Politicians are gearing up for the November election. We will be hearing how they want to increase or decrease spending, or perhaps how they will cut taxes but not decrease services.

We will hear one candidate say that his or her opponent will increase taxes, while another will say the opponent wants to cut spending and decimate one program or another.

What we rarely hear is a direct answer to a question.

Question: You want to cut taxes but you will not cut services. How will you do that? Answer: “I will eliminate waste, fraud and abuse.”

Follow up question: Would you please explain exactly what waste, fraud and abuse is in whatever program is being discussed and tell exactly how much will be saved and how you arrived at that number? The answer will be something like, “I know there is waste, fraud and abuse, but I cannot quantify it until I get into office.”

Such non-answers occur at both the state and federal levels. If a candidate knows there is waste, fraud and abuse, shouldn’t that person have done research and be able to quantify it and tell where it is?

If they are making the accusation, it should be based on their research and facts. If they cannot provide the information, a reasonable assumption is they are spouting a party or ideological line.

The proposed 2015 federal budget is $3.9 trillion. Revenues are projected to be $3.33 trillion, leaving a deficit of $576 billion. This information is from the federal government website on the budget.

Some candidates will say they will cut taxes and spending and balance the budget. They also say they will pay down the debt. Forgetting what particular programs or taxes would be cut, they should be pestered to explain how, under their financial scenario, they could possibly pay down the debt.

Claims will be made that during President Ronald Reagan’s time in office, the economy was wonderful and the finances of the country were great. Reagan ran up tremendous debt and never balanced the budget. He cut income tax rates, but taxed capital gains as income at the 28 percent level.

Some say they want to go back to Reagan’s taxes, but they would leave the capital gains tax at 15 percent or possibly decrease it. Even Reagan realized that is not realistic.

If tax cuts were passed and if the economy grew at a higher rate, there still would not be enough income to maintain services and pay down the debt.

At the state level, there is the situation where more of the tax burden is falling on property taxpayers. Income taxes were cut, but the majority of the cuts went to higher income earners. The average person saw a tax decrease of only a few dollars, while top earners saved $2,000 or more.

The state budget was balanced by a cut to revenue sharing to local communities. That necessitated an increase in the local property tax or cuts to community services.

The hospital debt was paid, but will grow again because the uninsured will get services for “free.” Those costs will be borne by insurers and those who pay out of pocket.

The pension system was “saved” by cutting the pensions of those who worked and paid into the system for many years with the promise of receiving a certain benefit. The decreased benefit to retirees would have been returned to the economy in the form of spending.

This political season would be a good time for voters to meet with candidates and attend any forums where they can ask questions.  People should keep an open mind and put aside ideologies. Demand answers that give specific information.

Voters should not accept “I will cut taxes” without asking exactly what taxes and what effect it will have on programs and services.

People need to become involved, and then vote.

Stan Tetenman of Poland serves on that town’s board of selectmen.


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