The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
As I steel myself for a deficit-reduction tax increase, please allow me to respectfully remind you that current economic conditions are hurting even those you probably consider to be higher earners.
I am what you might call a hard-work-and-long-hours professional. whose earnings reflect 30 years of slow and steady career development. I came from very modest family circumstances, working my way through college and graduate school without parental help, generously helped by government and private loans and grants. For nearly twenty years, I have owned a small consulting business - well, micro, as it is just me - and while the first decade had its ups and downs, more recent years have been very successful. My husband Bert has also slowly but surely grown his earnings through long hours and hard work, although in his case it’s been through employment, not self-employment.
Like many of our generation (I am 54 years old) Bert and I had hoped this final decade or so prior to retirement would be our best wealth-guiding years. With our children’s college education behind us, we were on track to begin moving our retirement accounts away from market risk, and focusing our late-working-career earnings into additional savings during our countdown to retirement. Unfortunately, we are now seeing the fruit of our work and savings shrink like a forgotten apple in the back of the fridge. The only thing growing in those retirement accounts is anxiety.
We no longer have confidence to predict a comfortable retirement, and we must cast aside any notion of an orderly exit from market risk, as it would be financial suicide to bail out of stock-baed investments today. And, like many others, we were severely hampered in our ability to redouble efforts to bolster our savings from current earnings. In our case, it is a particularly difficult current earnings scenario. I develop and teach seminars to train commercial loan officers, and as you might imagine, banks have stopped sending money on training. Bert’s job is by no means assured, either. Our 2009 income may fall below your high-income, tax-increase threshold. But when incomes rebound in 2010 or 2011, our likely higher tax rate will hamper efforts to restore lost retirement funds during the decade that will count the most. I’ll see particularly high taxes if your plan includes raising self-employment taxes as well as income taxes.
So, we have a trifecta of trauma: decimated retirement funds + extended exposure to pre-retirement market risk + reduced current income to re-build, especially if higher taxes further reduce replacement savings.
When Joe the Plumber was on every news anchor’s lips, I supported your statement that the more fortunate among us need to share the wealth. I still believe that. I canvassed door-to-door for your campaign, and I donated to it. I believed in your candidacy, and I believe in your stimulus package today. However, please think carefully about the extent of tax increases at this time. The stimulus packed will help restore the economy. But as your work to simultaneously reduce the budget deficit, please keep in mind that we and others like us also need a fair chance to close the gap on what you might call our retirement deficit. Tax if you must, but with due knowledge of and care for those whose circumstances may not be as ‘wealthy’ as tax tables suggest. Restrict the deficit reduction plan to moderate tax increases that all us to both rebuild our lost retirement assets and return to making the kind of consumer purchases and business investments that support the immediate need for economic recovery.
Thank you for considering my perspectives, and sincerest best wishes in accomplishing your near-term and longer range objectives for our country.