I originally wrote the following post in 2011 as an illustration of why I don’t think taxes are are the root of all evil. I actually think taxes are a fairly efficient way of paying for a shitload of stuff – some of it cool and some of it not cool but necessary. The argument against taxes is always that we end up paying for stuff we don’t need or stuff that other people use but don’t deserve, as if we can quantify fitness to receive, say, food aid along lines other than means. I mean, really. Are you going to tell someone they are the wrong kind of poor? Clearly, you are not; you’re reading this blog so you probably have liberal leanings. But someone else might try to and that’s just sick. As if poverty were a moral failing instead of an economic circumstance. Or, worse, as if poverty is a choice.
Anyway, I digress. The real point is I’m happy to pay taxes because I believe in government services at all levels. I do not believe they are perfect but imperfect and available is better than non-existent and the alternative, as I detail below, is just stupid. Enjoy this blast from the tax-and-spend past!
It’s tax day! Yaaaayyyyy! I love taxes! Ok, maybe love is too strong a word. I respect taxes and I don’t mind paying them.
Like most people, I pay federal and state income taxes. They come right out of my paycheck alongside my Social Security and Medicare contributions. I also pay a county tax that comes right out of my check. I pay property taxes on my house as part of my monthly mortgage payment. I pay sales taxes, via Target and Trader Joe’s mostly. Oh, and gasoline taxes. I probably pay some other taxes too but they’re not obvious. And I feel ok about all of those taxes. They don’t bother me.
You think I’m nuts, don’t you? Or you think I’m just paying lip service to this because I’m a tax-and-spend, big government liberal? Well, yeah, that’s true but I also like taxes because I’m disorganized, lazy and cheap.
My tax dollars go to pay for community services at every level of government. Some I use, some I don’t. Some I like, some I don’t. But I also don’t have to think about most of them because the governments take care of them for me. If they didn’t, if I wasn’t paying taxes to cover their costs, I would spend all of my time paying for subscriptions to private entities that would provide the services for which I now rely on the government.
- Tuition for private schools
- Additional tuition for services in the event my child needs special services such as psychological evaluations, special needs instruction, etc.
- Subscription to a private library service or I’d have to buy all my books
- Membership to a private park, which would limit the number of parks we can go to
- Tolls on all roads imposed by private road management companies
- Subscription to a local fire emergency service
- Subscription to a local crime prevention and investigation service
- Subscription to a prison corporation to warehouse any criminals caught by my local crime service
- Subscription to a trash collection service
- Fees for a private militia to provide military level support against foreign invasion
- Subscription to an ambulance service
- Subscription to a private mass transit service or an increase in costs related to driving and parking in absence of public mass transit
- Subscription for water treatment and sewer systems that would rise to market rates without a public subsidy
- I’m not exactly sure how I’d pay for services that provide safety inspections for food and consumer goods. Maybe private inspection corporations would create agreements with producers to inspect their goods and give them a seal of approval and I could pay a subscription to the inspector service? That would probably limit the number of goods I’d consider acceptable for purchase since I’d only have access to the information generated by my service and word of mouth from other individuals because the investigative services wouldn’t want the products to advertise their approvals since that would obviate the need for individuals to pay the subscription fees.
- As for guaranteeing clean air and water, the only choice would be to move to privately incorporated areas that prioritize environmental concerns and have buffers in place to guard against the creep of manufacturing and commercial enterprise that would be allowed to set up shop anywhere without public zoning bodies in place to limit them.
- And for travel, forget trains. Amtrak would crumble with its government subsidy. And airlines, having to foot the bill for air traffic controllers and without pesky regulations on price controls would shoot fares into the stratosphere.
- Since travel would be out of the question, I’d have to talk to far away friends and family over Skype, which would be loaded with pop-up ads filled with misleading information since no federal communications oversight would take place to prevent companies from lying about their products. Ads would be everywhere, most likely. Tobacco ads, porn ads, liquor ads, you name it. Just try to keep your kids from seeing them. There won’t be any PBS to turn to for escape.
Those are all the things I can think of right off hand. I’m sure I’d have to buy into other services as they came to my attention. I’d spend all my time evaluating providers, comparing costs, and writing checks. Big checks, most likely since without public anti-trust regulators in place, monopolies on services would run rampant and drive out any costs savings associated with competition in the private sector.
If I had any money left over after paying for basic costs of living plus all the add-ons that make life safe and pleasant, I’d have to increase all my charitable giving in order to live with myself. I’d give to programs for the elderly, low-income children, and job training for people who were shut out of the educational system due to inability to pay. I’d give money to medical research too since the other option would be to hope that I only get very common ailments like diabetes and erectile dysfunction which are profit leaders for drug companies.
OH! And I’d have to save a shitload for retirement as well. No Social Security. Or Medicare. So my health insurance costs would just keep increasing as I age and my health becomes less profitable for private insurers.
Of course, that’s all assuming I have enough to pay for any of this stuff at all. Maybe they’d be kind and offer sliding scales based on percentage of income. More likely they won’t. Private industry isn’t really known for that, what with the profit motive in place. I’d have to pay full retail for what services I deem essential and I’d just need to hope that there’s a subscription option that I can afford and that they don’t raise costs beyond my means over time. If not, I’m shit out of luck.
Thankfully, that’s not the way things are. Instead I pay taxes and receive all of this stuff for pennies on the dollar. Sure, some of the services are insufficient, inefficient, or flat out sucky, but they’re there. If my house catches fire, the fire department will come put it out without checking a list. If C needs to be worked up for ADD or dyslexia, the public school has capacity to do it for him and the federal government says they can’t kick him out for needing extra help. If we go to war, the military will serve on my behalf. If I want to read a book, I can go to a library and borrow it. My water isn’t poisoned with industrial chemicals, my son’s toys have labels that warn me if there are choking hazards, and I can afford the occasional plane ticket to visit family.
The system isn’t perfect. There is room for improvement. But in the meantime, I’m happy to pay for all the things that make my life as an American, a Marylander and a Montgomery County resident safe, pleasant, convenient, and prosperous.