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Middle class needs tax relief

I generally vote Republican, and I am familiar with tax codes and corporate compensation practices. I am supportive of a tax cut, but I am concerned that President Bush's tax-cut plan is too slanted to the well-off, where the relief is less needed.

Our country rewards far better than most the highest levels of corporate responsibility. Chief executive officer compensation in the United States is more than 50 times greater than the lowest wage-earners. That ratio is less than 20 to 1 in most countries. And other executive compensation is proportionately higher.

That compensation is also not heavily burdened by Social Security taxes, as those are withheld only on the first $80,000 of annual compensation. So the composite tax rate for highest earners is not much greater than that for middle-income workers, who pay Social Security tax on all of their earnings (marginal federal rate after $80,000 for a high earner is 40 percent; for those who do not exceed that limit, it is 36 percent).

I would like to have the income tax adjusted for the disparity in the burden for Social Security tax. Either remove the cap on Social Security taxes (which would help with its funding) or increase the highest levels of income tax by an equivalent percentage.

The country is not dependent on the wealthy for investment. Large pools of investment capital are available today as baby boomers save for retirement. Many of these (including me) would benefit greatly from tax relief in this period when they are trying to save for retirement.

I have similar objections to a blanket elimination of the estate tax. Yes, large estates are taxed twice. But so are dividends from corporations, but there is no hue and cry to eliminate them. I am supportive of some level of exemption, which helps preserve family businesses. However, current law will soon exempt the first $1 million of an estate from federal taxation. Some raising of that bar may be beneficial, but a blanket elimination is too unbalanced. The tax rate of 57 percent is confiscatory, so some reduction of the rate would be reasonable. But complete elimination of the tax is also unreasonable.

We talk about the need for a level playing field for people of different races and religions in getting education and jobs. However, inherited wealth is a great divider in education and employment. Too favorable of treatment for the wealthy perpetuates, rather than reduces, the disparities among classes in America. As a parent helping six children through higher education, I am well aware of the struggle that effort entails when parents can't pay much of the cost.

In summary, I am glad Bush won the election. I like his moral tone and most of his priorities. However, I would like more emphasis in tax relief for the overburdened middle class than on the top 5 percent of the tax-paying population.

Gerald E. Hyde of North Salt Lake is a certified public accountant.