Fairer and simpler tax code

I want Washington to go big on tax reform ("Small signs of progress on avoiding fiscal cliff," Thursday). My proposal would lower rates, include everyone, and make the code simple and fair.

First, lump all federal taxes, including Social Security, into one rate. Second, treat all income equally, regardless of its source, and treat each taxpayer as an individual. Third, eliminate all deductions and credits, including for charities, home mortgages, and children. Finally, set a low, progressive rate structure to let the federal government collect just what it needs.

No more wealthy people using accountants to reduce their taxes. No complicated tax forms and incomprehensible instructions. Everyone would pay at least a little, and we could all feel it was fair.

Dave Hoh, Mantua, davehoh@comcast.net

Solutions to fiscal challenges

In his article "How to tackle entitlements and avoid the cliff" (Dec. 2), Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) presents facts, trends, and perspective on the short- and long-term fiscal problems the country faces. Raising taxes on the wealthy, as Toomey points out, will solve less than 10 percent of the structural debt problem. The real problems are the growth of entitlements and compounding interest on the debt. There are viable solutions to the country's fiscal challenges. Reforming Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid can be done without hardship for seniors currently enrolled or about to be enrolled. The roadblocks are politics and a system with no accountability. President Obama and Congress lack the courage to make the tough decisions.

David Good, North Wales

Firefighters should rotate

Philadelphia is a city of great diversity, in people and cultures, but also buildings. We have high-rises, single-family homes, row houses, commercial buildings, and industrial complexes. A highly trained firefighting force should have experience managing emergencies in all of these settings. Unfortunately, that's not the case today in Philadelphia because reassignment opportunities are less than what they could be optimally.

Young firefighters have made it very clear to me that they want to gain experience throughout the city to become the highly talented managers and future leaders this great Fire Department needs. That's why I devised a firefighter rotation policy that will be implemented in January. In the first year, 293 firefighters, about half of whom have been in their current assignments for 10 years or more, will submit five choices of locations they'd like to serve in for the coming five years. Each year, we will move a new group of firefighters, so that annually we can achieve a reassignment rate of about 15 to 20 percent.

Although a firefighter union representative was kept abreast of our planning meetings as we developed the rotation strategy, some union leaders have engaged in strident, irrational fear-mongering. Union critics complain that this approach has not been tried elsewhere. This kind of criticism is the last refuge of the closed-minded. The new rotation system will create a stronger department, a more talented firefighting force, and ultimately a safer Philadelphia. We will never waver from our goal to end the risk of structural fires in our city, but to do that we must be open to change and new ideas.

Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers, Philadelphia