Monday, April 18, 2011

On Tax Day - 2011, An Ode To Taxes

Taxes sure get a bad rap! I’ve finished filing our taxes for 2010. According to my best calculations, our combined taxes, Federal and state withholding, state sales tax, gasoline tax and local property taxes amounted to 17.3% of our adjusted gross income.

That represents a lot of money, especially for a couple in the league we play in. It is NOT, though, the 35% or more that is bandied about in anti-tax e-mails or parroted on certain radio talk shows. And “tax freedom day” came last year for us, NOT in late April or early May, as claimed by the anti-tax crowd, but near the end of February.

But after calculating our taxes I thought I should list some of the things we bought with that 17.3% of our income. It was not all purchased for our use. Some of it was purchased for the use of people with incomes far greater than ours; some of it for people who have very little income at all. Of course, I know it isn’t just our taxes that provide those benefits either, but together we taxpayers do a pretty impressive job with the money collected from us. Look at this:

Our local taxes buy:
• police and fire protection
• emergency ambulance service
• pre and k-12 schools
• libraries
• parks
• roads
• water and sewer services
• road maintenance services
• government services
• government buildings
• administration of elections
• hundreds of salaries and benefits
• tax incentives to businesses who move to the city or promise to stay after threatening to go to Mexico because their local workers want a pay raise
• And our taxes allow millions of dollars worth of property to remain tax-free so charities and churches can have more money for the good work they do

Our county taxes support:
• highways
• parks
• police protection
• court systems
• jails
• social services
• government structures (You can probably add to the list.)

At the state level taxes provide:
• roads
• police protection
• emergency services
• social services
• prisons
• schools (from pre-school through technical and university graduate level)
• a state branch of the national guard
• subsidies to businesses to bring them into the state or keep them from moving to Mexico in a fit of spite because their workers ask for more pay
• tax breaks for all kinds of businesses for all kinds of reasons
• welfare payments
• unemployment compensation
• salaries and operating expenses for state government ranging from the Governor on down
• staff and per diem expenses to support legislators and other elected officials
• and on and on

And at the federal level our taxes provide:
• highways
• parks
• museums
• memorials
• military training
• salaries, equipment, and money for military adventures around the world
• veteran’s benefits, pensions and healthcare
• military cemeteries
• military precision flight teams
• military bands
• military aid for friendly foreign autocrats
• subsidies for real farmers and legislators who own farms but don’t operate them
• police services (FBI, CIA, homeland security, border patrol, customs officials, etc.)
• federal prisons
• federal emergency relief in times of flood and famine
• foreign aid in times of disaster
• government regulation of food and drug production
• grants to states for various projects
• medical services for the poor
• financial and food services for the poor
• grants to support scientific research, medical research, and product development
• tax breaks for airlines, oil companies, and people, rich and poor, who need or want some government pork
• And on top of that our taxes support a necessarily large Federal Government (executive, legislative, and judicial branches) with salaries, benefits, staff, equipment, pensions, healthcare, and more
• And, of course I’ve missed a lot

All that, and more, for a mere 17.3% of my salary. If all those government services were to suddenly go away, as some seem to say they want them too, how far would my 17.2% go in buying for myself the services I need and want? Not far. Granted, I don’t want or need all those services. I could gladly see those that benefit the other guy reduced or eliminated. But the principal of shared responsibility, shared cost, and shared benefit is part of what makes us the United State of America.

Taxation will never be popular but it is a wonderfully efficient way to get a lot of good (and granted, some unfortunate foolishness) done. But we need to quit fooling ourselves. My 17.2%, combined with all that my fellow taxpayers contribute, isn’t enough to provide the benefits we demand. We’ve been piling up debt for years. We have been under taxing ourselves and now we are feeling the results. Taxes, fairly levied, and wisely used, are an ancient and potentially beneficial boon to a society. I just wish our politicians, most of whom eat at the tax-supported-trough all their lives and into retirement, would stop bashing taxes – stop telling us we are over-taxed – and honestly explain to their constituents the benefits we all get from government through taxation.

Most citizens don’t want to give up the benefits THEY receive. I don’t! Consequently, I don’t think it is fair for me to take my benefits and deny my fellow citizen those he/she legitimately needs. So, we have to agree to pay for them. Or quit whining about our “massive national, state, and local debt.”

1 comment:

  1. Hmmmm. I like those things too, but I wonder what the state/nation should do when they cannot get enough revenue from taxes to cover everything.


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