The honking of the geeseThe government’s plan to revise the current tax code has incurred a strong backlash from politicians who say they’re worried about the middle class’s bigger tax bills as a result of the revamp. The opposition Democratic Party kicks off a signature-gathering campaign today to thwart the Park Geun-hye administration’s new tax plan in addition to their ongoing protest of the ruling Saenuri Party’s uncooperative attitude in the legislative probe into the National Intelligence Service’s alleged meddling in last year’s presidential election. The Saenuri Party is also under heavy political pressure from the middle class looking at higher tax bills ahead of local elections slated for next June.
The government’s tax plan could be viewed as an unavoidable choice to cover an increase in welfare payments. The government took the right direction on the issue by trying to ensure fairness in the tax system and increasing tax benefits for ordinary citizens as well as small- and mid-size companies. The public uproar stems from the Blue House’s inability to convince the people and political circles of the necessity of the decisions it has taken.
The government should have considered the plight of 4.34 million salary earners who are directly affected by the government’s tax proposal. Given their inherent resistance to taking home less money each month because of more taxes deducted from their salaries, the government should have carefully approached them so as not to fuel their resistance to more taxes. But the presidential secretary for the economy came up with a ludicrous explanation for the proposal. The secretary even said, “It’s like plucking a goose without the pain.” That comment immediately led to vehement defiance from the middle class, which helped swell the DP’s outdoor rallies in a new paradigm of a “war against tax bombardment.” The opposition has a finer ear for language than the Blue House staff. Taxpayers don’t like being compared to geese being plucked.
But there are flaws in the arguments of the opposition because the expected tax increases fall short of being a “bomb.” Moreover, the DP has persistently called for tax hikes to meet the growing welfare spending. As the government’s new proposal wrings more tax from high salary earners than anyone else, it also reflects the DP’s call for more taxes on the rich. Therefore, the opposition’s “tax bombardment” claims are misleading.
Taxes are determined by the law. If the proposal has problems, they must be addressed in the National Assembly - not on the streets. Our lawmakers must address the issue with cool heads, not hot hearts.