America, taxes, and you

This past week, the Wisconsin state senate and Governor Scott Walker signed into existence a bill which essentially functions as a union buster. The bill also focuses on cutting back against public employees paid by the state. Enraged teachers and union workers, along with their friends and families, protested for weeks at the capitol in Madison, WI, until the bill was passed – twice using illegal senate procedures to circumvent protestors and the absent Democrats who were trying to stall for more time. Americans around the globe watched as the education system of Wisconsin had the rug pulled from beneath them, and watched 50 years of union progress thrown out the window.

It is only the latest and most prominent example of the United States scrambling to deal with its financial crisis. Other notable examples include proposed cuts to funding of NPR and other public broadcasting, along with undermining the funding for Planned Parenthood. In a local scale, some towns have even had to make drastic cuts to police or fire departments, some disbanding them altogether. This prompted yet another headline when a man’s house burned down because he had not paid the new fee for fire service from the neighboring county. When the fire department arrived, they could only watch the burn and prevent it from spreading to adjacent properties. At the beginning of the year, it was announced that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy would also be extended.

There’s no easy way to deal with the current fiscal situation, but one thing is clear: this isn’t it. What we’re doing is not working. Too much of our time is spent blaming the man in charge, whether it’s Obama, Bush, Reagan, or you have some absurd grudge against Cleveland. Instead, we should look at the progressive, gradual lowering of taxes and the public opinion turning aggressively against them.

Quite simply, the government is low on money. The way the government receives money is through taxation. Somewhere along the line, the idea arose that taxes are bad. It’s easy to see how we got there – no one wants to give away money that they’ve worked hard to earn. Yet think of it this way: those dollars you spent on the government can pay teachers, police, and the military, fund hospitals, schools and colleges, social security, and transportation and road maintenance. They may in fact be the best dollars you’ve ever spent. Even if you don’t agree with the idea of paying taxes, coughing up your cash to some seemingly foreign, huge entity, think of the opposite. If you did not pay taxes, either none of these things would get done, or you’d pay more for private industries to take over. We need to keep in mind the fact that the money we pay in taxes will be reinvested in us.

Here’s the problem: since everyone apparently so loathes taxes, every politician tries to run on a platform of lowering taxes. It’s pretty simple logic to see that eventually this will cause problems. Imagine asking your boss or manager that you be paid less for the same work, or to do even more. The idea of a “tax and spend liberal” is fairly redundant. Yes, they will collect taxes and then spend them – every government must do this, as it is how they provide services for us, the people. The opposite idea, that we should continually lower taxes while expecting the government to provide the same, or more services is ludicrous and has no base in logic.

And look at us now, shocked and baffled as to why politicians are forced into taking drastic measures to balance the budget, and it’s clear we’re all delusional. Looking at the most well-off countries around the globe, most of them have high tax rates, especially relative to the United States. Across the planet, according to the World Health Organization, the United State’s health care is rated 37 out of 191 countries. Ahead of us are Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Morocco. Our income tax rate ranges from 15-35 percent. Countries like Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Japan and Italy range from roughly 23 percent all the way to 59 percent, and are rated as some of the best places to live in the world. Like in all things, you get what you pay for.

For all the complaining that we do, I’m stunned that the only solution we can come up with to our fiscal mess is to sacrifice other peoples’ livings to keep our own at the same level. We need to wake up and realize that taxes are not inherently bad – within reason they sustain the most productive countries on the globe.

Unfortunately, the world is no utopia; I don’t expect people to fall over themselves giving away their salary and I have no hope that the United States will ever be able to increase tax rates to those similar to European nations. Yet we need to get over ourselves if we ever want to really fix the economy.

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