour cease-fire between two armed groups in order to evacuate 300 civilians caught in the crossfire, arranging for transportation to safe areas and to medical treatment.
As important as these results are to those protected, the situation has gone far beyond the ability of civilian groups to be able to protect other civilians. It is necessary for the world — through the United Nations Security Council — to be alarmed and take action to protect civilians.
Kathleen Laurila, Crystal