Monday, September 08, 2008

Know Taxes, Gnu?

Both presidential candidates are falling all over themselves promising that they won’t raise taxes, ensuring us that their opponent will, and in general, demonizing the very idea that the government has any right to take some of an individual’s hard-earned money to spend it on projects and policies intended to benefit all.

I don’t get it. What’s so bad about taxes, anyway?

The Conservative line, as I understand it, is that allowing individuals to keep more of their paychecks stimulates the marketplace and improves economic conditions for everyone in the country. For real?

When most people, (at least if I myself count as one of those most) have a little bit more disposable income, they dispose it on stuff they don’t really need, lots of it from China and abroad; so it’s unclear to me how this really helps the US economy.

On the other hand, when the government withholds a few dollars more of our paychecks and uses that money to provide stuff like better schools, better roads, and better programs to help lift people out of poverty, then it’s not just the economy that is stimulated, people’s quality of life improves.

And I’m not even sure that higher—or at least, not lowered—taxes do improve people’s economic status. For example, say I save a few bucks come April 15th, but as a result of that, roads are crummier and schools are worse. Now, I’ve got to spend more on car and bike repair—tires and suspension—and fork over big bucks for a new security system for my house since all these dropout youths have turned to crime.

My real concern—and I’ll bet a lot of people share this feeling—is not how much I pay in taxes, but how my tax dollars are spent. It doesn’t bother me to pay taxes if they’re used to support education and social programs and even reasonable military expenditures. Taxes to support unjust, unprovoked wars, though; that I find very taxing.


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