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I am proud to pay my Taxes

March 29, 2010

I was reading my twitter feed today and I was linked to a video advocating the Flat Tax.  I’m not totally sure about whether or not the flat tax is actually a good idea for the economy of this country, but what I do know is that the people who are advocating it are advocating it for one reason.

It protects the wealth of the already wealthy.

The comments are the usual conservative rhetoric about taxes, i’m paraphrasing here, “If you support a progressive tax system you are a communist trying to steal from me and give it to the poor you robin hood bastard”  (I often find it hilarious how some individuals with mid to low income will also advocate this point of view, based on the idea that they too will some day be wealthy.  I try not to laugh.)

 The illusion that if you just work hard enough you will be rich is a ridiculous falsehood propegated by the wealthy to keep the poor in this country from lynching them. 

I know I would never be as well off as I am now if I had not had the vast opportunities given to me by my wealthy parents.  To pretend that I deserved to go to a “New Ivy” school and therefore make several times what other people my age make would be lying to myself and everyone else.  Additionally I have my wealthy parents to help me buy a house and get out of debt when I have health issues or make poor choices. 

I learned, and I worked hard, but I will not pretend that my income is the result of some virtuous act on my part. 

What exactly are people going to do with this wealth they are so concerned with protecting for them/ourselves?  They are going to pass it on to another generation of wealthy people who will pass it on to the next, making sure that it never falls into the hads of the “undeserving.” (That is, people, who are not already wealthy.)

Frankly I find the whole whining about paying taxes thing dispicable.  I know it sucks to see a big chunk of your check disappear, or pay more at the end of the year (this is the first year in 5 I’ve gotten a refund.)  But we are so lucky to live in this amazing country, and we should be proud to pay for the privelege of living, working and doing business here.

I am proud to pay to provide safety and security for the poor and disabled.  I am proud to pay more to protect the resources that I have gained as a result of my privelege.  I am proud to pay to protect the safety of this country.  And I am proud to pay more than others so people do not have to sacrifice meals.  I am proud to pay my taxes.

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  1. I often find it hilarious how some individuals with mid to low income will also advocate this point of view, based on the idea that they too will some day be wealthy.

    Yes and no. Yes, they think they’ll make more in the future and will want to keep their cash. But I also think there’s widespread confusion about the tax system, and people assume they pay more than they do. In the US, I’ve noticed a tendency to lump all the federal taxes together into “income tax”* and to assume that combined total would be reduced under a flat tax. I’ve even seen people lump the entire difference between their total and their net into “taxes” and think this means they pay a 25%-30% federal income tax. Somehow I don’t think a flat tax would reduce the amount taken out for health insurance, but what do I know?

    *For someone in the lowest tax bracket, the social security tax is higher than their actual income tax.

  2. Hear, hear.

    It hurts to pay my taxes sometimes but you know what? I have plenty of money to feed and clothe my child. I’m not hurting and I’m glad to help people who are.

  3. JennyRose permalink

    A flat tax would fall disproportionately on the poor. I am not proud to pay my taxes in particular but I do understand it is my obligation. I also know that hard work as well as privilege got me to where I am today.

  4. I can’t say that I was born to wealth or had educated parents. But I had one advantage, and that’s that in Australia higher education (meaning university) was free (now there are fees, but they aren’t upfront and still reasonable by global standards). Free education means that people who have the inclination and ability have the opportunity to pursue higher education, regardless of background. And that, along with free health care, are goals that all decent and humane societies should strive for. That’s what taxes are *for*, isn’t it?

    People can raise themselves up, or not, as they see fit. The point isn’t to lift them up, it’s to remove the obstacles blocking the way.

    • Darby permalink

      That is impossible that higher education or health care is “free.” Someone is paying for it. What are the tax rates there?

      • Yeah, you caught me. I made it up. Australia isn’t really a country. It was all just a big joke.

        Of course, someone is paying for it. Taxes pay for it. What are the tax rates like? They are so high that most Americans would turn blue and die. But look at what you get for your money: a lot more than if you had to pay for it all yourself out of your own pocket. And a more stable economy, a society in which the gap between rich and poor isn’t so substantial and where it’s relatively easy for someone without privileges to get an education We don’t have ghettoes, or large homeless populations, and quality of life is considered very high by global standards. If you get sick or injured, the state takes care of you (there’s private healthcare as well, if you want to go that way) and only in Japan do people live longer.

        When people in Australia read about the US medical system, it’s like a horror story. I suffered a crippling injury a few years back, and if I’d been living in the US I’m fairly confident I’d have been screwed, probably dead by now. Here you don’t have to declare bankruptcy if you get sick.

        I don’t have a problem with the idea of the flat tax, in some ways. I think a flat tax means a less complicated tax system, and an end to all the current loopholes and corruption and lobbying for tax breaks here and there…as it is, wealthy people hire accountants to wangle it so they don’t pay tax anyway. But it would depend upon how it was implemented. If done fairly..but I’m not an economist and don’t know enough to make any kind of realistic judgement.

        Worrying about how your tax dollars aren’t benefitting you directly is childish. I don’t have kids, so why should I pay for schools? Because we live in a society in which people look after each other. If you don’t want to contribute, find your own island.

  5. Trabb's Boy permalink

    Love this post. People treat taxes as a grab by government, rather than a means of pooling money to buy services that the market has demonstrated failure in (e.g. roads, snow removal, fire fighting, should be health care), and things society as a whole benefits from more than individual members (e.g., military, schools, courts). Taxes are progressive mainly because the rich benefit disproportionately from the social system as a whole. The rich get much richer in a society that is safe, where their rights are protected, where the workers have needed basic skills and are in good health, where there are good roads and sewers, etc. These things benefit everybody, but rich people more than poor people.

    Nobody likes paying taxes at the time, because it feels as though something is being taken away. But people advocating reductions in taxes or flat taxes are really just saying “I got mine, Jack.”

    • Thank you, and Thank you for doing a better job than I did of articulating why the wealthy SHOULD pay more taxes.

  6. Darby permalink

    Wealthy people create companies which create jobs. Letting them keep more of their money to invest in things helps everyone. You wouldn’t be so in love with our imbalanced tax system if you had to pay a much higher % of your taxes. Wealthy people pay most of the taxes. Sending it to Washington results in letting bureaucrats take more control over all of us. I know we’d like to think taxes are all going towards fixing roads, helping kids, etc. but so much of it is wasted in Washington.

    • Wealthy people create jobs for people who they underpay so that they can create more wealth for themselves. If the government didn’t provide minimum standards as far as employment conditions wages and treatment, companies and the wealthy people who own them would treat their low level workers as little more than slaves in order to create more wealth for themselves. This is not even hypothetical, this is how society works in countries with bad labor laws, and how it worked in the US before strong labor laws were instituted.

      Some money is wasted by every organization, but give me a number here, how much “wasted” money are we talking about? how do we define “waste?” is it programs an individual disagrees with politically? programs that one individual deems ineffective?

      While I certainly think that the government oversteps its bounds sometimes, and I don’t agree with everything they do, the also do a lot of good things that benefit people. I am glad to pay them for the services they render to me, and to my fellow citizens.

      • Darby permalink

        Plenty of companies give generous pay and benefits without this being legislated. Look at Google. People are dying to work there, thus Google has the pick of the best applicants. If a company had a bad reputation, that would get around and harm their bottom line- look at how much people hate Walmart. I’m sure they are losing lots of business because of how they choose to handle their employees. The free market should decide, not bureaucrats who have spent a lifetime in Washington and never had to work at a real job. Also I think we are past the point in the US (not in all countries) where we have to worry about 13 year old working 18 hour days or people who work in coal mines not being given health care, etc. Minimum wage laws are just micromanaging how companies (who provide jobs, which drives the economy) do business. These laws also harm the small businesses, not the huge corporations, disproportionately.

        Also, minimum wage laws result in companies just having fewer minimum wage-type jobs- this puts teens and people who aren’t trained/educated for other types of jobs (there will always be a population of these)- out of work. I think they would rather be paid something on the low side than have no job at all. Without minimum wage laws, it’s not like people would be paid 3 cents an hour- there would be a serious public outcry in the US if there was a company out there who tried to pull that.

      • I think you are deluded if you think that we would not revert to a world where 13 year olds worked 18 hour days if someone could make more money. It may take 10 years, but unskilled labor would get cheaper and cheaper and working conditions worse and worse. Why do you think so many people work at wal-mart? Do you think they would work ther eif they had another choice?

        Also basic economics disproves your second point. While there is often some adjustment with a minimum wage hike it does not result in a lower employment rate for those jobs. (And it may not be true that they would rather have a low paying job, especially for individuals with families who have to pay for child care or expensive transportation, they may end up making hardly any money at all once you take out what it costs them just to go to work.)

        Do you really trust a company whose only goal in life is to make money for itself over the federal government? A government you both vote into office and pay for the sole purpose or protecting you and your rights?

  7. Darby permalink

    Yes, I trust companies more than the government- most companies are small businesses, not huge corporations- you seem to imply each company is like a Walmart. I believe in capitalism. That is how America is successful economically over other countries. Companies are accountable to consumers- people won’t support companies who pay slave wages- not with the media we have today. Government is accountable to no one, they make the laws- they can lie and hide what they really do to constituents. Voters don’t research who/what they are voting for- ask yourself how many people really look into the issues as opposed to just voting for the party line.

    I’m just going to agree to disagree here, because it is clear that the fundamental difference here is that you trust the government and I don’t.

    • Well, that’s an irrational response. Obviously, some governments are more trustworthy than others, as are some companies. When your opinions are based on gut feeling or ‘just knowing’ then you’re relying on prejudice to make decisions. That’s your right, I suppose, but why would you go on a public forum and argue with people when you have no real reason to be arguing?

      I think that there are basic services that are not profitable but necessary for the betterment of citizens, things like public transport and education and healthcare. And I think the state should run those things because it does a better job. I say that because of experiences with privatised systems in Australia, public transport and so on, which have universally decreased in quality since being privatised.

      When it comes to things like public transport and healthcare it is almost impossible to run them well and generate a profit. They mostly should run at a loss, and this is why: there are many benefits to these things that are outside of their direct stream of income. Public transport working well means less money spent on infrastructure like roads and parking and less pollution. So there’s a net gain to a good public transport system, but no direct financial reward from operating it well.

      All these different things, different approaches, are just tools. Some work better in one situation, others work better in other situations. I believe in using the best tool where appropriate. So sometimes it’s better that something’s run by private individuals or companies, and sometimes the state. All cases are different. Deciding that everything has to be done in the same way is just being pig-headed and inflexible. There is no single easy answer to everything. But when something’s nor working, like the US health system, you’ve got to be prepared to change it.

    • Jeff permalink

      Well put Chris.

      There is often confusion between “capitalism” and “free enterprise”. Capitalism benefits those with capital and concentrates wealth. That the government takes on the responsibility of education and transportation is no threat to your ability to engage in any enterprise you wish to in order to make a living.

      I am no history expert, so I just might mess this one up. But didn’t the U.S. rise to prominence in the world during a time of great restraint on markets (not capitalism)?

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