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FDR said it back in 1941 — government should tax people based on their ability to pay

In his 1941 State of the Union message to Congress, Franklin D. Roosevelt made note of the concept of legislation based on a taxpayer’s ability to pay.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, flanked by Lt. Gov. Julianna Stratton, holds up a signed piece of legislation related to a graduated income tax during a bill signing on June 5, 2019 at the Thompson Center.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker, flanked by Lt. Gov. Julianna Stratton, holds up a signed piece of legislation related to a graduated income tax during a bill signing on June 5, 2019 at the Thompson Center.
Amr Alfiky/AP Photo

As noted in your recent editorial, billionaire Ken Griffin has ponied up $20 million to defeat the proposed fair tax amendment to the Illinois Constitution. Your points are well taken. (Yes, Gov. J. B. Pritzker is spending $56 million on the other side.)

If Griffin is so opposed to a graduated income tax, why has he made no effort to get Congress to replace the federal income tax structure with a flat tax? He has the money and, I presume, he has friends on Capitol Hill. The 16th Amendment seems to allow it.

The ability to pay is not a new concept. In his 1941 State of the Union message to Congress, Franklin D. Roosevelt said, in part, “…the principle of tax payments in accordance with ability to pay should be constantly before our eyes to guide our legislation.”

Bob Manewith, West Ridge

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Graduated tax is not enough to help Illinois

Regarding the Sun-Times editorial accusing Ken Griffin of “not being honest” about Gov. Pritzker’s graduated income tax proposal (9/10/20), I say the Sun-Times is not being honest for recommending the graduated tax amendment without any strings attached.

In addition, to blame former Gov. Bruce Rauner for leaving the state in “a world of hurt” is disingenuous and pulled straight from the Democratic Party playbook. Thankfully, a letter to the editor that day correctly calls out the current governor and his cronies for pushing an income tax amendment while not calling for amendments that could actually help save this state, such as eliminating the clause in the state Constitution that prevents changes to the pension system, requiring non-partisan congressional maps be drawn and imposing legislator term limits.

Be honest, Sun-Times. This tax will not help if we do not tackle these much larger issues.

Philip J. Milord, Western Springs

Not a victory against tobacco

The Chicago City Council has no reason to celebrate a victory in passing a weak, incomplete tobacco control ordinance.

The original ordinance called for prohibiting sales of all flavored tobacco products (electronic and combustible) including menthol. Menthol cigarettes are the flavored tobacco of choice for African Americans and contribute to addiction. Menthol also makes it more difficult to quit.

At a time when COVID-19 is killing African Americans, it’s hard to believe that the City Council could ignore a measure that would have demonstrated its interest in ending Big Tobacco’s hold on the African American community. The City Council believed Big Tobacco’s front groups when they said the more protective ordinance would hurt business.

If the business model of retailers relies on selling a product that has known deadly health risks and consequences, then I would suggest those retailers find a new way of doing business.

Janet Williams, Illinois Coalition Against Tobacco