I’d like to share a few thoughts on the subject of taxes because, of course, many of us have just ponied up to Uncle Sam. I’m not anti-tax. Mostly, I disagree with my conservative brethren about taxes because I know they represent the life blood of our government. Sure, taxes suck but lack of income for important things sucks more.
There’s always the chorus of “I don’t want my taxes going to…” whatever. I get that. I don’t want MY taxes being used for the Military-Industrial Complex. (“Military-Industrial Complex” is a euphemism for “corporate military”.) I think George Carlin gets credit for the comment that the United States is an oil company with an army. He was right…
Planned Parenthood is under attack by conservatives because up to three percent of Planned Parenthood’s activities include abortions. Conservatives like to pretend they oppose abortion. They don’t, in practice. If actions speak louder than words – and they do – conservatives prefer abortion over teaching children where babies come from and providing the tools to prevent unwanted pregnancies. You know how I know? Planned Parenthood is under attack by conservatives because up to three percent of Planned Parenthood’s activities include abortions. Ninety-seven percent of Planned Parenthood’s activities go to preventing unwanted pregnancies – and, therefore, abortions. Really, it’s right there in the name: PLANNED Parenthood, see?
So I’d like to reform our tax system. Not in the “give the overburdened rich people a break” pseudo-reform we hear about so often these days. I’d like to allow people to direct their taxes to various areas of government concern. If I could, I’d set up several categories, say six or so. As part of their filings, people would include percentages to each category for their tax dollars.
Okay, so you have, say, ‘Infrastructure’, ‘Education’, ‘Military’, ‘Law Enforcement’, ‘Health Care’ (Medicare for all, of course), and ‘Social Services’. (Naturally, we’d have to fight about which categories we’d use and what falls under where…) The government would have to scrape off say, ten percent of each tax dollar for the general fund but after that, tax money goes to where tax money is directed and that’s the amount that area has to work with…no more.
Are you a hardcore ‘Law and Order’, “My country, right or wrong” type who had ‘other priorities’ when it was YOUR turn to serve? You might put 50% on ‘Law Enforcement’ and 50% on ‘Military’. Are you some bleeding heart hippie liberal? Maybe you’d do 33% each to ‘Education’, ‘Health Care’, and ‘Social Services’.
The truth is, I think if people found themselves truly responsible for such decisions, they’d make some choices that would even surprise themselves. For example, we have this false idea that conservatives support the military and liberals don’t. But I don’t know any liberals who would like to see foreign countries overrun the US. I think liberals would throw a bit on the ‘Military’ pile. My example, above, didn’t put any money into ‘Infrastructure’ but I’d bet most of us would throw a bit in that direction, too.
There would be some early mistakes, of course, as we try to figure out how this system works in practical application. Initially, I might under-fund ‘Military’, certain that right-wing hawks will give their all (metaphorically, at least) to the military. We might over-do the ‘Infrastructure’ for a few years – at least until our roads are navigable and our water drinkable again. I don’t think it would take long, though, before people started to figure it out and make appropriate adjustments. For all the recent talk of police abuse, I’d STILL rather live in a society with police than without police, so I’d add a bit to ‘Law Enforcement’.
It would take a couple of years but pretty soon government spending would reflect the will of the people. The military-industrial complex couldn’t take more than they have available and I’d bet our public schools would be in MUCH better condition. How DOES America feel about ‘Social Services’? Given the option, would we pay more to feed poor American children than to bomb foreign children? I think we would.
Oh, there’s one more thing: war. Whenever people make plans about these kinds of things, they often include an exception for war. “Okay, we’ll give everything to the poor – unless there’s a war, then the rich get to keep it all!” Bad plan. The United States is ALWAYS at war or, at least, in “conflict”. So we would have to add a ‘Conflict Tax’, an additional tax that only kicks in when America is in a conflict somewhere in the world. It would be a top-down tax. That is, rich people would pay more.
Is that terrible? We’re told every time some politician fires off rockets that we had no choice. The fight is “existential”. If our very survival depends on the outcome of the fight, people should do everything they can to protect the country, right? Since it will be poor people doing the fighting and dying, the very least the rich can do is pay for the thing.
I’ll tell you this: I suspect that if people could direct their taxes to the areas of greatest concern to themselves, this country would be a MUCH better place to live. And if the rich people had to pay for their “conflicts”, I suspect we’d see far fewer of them…
Am I wrong or am I right?