Saturday, August 20, 2011

What Our Taxes Pay For

Whenever someone like Warren Buffett, as he did earlier in the week, says something to the effect of "Raise my taxes, I'm paying too little," there's the inevitable chorus of, "Well, if he wants to, he can just write the government a check" that arises in response. The problem, of course, is that ignores the larger, systemic problem of how our tax dollars are utilized in favor of a pat dismissal -- one that's reflective of the current model GOP's ongoing extreme vendetta against taxes (under the auspices of anti-tax Svengali Grover Norquist, whose stated goal is to get government "down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub").

Now, certain moneyed and vested interests do everything they can to preserve their last dollar and help others only of their own volition. It's the Gordon Gekko thing. I totally get it. But the problem is that we can't always rely on people's better angels to help them do the right thing. That's why we create systems to institutionalize "the right thing." That's how Social Security happens. That's how Medicare happens. That's how unemployment insurance happens. We do what we can so everyone can benefit. I suppose, if you have a flare for overblown rhetoric, you could call that Socialism. I just call it being a human being.

So, when Norquist's government-drowning crusade has booster rockets strapped on it by the very representatives in that government, what does that say about them for doing it? What does that say about us for letting them? Are there inherent abuses in the tax code and the dispersal of dollars that need to be rooted out and reformed? I doubt you'll find anyone who says otherwise (I'd prefer my taxes not go toward unnecessary military ventures, for example). But our taxes also pay for roads. For water. For schools. For emergency services. More precisely, we pay for those things, and for each other in the process. The government, after all, is us. I don't want to see it drowned, I want to see it saved.

If I'm asked to pay into a system that helps ensure the continued well-being of our society and, by extension, those who are less fortunate than I am, the only question I have is, "How much?" because I know that in different circumstances I may well have needed the same assistance from that same system. I've always functioned under the impression that part of being a good citizen is caring for our fellow citizens, but to hear the pundit class parse and metamorphose this issue from a moral imperative into a collision of classes, it's apparently anything but, as I think Jon Stewart brilliantly demonstrated on last Thursday's Daily Show.


Anonymous said...

Start here:
"Economics In One Lesson" by Henry Hazlitt.

Zaki said...

Yeah, thanks, "Anonymous," but I think I'm good without ingesting anymore libertarian manifestos into my life.