Tuesday, January 13, 2009


From AlterNet:

Why You Should Be Screaming for Higher Taxes

Why are we so resistant to raising taxes?

It's our nature. Nobody likes to give up their personal money for the common good.

People with a lot of money have, over the past fifty years, spent a fortune on exploiting that instinct and pandering to that feeling. Eventually, with nobody willing to say publicly that taxes are good, they took over the dialogue. It is now routine to hear tax cuts refereed to as "pro-growth" policies, even though, in fact, that's not true. It is routine to hear tax hikes called "anti-growth" policies, when that's not true.

The rich, the Republicans, and the Right, have lost this last election, but they still own the mythology.

More here.

Back in the early 90s, when I was moving toward the left but hadn't quite gotten there yet, I offhandedly mentioned to a leftist friend that I hated paying taxes. His response was surprising. He told me that hating taxes is a rather bourgeois attitude, that taxes are what citizens owe to the state for its services. This blew me away. All my life I had been hearing from virtually everyone who had an opinion that taxes were bad. I mean, there was always the obligatory lip service paid to the necessity of taxes, a necessary evil, but the emphasis was always on the word "evil."

Of course, my old commie buddy was absolutely right. Taxes are what we owe. They're dues, or bills, for roads, courts, police, national defense, and a million other things that make life easier or better. Generally speaking, taxes are good. Even Jesus said so. But the right wing has been so successful with tax=bad for so long that it's really just conventional wisdom now.

Now don't get me wrong. There are indeed certain taxes in certain situations that can be very bad. There can be a threshold crossed beyond which high taxes do indeed impede economic growth--think Robin Hood and tax tyranny. But the national dialogue paints taxes as pretty much always being in those terms, that taxes are always bad, without recognizing the obvious, that taxes, when well planned and managed, are actually not only necessary, but good.

So the point here is that tax debate and discussion in the US is deeply flawed by a false assumption. Not only have we wasted decades with pointless discussion, but we have also allowed conservative mythology to alter the tax code to greatly favor a very small percentage of citizens.

I'd like to think that our new Agent-of-Change is going to do something about that come January 20th, but I haven't heard much out his mouth yet along those lines. He seems to be conceding the point to the opposition, so there's always this sense of guilt embedded in his pro-tax rhetoric. I hope he has the balls to get past that.