I love taxes!
You heard me right.
I'm sick and tired of people bitching about having to pay taxes.
I may not always be happy about how taxes are spent and managed, but taxes are what make it possible to live the 'American Dream'. I have conservative friends who say, "I have to pay the first 3 months' salary of the year to the government," as though that were some kind of definitive argument against taxes. And any politician who wants to be popular vows to 'cut taxes'.
So it's an outrage to have to pay taxes. So, we expect to have roads, firemen, policemen, infrastructure in general, a prosperous business environment, a military, education for all, protection and promotion of our way of life - for nothing!
Now, this is not the sort of rant that is filled with 'statistics', because as we all know, as Mark Twain said, there are "lies, damned lies, and statistics". Statistics are easy to manipulate and it's a convenient way to get away from a point by wrangling over them. I'm talking about a philosophical point of view.
The impetus for our nationhood was rebellion against unjust taxation. There is a deep-seated distrust of taxes built into the American psyche for this reason. And acquisitiveness is a primal survival mechanism. Babies are born selfish out of necessity. But we are not babies. We learn that sharing is not only kind, it's necessary to our way of life. We have to give if we want to get. If we want something, we have to pay for it.
Americans believe in hard work, and making your own way. But Warren Buffet acknowledges that "There's no way I would enjoy what I enjoy if I had been born in West Africa." Part of being successful in America is the resources that America has to offer, and these don't just come out of thin air. If we want the benefit of all these resources, we need to pay for it. No matter how hard a person works, no matter what sort of entrepreneurial spirit and determination you have, it doesn't matter if the infrastructure and resources are not there to work with. Babies expect to be given everything without having to pay for it. Adults should know better.
I'll say another dirty word - tax the rich!
That's right. When our present system of taxation came into being, the idea of the progressive income tax was based on the notion that all Americans should bear the same amount of financial burden in contributing to the well-being and prosperity of this country. We all have basic needs - food, shelter, medical care. But obviously that takes up a larger share of the income of the less-well-off. The people who are well-off are well-off because they (or their parents) were in a place with the resources to reap benefits from the work they do. If you have 2 farmers, one with a rich, fertile piece of land, and another with an infertile pile of dirt, and they both try to grow something on their piece of land, is the farmer with the fertile land harder-working or more industrious or deserving of wealth than the farmer with the dry dirt pile? But somehow, people have this notion that people are rich all on their own merit and that poor people are poor because they're lazy and deserve poverty. And the evangelical right echoes that, saying in effect that God rewards His faithful with earthly riches and if you're poor, you're obviously out of God's favor. Never mind that Jesus said the exact opposite! But I digress...
Call for taxing the rich, and the howls of 'class warfare' are heard from the right. But it is a privilege to be able to do business in the United States, and poor people pay a much larger proportion of their income in taxes that benefit the rich when you figure in the taxes that are paid on everything they consume. There is already class warfare, and it's the war of the rich against the poor, and of the corporation against the individual.
For all the reminiscing about how great life was in the 50's, and how family life was so fantastic because moms stayed home, one big reason was the high tax rate of the well-off, and of corporations. The overall economy was prosperous enough that a shoe salesman could own a home, a car, and support a wife and large family - on one job! And a not-especially high-paying or prestigious one at that! Never mind that much of the idealization of the 50s conveniently forgets about racism and sexism, and the fact that many dads missed out on their kids' entire childhoods and moms were often tied up in a pink ruffled straitjacket, but speaking in economic terms, the dollar went a whole lot farther than it does today. Plus, decent-paying blue-collar jobs have gone the way of the 45 record, college tuition is through the roof, and social mobility is more stratified and frozen than ever. The good-paying jobs for those without a college degree (and those with one!) have been replaced by service jobs - McJobs, if you will, without benefits, where you can work full-time and not be able to support yourself. Think about that - you work as hard as you can for 40 hours or more a week, and not make enough money to supply even the basic necessities of life. That's not work - that's indentured servitude.
Folks, the trickle-down theory does not work. It's just a race to the bottom for the poor, and the formerly-middle-class that is rapidly becoming poor. More money might be made for those at the top - Wall Street shows that - but it's staying there, siphoned to offshore accounts and tax shelters. We've seen the results, and we're living with it now. And with the elimination of the estate tax, money that would have gone to charitable giving as a tax shelter is now unnecessary.
The object of the progressive tax is to ask the rich to bear the same burden as the poor. Not the same amount; not even the same percentage - the same burden. That is obviously impossible, since no one would ask the rich to pay everything that they make except for the bare essentials - like a crowded apartment, food stamps, second-hand clothing, free-clinic medical care - in taxes. But that's what the poor are asked for. There is a price we all have to pay for life in America, and if everyone assumed the same burden, the overall quality of life for all Americans - including the rich - would improve immeasurably.
So shut up, rich people, and pay your goddamn fair share.
(Gee, I feel so O'Reilly-esque! Pass the falafel!)