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Your Tax Dollars

Your Tax Dollars

One of the crux differences between the left and the right is how our taxes are spent. The left believes taxes should not only be used for the needs of government – defense, statecraft, infrastructure and so on but also for social programs as well. The right believes that taxes should be as small as possible and pay for the bare minimum to keep the United States strong and prosperous. Social programs should be left to charities.

Often when I get into discussions with my friends on the right about things like Obamacare, food stamps and welfare, eventually they will inevitably say something along the lines of “not with my tax dollars.” All right, then. That leaves the question; what should we spend our tax dollars on?

Of course, there are those who say we should not pay taxes at all but that simply isn’t realistic. It takes money to pay for necessities, such as embassies and ambassadors, for the military and their equipment, and simply for making sure things run properly, or at least relatively properly. So let’s assume for the moment that we all want a military protecting us, diplomats negotiating trade agreements for us, roads to drive on from place to place and air and rail traffic transporting people and goods across the country.

For my part, I’d like to see my tax dollars spent on free healthcare for all. I’d like a European-style health care system that treats everyone regardless of their economic status. I’d love to cut out the insurance middlemen who serve no function at all except to make money for themselves. I’d like to see a healthier population, one who visit doctors instead of Emergency Rooms for basic care. I don’t want to see people dying because they couldn’t afford treatment. There is something so basically, disturbingly wrong with that last that it can’t even be expressed.

I’d like to see my tax dollars spent on eradicating hunger, particularly among children. No child should have to go to bed hungry. No parent should have to hear their children cry themselves to sleep because they haven’t eaten anything all day. No retiree should have to face a choice between paying for their medication and their food. This is a land of plenty; why shouldn’t everyone benefit from it?

I’d like to see my tax dollars spent on educating the young. Our future depends on having our next generations prepared to compete globally. Our children should be learning to think innovatively, to be inspired to learn particularly in science and mathematics. Our children should aspire to create things that will make the world a better place. We need to improve our schools and their facilities. Our teachers shouldn’t have to be paying for school supplies out of their own pockets. They should be compensated for the additional time they put in. They should also be held accountable for their performances as our students should be held accountable for theirs. We need to market education as a means out of poverty, a means to elevate not just individuals but entire communities. We need to involve parents directly in the education process but not just parents; the entire community. Businesses should be made to understand that they’ll only benefit from having a superior education system in their communities as it will turn out superior employees for them further on down the line.

I’d like to see my tax dollars spent on space exploration. As Robert A. Heinlein once said, the Earth is far too fragile a basket to put all our eggs into, especially when you consider what we’re doing to despoil it. We should be exploring the local solar system and sending probes into the furthest reaches of space as we’re doing but we should be doing more of it. The technologies that have developed from the space program have fueled our economy for the past half a century; imagine what we come up with in the next fifty years.

I’d like to see my tax dollars spent on rebuilding the infrastructure. I want to see good-paying jobs created to repair bridges and highways as well as constructing new ones. I want to see AMTRAK converted to a high-speed rail system that links the entire continent. And while we’re talking about jobs, I want to put some of my tax dollars in re-training the work force so that they are more computer savvy and able to do the jobs that are in demand. Those who have the abilities and the desire to change their lives should be given those opportunities, even the education to go into much-needed fields like engineering and medicine. I’d also like to see my tax dollars spent on helping students get college loans at reasonable rates that won’t put them into enormous debt before they’ve graduated that will take them decades to repay.

My tax dollars should go to a more sane military spending program. We are spending money on tanks and battleships we don’t need. I’d rather see that tax money go to the Veterans Administration that takes care of our soldiers, sailors and airmen after they’ve defended this country. I want our veterans to have the best medical facilities administrating the best care possible; I want them to have college programs to help them re-start their lives and give them a chance to prosper after their time in the military has ended. I want my tax dollars to go to the actual people putting their lives on the line for our country, not to the makers of helicopters and tanks who have oversold their products to our military and now want to keep their factories running even though their products aren’t needed anymore. The dynamics of the marketplace should apply to them too.

In short, I don’t mind paying for things that benefit people that actually need them. I have an issue with paying taxes that support people who are already rich by making them richer, by giving corporations making record profits tax incentives and loopholes to the point where they’re getting refunds while the deficit continues to be an issue. I want my tax dollars to mean something besides a dollar sign. How about you? How do you want to spend your tax dollars?

Things of Lesser Consequence

Things of Lesser Consequence

I guess we’re all aware of the “fiscal cliff” that looms ahead of us. Politicians are eagerly jockeying for position, all of whom are making dire prognostications of what will inevitably occur if the other side has their way; the obliteration of the middle and poor classes on the one side, an inexorable slide into socialism on the other.

Everyone seems to agree there are some cuts that need to be made. Where those cuts need to take place is a matter of debate but all agree that things of lesser consequence need to go. But just what are those things?

The conservatives might argue that things like Public Broadcasting, National Public Radio and the National Endowment of the Arts are all frivolous and shouldn’t be supported by tax dollars. Most other countries have some sort of tax-supported arts programs but all right, that’s what they think. Liberals might see the Space Program as a gigantic boondoggle (my feelings on the subject can be found here) and the military as a bloated out-of-control spending spree which needs to be cut back severely.

These aren’t easy decisions. Spending cuts have ramifications  that generally come to roost in the middle and poorer classes whether it be necessary programs being cut or rendered less effective, or in military contractors being forced to lay off because contracts from the Pentagon are drying up. Either way citizens are going to get hit hard by whatever the government decides.

This is why it is critical that revenue be increased. There are ways of doing this but the most noticeable is through taxation. Right now the wealthiest portion of our citizenry is paying the lowest tax rate that they have in more than 50 years. There literally is no logical reason for us not to increase their taxes – except that the Republicans flatly refuse to do it.

Even members of their own party are beginning to look at the Republican leadership with some confusion. There’s a great deal of posturing about the “fiscal cliff” and how the President is about to stampede us over it. The truth of the matter is that the GOP has refused to bend on this issue and that’s a problem. I wouldn’t have a problem with them arguing about how much to increase the taxes, but when the average billionaire is paying a smaller percentage of taxes than the average teacher, it’s clear that a change needs to be made.

I don’t think anyone is saying that huge increases need to be made – nobody is advocating that the richest be taxed at 80 and 90 percent which they have been in the past and continue to be in other countries. However, I don’t think bringing them up another 10% is unreasonable.

It is also being bandied about (unrealistically I should think) that the tax-exempt status of churches should be lifted. It is estimated that if religious organizations were taxed at a mere 12%, we could drop all personal tax rates down to 3% and retain present levels of debt; if we kept the personal tax rates as they are we could eliminate the debt completely in less than four years. However, I would think that most congressmen wouldn’t even consider this sort of revenue adjustment. For those who think that we shouldn’t tax churches, I might refer you to taxthechurches.org for some eye-openining material.

Also increasing corporate taxes should be on the agenda. After all, if we are now to consider corporations as people, shouldn’t they be taxed like people? That would mean any sort of corporate tax loophole that isn’t available or individuals should be eliminated and they should pay the same tax rates you and I do. This also seems somewhat unlikely to happen.

There are a lot of people suffering in this country while a lot of individuals and organizations are cashing in. This is the time when we define ourselves as a people. Are we going to declare that our main motivation as a culture is money, or is it going to be compassion? Are we going to continue to support the rich on the backs of the middle and lower classes, or are we going to start supporting the greater good? This is what we’ve asked our congress to consider and from the mouth of Jim Boehner and other Republican leaders, it sounds like more of the same kind of rhetoric that got Obama elected by a wide margin this past November. You would think that by now they would have learned to listen when the people have spoken so clearly but it is plain that the only thing they’re listening to is their wallets.