Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tax Day

This morning I am still in recovery from a momentary shock I received earlier this month. My wife informed me that our tax preparer told us we owed $1,800. No one told me that that was before deductions. Why would she not tell me this part of the story, if she were not trying to kill me? The deductions reduced our tax bill considerably and all is well, yet I have not settled back into a full night's sleep since.

Happy Tax Day.

A day of grumbling about "gummint," when some exercise their favorite cherry-picked quotes from our founders about taxation even if, in those quotes, the founders were actually addressing British taxation and their oppression by the crown. Others bring out their threadbare legal arguments against taxation ("it's unconstitutional!") to see, once more, if there is any legal defense against the evil government coming to take their money.

My beloved Thomas Paine is sometimes taken out of the museum, and the dust blown off of his early American writing, in protest of taxation by the British. He wrote of British taxes as an instrument of social control, and protested the notion that basic necessities should be taxed at all. (Something of which the New Mexico legislature might take note, since they recently voted to tax groceries again, only to have the measure vetoed by Governor Richardson.)

What my right-leaning friends and Glenn Beck fans might want to take into account -- and they won't like it very much -- is that Thomas Paine was a proponent of progressive taxation. Those who have the most, i.e. the rich, should be taxed, according to his Rights of Man, Part the Second (1792).

Around Luna County, there are road projects going on. People grumble about the detours but will ultimately appreciate driving down Spruce Street without tumbling into cavernous potholes, or walking to the post office without having to negotiate sidewalk stones that move underfoot like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. Out of town, there are less prominent but equally important infrastructure projects, such as upgraded water drainage, going on -- all funded by public money.

Not every dollar is spent well locally, and certainly not every dollar is spent well federally. I won't be making any arguments in support of massive taxpayer-funded bailouts of "too big to fail" financial institutions or debt-financed wars or massive military contracts to bozos who run amok in foreign countries without discipline or accountability. We can have lots to argue about with respect to how public funds are spent.

The notion of public funds itself, however, is important. There are things we cannot do alone that we can do together. We must pool resources in order to deal with human waste, trash, distribution of water, lighting of public areas, and agencies that protect the peace and contain fires, and more. The notion that taxes are inherently evil is overstated and silly. Very few of us would truly elect to live in a society where everybody paid only for themselves and there were no commons.

So happy tax day, to my neighbors and fellow citizens.

1 comment:

quid said...

And hopefully, you got credits as well!