Monday, August 29, 2005

I Love Taxes!

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!)


Karlo said...

I think one could even make a very libertarian sort of argument for taxing the rich. That's to say that since their economic activities make use of more public goods (roads, police protection, etc.), they should have to pay a proportionally higher share. This disproportionate use is especially striking when we consider the military: most of the military's tasking is to advance interests of the wealthy overseas. Much of the money that the wealthy make there isn't taxed, and at the same time, we experience blowback (terrorism, corrupt regimes, etc.) from an amoral (and often immoral) foreign policy.

Ellen said...

Extremely well said, Alicia! The conservatives want smaller government but they never think about all the things they depend on from that government, and how these services are supposed to be paid for. The whole "people are poor because they are lazy" argument is infuriating as well.

It's not my taxes I object to paying--it's the extra taxes I pay so the rich don't have to.

Alicia Morgan said...

'Smaller government' is a catch-phrase, not an actual concept - as we have seen, the last thing that conservatives really want is smaller government.

Crabbi said...

Damn you, Blogger. I swear, I posted a comment and then poof - it's gone.

Anyway, I was saying:

Smaller government' is a catch-phrase, not an actual concept...

So is "personal responsibility" - a least for those who yammer on about it. The hardworking, tax-paying people of this country - the ones who actually practice personal responsibility - don't need to go on and on about it because they're living it.

You can pretty much take any one of these phrases/slogans and know that the meaning is reversed - at least when a far rightie is talking.

Great post, Alicia!

The Voice said...

Sorry about that deletion Alicia, I had to copy-correct it.

This is a brilliant piece of work. It absolutely reflects my sentiments about taxes and I have been too lazy to articulate them.

Thank you for putting these thoughts down. Your arguments are logical and make total sense. When we look to Germany which has a much higher tax structure, we see all the benefits they enjoy. They also can take three month vacations without any problem. There is strength in numbers and if we only unite, we can see the benefits come to fruition for everyone across the board. It is my hope that your post makes it out there in the world - what you have to say is incredible. How you have said it is something the Democrats could run with as part of their national platform - personally, I think the country is ready for it.


Anonymous said...

Great post!
I think you make a very good argument for taxes, I just wish we could spread the wealth a little better. For example, in 18 years it will cost about $500,000 to send both of my kids to college. We started saving before they were born but it is such a huge number that we will still fall considerably short. I know student loans are an option, I just don't want each of my children starting out their adult lives $250,000 in debt. Wouldn't it be nice if we could close some corporate loop holes and invest in higher education. The Voice mentioned Germany. We were considering immigrating there and found out that University is free there for those who test in. Wow! Free College! It must be nice to live in a society that values an educated work force. Sorry to go off subject, it's just one of those issues that doesn't seem to get any better.

wanda said...

PLease may I reprint this? Giving you full credit and providing a link back to you, of course????
I can't say it enough. Outstanding!

Alicia Morgan said...

Thanks, Wanda - it's amazing how this idea seems to have touched a nerve. As I said to J, I'm tired of having these things framed by the Republicans, like unions, universal health care, and the like. They try to turn them into epithets; they did it to the word 'liberal' and even (incredibly enough) 'intellectual'! Imagine the irony of demonizing thinking and intelligence! But that's what we're up against.

Lt John Finian said...

I know you're not a big fan of numbers, but on the topic of Germany, there unemployment is right about 10.5 percent.

Just food for thought.

Lt John Finian said...

God I hate it when people use the wrong there, their, or they're. In my post it should have been their not there. Sorry

Alicia Morgan said...

J.J. - I don't dislike numbers per se, and I always appreciate food for thought. I am not saying that we should be like Germany - I am saying that we can do better with the system we have than showering the wealthy and the corporations with tax breaks in the hopes that jobs will result.

As we have seen, it hasn't happened that way. We've had outsourcings, giant mergers with resulting layoffs, and the job growth that we have seen is mostly in the area of service jobs - jobs that do not pay a living wage. Meanwhile, CEO wages continue to increase, prices increase, corporate profits rise, and regular wages stagnate or retreat.

A number like 10.5 just out of the blue does not take a lot of things into consideration. For instance, there is the difference between East Germany and West Germany numbers. There are also a lot of other factors that are not comparable between our business model and theirs. If you count people with service jobs that don't pay a living wage, how is that better? If people who work at Wal-Mart have to get food stamps, what kind of employment is that?

If I have a business, and hire 2 guys at $15 an hour, and you have a business and hire 10 guys at $3 an hour, are you creating more jobs than I am?

I am not advocating socialism and reviling capitalism. I think the socialist countries could do with some capitalism, and I think without some regulation and constraints, unbridled capitalism leads to where we are headed right now - a huge gulf between the haves and have-nots, which eventually leads to revolt and the swing of the pendulum the other way, which certainly doesn't work either. Communism is a fairy-tale and so is Ayn-Rand-every-man-for-himself-the free-market-is-king capitalism.

We need to rein in the excesses or we're going to be even sorrier than we are now.

Anonymous said...

Good lord, woman, you are on fire! This is yet another though-provoking, well thought-out and well-told analysis.

I always laugh about trickledown. It's a joke. Even logicially, it makes no sense. WHY would any CEO spread the wealth if he/she doesn't have to?!? CRAZY.

Jeez. Well, I will probably be quoting you all over the place.

Great post!

alyceclover said...

It is so refreshing to come across someone that isn't ranting & raving & saying nothing. The problem is some people obtained their wealth through fraud. There was never another mention of the $23 Trillion dollars Rumsfield said the Pentagon "misplaced" or was unaccounted for. Anyway,

From what I've read, the country was set up, so that the states paid the Federal Government to protect them from attack by sea or land. The States were to get the money by taxing the company's (or corporations). There was no income tax on the workers. During the Revoluntionary War, people volunteered to pay an Income tax to pay for it. The next income tax was during WWII. The constitution only allows for the war tax to last 2 years (guess that's why we're always at war with someone). People again volunteered to share the tax burden with the companies. For some reason, they just kept paying it. When we fill out our tax forms, we escentially agree to be taxpayers. There is something wrong with a system that requires citizens to work 1 and 1/4 days just to pay taxes, when the people weren't supposed to be taxed in the first place. Our labor is what makes the company's their money.