Monday, January 31, 2011
Let me make something clear. I don't object to paying taxes. I am not happy that a big chunk of what I pay into the federal budget goes to pay for overpriced, unnecessary, and often obsolete before it's even deployed military hardware and useless, bloody wars, but just on general principles I don't mind paying taxes. It's been said that the only thing that hurts more than paying income tax is not paying income tax, and I tend to agree. I'd rather be taxed than poor or unemployed. Paying taxes above and beyond what was already withheld means we're doing well.
Furthermore, although maybe it's just another sign I'm still a hopeless idealist, I view taxes as the price we pay for being able to live in a semi-civilized country. As Franklin Roosevelt said, "Taxes, after all, are dues that we pay for the privileges of membership in an organized society." We pay taxes and in exchange we get to drive on paved roads, send our kids to (for the most part) decent schools, eat foods that (also for the most part) are not contaminated with anything too disgusting or unsafe, enjoy camping and recreation in public parks and forests, and so on. I'm enough an adult to recognize that a lot of the things we take for granted wouldn't exist without government dollars and oversight.
Unfortunately, it appears I'm in the minority in this country, because it seems like every time I turn on the tv I'm treated to some idiot telling me the only way to solve various problems is to cut taxes. Roads and bridges are crumbling? Solution: cut taxes so there's even less money to pay for repairs. Classrooms overcrowded? Solution: cut taxes so there's even less money to hire teachers. Feeling paranoid about crime? Solution: cut taxes so police departments have to furlough officers and reduce patrols.* There is this amazingly pervasive belief that, yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. You really can have something for nothing. Just invoke St. Ronnie (who actually presided over one of the largest tax increases in history, but why let boring facts interfere with a good fantasy?), blame illegal immigrants and greedy unions, and all will be well.
[*True story: a few years ago, one of the counties in Upper Michigan was having budget woes and put a limit on how many miles per week the sheriff's department deputies were allowed to drive the patrol cars, basically one tank's worth. Local residents complained bitterly, but continued to vote down every millage request that would have helped the department's budget.]