It’s tax day, that annual event which many folks gripe about–having to decipher complicated tax codes and documents, and sometimes, paying more to Uncle Sam. It’s also a particularly pertinent tax day amidst conversations about a growing deficit and severe budget cuts across the board nationally.
It’s also a time of the year when I watch many of my progressive friends and colleagues complain wholeheartedly about how much they pay in taxes. I get it. A lot of us live at the edge of our means, and that extra few bucks presents a challenge. Maybe.
But underneath it all is a incongruity between the personal and the political. As progressives, we support the social safety net and government support of a range of programs and services. But then when it comes to contributing to that burden ourselves, many of us gripe.
For some folks, this might come from a distaste for one of our largest government expenditures: defense and war spending. I get that as well. It’s a tough position that we’re in, not being able to pick and choose and say “my tax dollars can go to welfare, or medicaid, or abortion, but not the war overseas.” I know that it’s infuriating that conservatives have been able to drive policy away from paying for abortions because of their objection, but we can’t drive spending away from war.
Let’s push as hard as we can to redirect energy and spending to the programs we care about and away from defense spending. But let’s not undermine taxes in the process.
I would even pay MORE taxes if I knew that things like our social safety net were being protected and strengthened. I love the image above, which I originally saw posted on the Colorlines tumblr, because it illustrates the hypocrisy of those who fight against taxes. These protesters are standing next to roads built and maintained by taxpayer funding, next to street signs, traffic lights, utilities, all financed in some respect by taxpayer money. If there were no taxes, so many things that are fundamental to the working of our society would cease to exist.
If we allow the country to be swept up in anti-tax fervor then we have little chance of ever gaining the social programs we think are necessary.
President Obama finally took a stance on taxes in his most recent White House address about the budget deal:
I don’t think it’s right to ask seniors to pay thousands more for health care, or ask students to postpone college, just so we don’t have to ask those who have prospered so much in this land of opportunity to give back a little more.
We’ll reduce spending in our tax code with tax reform that’s fair and simple – so that the amount of taxes you pay doesn’t depend on how clever an accountant you can afford. And we should end the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, too. Because people like me don’t need another tax cut.
Thank you President Obama for finally saying it. And thank you for talking about the fact that the IRS tax code, with its zillions of rules and loopholes, allows some to get away with paying almost nothing because they have the right accountant. This includes individuals, but more importantly, it includes huge mega-corporations like GE and these ten other companies that paid basically no taxes this year.
I pay a lot in taxes because I am self-employed. As a self-employed person, despite being a one-woman job creation project, I have to pay the 7% of my federal tax burden that most employers front on behalf of their employees. I actually pay my taxes quarterly, every three months, in big chunks. But I would pay more if I knew that our social safety net was being improved. I would gladly fork over the hundreds of dollars I pay monthly for my private health insurance plan if I knew it was going to build a better health care system that isn’t about profits over people.
I like that meme. Instead of griping about how much we have to pay, let’s highlight how tax-payer funded programs have improved our lives. These are the programs that are being threatened nationwide right now, and they are where our efforts need to go.
I’d like to thank taxes for:
My education. I went to public school in NC from kindergarten to 12th grade. Despite being 48th in the nation in teacher pay, I got a solid education in this system.
My mom’s job. She’s a professor at a public NC university, and her career has enabled my life in many many ways.
Roads. I drive and bike on them all the time. They are mostly funded by tax dollars.
My grandmother’s care. My grandmother is elderly and has Alzheimer’s. She requires 24 hour care in a facility that caters to folks with her condition, which my family partially funds using her Medicare and Social Security benefits.
Public Transportation. I’ve lived in DC and NYC for most of my adult life and I take for granted how much better my life is because of buses, subways and metros.
Libraries. As a kid I lived in libraries. I was a total bookworm, checking out piles and piles of books. I’m still amazed when I go to libraries and realize I can check out books and DVDs for free, in addition to the free internet and computer usage most of the provide now.
What do you thank taxes for?