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About the Fair Tax

A reader of the Bedford Bulletin, and a member of our Roanoke Area FairTax group (RAFT), made me aware of John Barnhart's column in the Dec. 14 issue.

As the FairTax gains in both popularity and in recognition, articles such as his have been popping up that are critical of the proposal. Usually these are written by folks simply opposed to the idea (which I do not believe he is) or not informed about its principles (which I do believe he is). Much of his information seems to come from a Wall Street Journal article that has considerable errors of fact within it.

Let me provide a short synopsis of the FairTax (not the "fair tax"):

• It is a tax on consumption rather than income. State tax agencies would collect and remit the tax in exchange for a fee.

• A 23 percent inclusive (i.e., percentage of the whole) rate will be collected on new goods and services at the final point of purchase.

• Taxes on income will be eliminated as part of the bill, as would the IRS. The bill calls for separate legislation to repeal the income-tax-enabling 16th Amendment.

• Eliminated taxes include personal, corporate, Social Security, self-employment, Medicare, estate, capital gains, Alternative Minimum, and gift taxes. Also eliminated are the huge, non-value-adding costs of complying with the rules and regulations of the IRS.

• Upstream taxes to providers of goods and services now average about 22 percent (inclusive) and, since they will no longer be collected, their effect on current prices can be eliminated, making room for the FairTax at 23 percent (inclusive). Providers are not required to reduce their prices before applying the FairTax but the "shelf" price would be very high if they didn't. However, competition will take care of that. As soon as Wal-Mart/Ford/Best Buy/Kroger//Radford Homes/etc. post prices very near (and perhaps below) current prices, everyone else who wishes to compete will do the same. Experts predict that prices will be no more than 10 percent higher and very possibly lower than present prices. This concept applies to any competitive markets: retail, cars, houses, etc. Scare quotations of $100,000 houses costing $130,000 are way off the mark.

• Used goods are not taxed. This applies to everything, including cars, houses, etc.

• Workers will receive their whole paychecks with no federal payroll taxes deducted. (State deductions are not affected.)

• All legal, resident families will receive, in advance, a refund for the FairTax to be paid when purchasing basic necessities. It is called a prebate. The payment schedule is based on the Treasury Department's "poverty level" table, a simple, one-half-page schedule affected only by the make-up of one's family. (Have you ever tried to compute the Earned Income Credit under the income tax?) The prebate program would be managed by the Social Security Administration, an organization well versed in doing that sort of thing.

• Purchasing power under the FairTax can be shown to be 10-20 percent higher under the FairTax than under the current system. The combination of higher take-home pay, the prebate, and approximately equal prices combine to make this so.

• State and local exclusive taxes are common to all forms of federal taxation and should not be mentioned to make the FairTax sound worse than it really is.

• The FairTax is a realistic, believable alternative to the current tax system. It is the most thoroughly researched, best alternative that will appear in our lifetimes. It is not a proposal to reduce federal spending (it is designed to provide the same revenue) but its transparency should allow the public to take the next step: reduce taxes by reducing spending.

Donald Koop

Community Coordinator

Roanoke Area FairTax

Knowing the background

This is the time of year to refresh our understanding of the Bible. But to understand any book, one must know the writer's background, his purpose, the setting and the timeframe; i.e., the context. Even if you believe in divine inspiration, however it is defined, the same is true for the books of the Bible.

Fortunately there are scholars like John Dominic Crossan, who helped establish the Jesus Seminar, Bishop John Shelby Spong, whose enlightened commentary has urged needed change to Christian theology, and many other dedicated researchers whose life long efforts have been a search for truth. They provide a refreshing new contextual understanding that provides a solid basis for religious advancement rather than continual retreat to the dogma of the past.

Of course, separating parables and metaphors from fact is important only if you want to know the truth. For example, Crossan says that the story of a virginal conception is a confession of faith about the significance of Jesus, not a biological statement about Mary's body."

This makes more sense than the alternative. One can believe in no guiding star, no manger, no Bethlehem, no shepherds, no angels, and no virgin birth and still find the divine on earth revealed in Jesus. To say that Jesus was a human and came from Nazareth is a statement of fact. To say that Jesus is divine is a statement of faith. That distinction continues to be a sticking point for many.

Since over 95 percent of Jews were illiterate, it's probable that Jesus was illiterate as well. But that didn't stop him from speaking with an oral brilliance even though much of what is recorded in the Bible is inaccurate.

I found a real priceless nugget in Crossan's work. When asked the questions about whether the original biblical writers intended to be taken literally, he said no. The ancients knew how to tell a good parable. It's only we moderns who are silly enough to take them factually. Further, he notes the nature miracles of Jesus are authority parables not to be taken as fact. Most of the other miracles were probably psychosomatic. The Easter story of crucifixion and resurrection read in the context of a developing theology leads to a different conclusion than the widely accepted one.

In a world of inequality and injustice, a revolutionary Jesus sharply challenged the existing arrangements with his offer of healing, communal activities, and a decided no to the rich and powerful of his time. Administering to the poor, the infirmed, and the disadvantaged was central to his being. It's too bad that so much of his message is wasted on side issues rather than improvement of the conditions of society and acceptance of diverse cultures.

If you believe he's going to come again, the time sure is ripe!

David McLoughlin


Good working relationship

In the article about the Oakwood Villas development proposal that appeared in the December 19, 2007 edition of the Bulletin, a statement was reported indicating that the City of Bedford and Bedford County wished to act separately in reviewing the project as opposed to conducting a joint review. This statement is inaccurate.

In fact, planning staff from the City and County met jointly with Mr. Bill Berkley (the developer's representative) to review the proposal and discuss our concerns as early as July 2006. A joint hearing of the two planning commissions and tentative dates for such a meeting were discussed then, but no formal application was forthcoming from the developer until many months later.

A member of the development group made application for formal review and approval by the City only for the portion within City limits in May 2007. Although he was advised that the City?s preference was to implement a joint approval process with the County, he chose to exercise his right to initiate the separate approval process for the City portion at that time.

We enjoy an exceptionally good working relationship with our colleagues in the County that is based on mutual respect and shared values as well as our recognition that the effects of land development do not occur in a vacuum. Because of this, our policy is to cooperate and collaborate to the greatest extent possible. Any exception to that policy is neither initiated nor encouraged by the City of Bedford.

Barrett F. (Bart) Warner

Assistant City Manager

City of Bedford

Uplifting column

What a wonderful, uplifting and inspiring article I read on the Dec. 12 Bedford Bulletin by Tom Wilmoth titled <*U>A Simple Prayer<*P>. I agree with him 100 percent on the power of prayer. It has worked for me.

I read his weekly articles and they are consistently great, this being one of the best. Thank you for publishing <*U>Between the Lines<*P>. He is to be commended for speaking out on his strong faith and is an inspiration to many.

Leta Lester


Be truthful

Mr. Rivera must have taken his writing skills from Sheriff Brown and Deputy Robertson; all three avoid the truth as much as possible. Mr. Rivera states that Mr. Hackworth's letters are inaccurate. If this is true, then Mr. Rivera should write another editorial and give the true facts.

As for Blue Ridge Thunder, Mr. Hackworth never printed a terrible picture of it, but quite the opposite. As for Mr. Rivera getting all of the facts in five minutes, I believe him, his letter shows it. Mr. Rivera claims that Mr. Hackworth is out of touch with Blue Ridge Thunder and maybe wrong about other things too. Also, that if he had children or grandchildren that he cared about his views would be different. Well, Mr. Rivera certainly doesn't know what he is talking about, I know for a fact he is wrong.

Mr. Rivera states that Mr. Hackworth discredits deputies, which is not true. They discredit themselves.

He also stated that Mr. Hackworth has attempted to run good men against Sheriff Brown and failed miserably. That's not true either. The men that Mr. Hackworth supported were already in the race before Mr. Hackworth got involved.

I might also point out that Mr. Green and Mr. Updike got more votes in the city of Bedford than Sheriff Brown and took ten more precincts besides, including the Bedford Nursing Home (which is across from the Sheriff's Office), Huddleston, Bethesda, Northside, Thaxton, Liberty High School, Bedford Christian Church, Suck Spring, Sedalia, which is only five miles from Big Island and they got only nine less votes in Big Island, Sheriff Brown's home area. Also, three precincts were lost by 36 votes or less. Now you can see that in the areas were the Sheriff's actions are well known, he doesn't shine so bright.

May I also mention that Sheriff Brown has about 90 to 100 employees that could campaign for him. ...

Mr. Green's and Mr. Updike's total available campaign fund was $18,262 and Sheriff Brown's available campaign fund was $52,281. ... The way I see it, Mr. Green and Mr. Updike didn't do bad after all.

Keith Thaxton