I don’t understand why slight increases in the taxes paid by the nation’s wealthiest households is equated in some politicians’ minds with cuts to Medicare, Social Security, educational aid and other programs on which the middle class and poor depend for a decent standard of living.  

The first option for reducing our deficits is little more than an inconvenience for taxpayers who are well able to withstand it; the second is a real sacrifice for beneficiaries with very little margin to spare.

Take for example the proposal to extend tax cuts on the first $250,000 in household income, while allowing the cuts to expire on amounts over that amount.

This would apply to the first quarter million dollars of everyone’s income — even the 2 percent of households that bring in more than that. So that means if you made $300,000, you’d only being paying the slightly higher, Clinton-era tax rate on your last $50,000.

The tax increase for any single, even very wealthy, household would be relatively small. But collectively, this tax change would bring in a trillion dollars over the next decade, money we could use to reduce debt and bolster programs important to the middle class and working families.

On the other hand, proposals to make older Americans wait longer to qualify for Medicare, and for some of them to shoulder more of the costs; or reduce the inflation-adjustments of Social Security could have very real — even life and death — consequences.

Because of the very different effect on human lives of high-end tax increases versus cuts in government services, I trust Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe will be sure we’ve raised all the revenue we should from our most fortunate citizens and profitable corporations before we turn our attention to reducing services for our most vulnerable populations.

Jacqueline Edwards is a resident of Gray.