[VIEWPOINT]Lawmakers must study taxing issues

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[VIEWPOINT]Lawmakers must study taxing issues

The local elections ended in a crushing defeat for the governing Uri Party. The defeat was predestined and anticipated. Even the governing party itself begged voters beforehand, saying, “We will lose the elections. Please save us from losing all of the local elections.”
Taking into account that it was only local elections, the results were unusually biased in favor of one side. The behavior of the governing party was strange.
The main cause of the Uri Party’s defeat is said to be the failure of its economic policies.
Anyway, politics has entered into a new phase.
Now, we must focus on how the Uri Party will recover.
However, I think that the participatory government and the governing Uri Party have just entered the road to hardship.
People think that the biggest reason for the crushing defeat was the government’s real estate policy, especially the tax policy intended to stop real estate speculation. Until a few days ago, the government has been launching frightening tax offensives, giving various justifications for doing so. It will not be easy for it to change its ways overnight just because the party lost the elections. Already, the opinions of people within the same party are contradictory, and the government, on its part, declares no retreat. What will happen in the future?
People worry very much, but there are also things to be optimistic about. Worries have always been there, so that is nothing new. In my eyes, I see new hope.
Our politicians have provided us with the chance for full-fledged debates on tax issues.
The world has changed and, for the first time, it has become necessary for the members of the Korean National Assembly to study tax issues.
Taxes are the favorite issue of politicians in advanced countries. Now, it seems, we will see the same thing happen in Korea.
In fact, the politics of Korea have been in such a state that politicians do not care about tax policies.
Whether they are matters related to tax revenue or expenditures, there have been no specialists who initiated them or worked on them in our National Assembly.
Because the politicians didn’t care for anything but their own interests, they banged the gavel and passed the package of laws without earnestly considering them. Even in the budget settlement committee, where the budget accounts are settled, they indulged in political propaganda, neglecting the duty to review their public expenditures.
In that sense, the local elections this time were instructive to Korean politicians. The Uri Party fearlessly pushed through their tax-drive under the banner of reform, bluntly saying to the public, “We will show you how fearful tax is.” The party may not have anticipated that it would directly lead to the crushing election defeat.
The party never imagined that the bomb it threw would boomerang and explode in its own living room.
Tax increases don’t always mean the voters will shy away. In the United States, taxes are an election issue in most elections, not only in the presidential race, but also in numerous local elections.
But there were many candidates who were elected after raising taxes. It does not matter whether there is a tax increase or a tax reduction. Candidates engage in a hot debate on the issues, while the taxpayers watch.
Of course, the voters who pay taxes are the judges. After all, those who think lightly of the taxpayers will certainly be defeated.
When politicians reveal their logic for the tax increases, they have to explain it painstakingly, begging for understanding from taxpayers.
Whether it is an increase in the property tax or the capital gains tax, it can never happen that the tax is increased two to three times at once, as is happening in Korea.
Moreover, it is unimaginable that the government creates a social atmosphere in which people who pay high taxes are treated as if they are cheaters or speculators, far from being respected.
Tax debates should become a routine practice in our society and should take place in all corners.
Both the ruling and the opposition party members should study tax issues. If they don’t, they should get out of politics.
It is an essential process for Korea to follow through, if the country is to be an advanced country.
The Uri Party has lost a lot in the elections, but it has also gained a lot. It has paid a high price for threatening taxpayers.

* The writer is the CEO of the JoongAng Ilbo News Magazine.

by Lee Chang-kyu
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