Friday, April 15, 2005

The Ides of April: the tax plan cometh

So there's this rumor in the news that many of you have been burning your candles (and math/tax form-challenged brains) at both ends trying to figure what you owe federal government as today's deadline approaches. The lines at the post office will be as long as at Christmas time, though most of us won't be receiving fun gifts out of all this harried slipping of envelopes into slots. Where are the smiles and good cheer?

Some (including Senator Hillary Clinton) are proposing that national election day be made a holiday every two or four years. There'd be a lot fewer excuses for not voting, or you could moan and groan about not having anything to do all day but shop - and start the Christmas season even earlier, weeks before the day after Thanksgiving.

Speaking of moaning and groaning, maybe they should make the Ides of April if not a national holiday then at least a National Day of Mourning. Of course our freely elected officials (freely elected at great expense, by the way) and wise leaders (as well as all the paper pushers and job protectors at the IRS) would like for you to think of this tithing as your patriotic honor and duty - the price you pay for freedom, interstate highways, the EPA, the NEA, the NPS, Homeland Security, religiously-influenced foreign aid, and a Really Kick Ass Military Machine that does us proud all around the world 24/7. Why, without the forking over of these taxes, we just wouldn't be the empire we are.

Some countries, it should be said, pay even more in taxes, based on their GDP and cost of living and all that. But let's face it: most of the citizens in those higher paying countries are getting a LOT more in goods and services (unless you love buying hundred million dollar helicopters and billion dollar bombers). It's almost as if it were Christmas for the citizens of other countries - they get carte blanche health care, fairly priceless if you ask me. Sure, there may be bureaucratic waste and political corruption in some o' them "ferner" countries, too, but is it as massive and as harmful to the whole planet as our's is? Those more peaceable people get good roads, too, and day care, and a heads up on Kyoto and head to toe health coverage and even a discreet (or, OK, not so discreet) police presence - AND they don't have to watch their pricey military hardware and stouter citizens get blown up in the streets of Baltimore, Bakersfield, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, and, oh yes, Baghdad.

Just gotta say it: the people of Sweden and Switzerland and yes, even France (where Freedom Fries are "pommes frites"), get more peace and more civilization for their money than we do. They have some crazy drivers too, but their murderers just can't hold a candle to ours. And yes, their road signs might look strange, and their bathrooms may be found lacking, but they don't act as if they own the world - as if so many other countries are nothing but fodder for the empire. I think we ought to be taxed on our inhumility and inhumanity, while we're at it.

Damn, we Americans (not all of us by any means but, hell, enough of us to really count) have gone astray. So much of what we pay seems to mingle with lobbyists' cash (and very attractive presents, nicely wrapped up for your perhaps not so duly elected officials). There must be a lot of money laundering going on to turn the tide of all that dirty laundry.

Americans pay enough in taxes to deserve better than they are getting. We deserve a long term economic system that's more than a house of cards, based on snagging a bunch of cheap clothes and appliances. We deserve a more peaceable planet. We deserve development that promotes rather than demotes community and caring among our citizens - so that our neighbors aren't strangers. We deserve to have our majority views and values upheld in Washington - whether it be protecting our water or our air our childrens' educational quality or our national lands and parks. We are getting ripped off - and still feel the hunger to consume so much we're ravaging the planet far beyond our borders. And most disastrously, we are paying people to kill other people. And so our taxes aren't just an inconvenience and something to bitch and moan about on petty levels alone, thinking we deserve, what, to keep every dime we make? BUT - and this is a big BUT - taxes are, at heart, a moral issue.

No wonder so many are so frustrated paying their federal income taxes. They know how little control they have over all those billions and trillions. And it scares them that it seems our greedy and imperialistic government seems to take about as much fiscal responsibility as those of us who live high on the hog thanks to credit cards - truly a house of cards that comes tumbling down.

So here's my tax plan (yes, the tax plan cometh): let each taxpayer delegate about 10-15% of his or her taxes, at their own discretion, to the program or programs of their choice. Cool! We'd be involved again! We'd have a say, not about every dime, but about some of them - at least one in ten. Now that would be democracy - and putting your money where your mouth is. Alternatively - and as opposed to most liberals - I favor a national sales tax. Such a tax could be tweaked to tax some necessities not at all and other things, widely regarded as wasteful luxuries (Hummers, yaghts, vacation houses, $60,000 wedding rings) at a higher rate. Many say a national sales tax would be regressive, meaning it would hurt the poor more. Nonesense. It could be made to be a lot more fair than all the hoodwinking going on in accountants offices these past few weeks. The rich couldn't dodge it, and it would be up to the rest of us to be sure they paid the brunt of the burden - yes, that IS how it is supposed to work. The rich should help the rest of us - help us or rot in hell, since supposedly being helpful is an "American value." Let's test that value, starting at the TOP.

I say we treat taxes in a democratic way, where the people do feel ethically and morally involved and invested in the system and its consequences. Make taxes a moral and popularly determined contribution to our so-called freedom. Everything is a moral and/or ethical choice, including whatever anyone has told us and taught us is our duty, our patriotic duty. We owe our nation some things much more important than money. We owe our voices, standing for what is valorous and virtuous.

Taking the high ground is not easy, and it has nothing to do with violence, whether at home or anywhere in the world. Our republic is ripe for some truly democratic reforms, and those can only come from us, the people, the citizens.


At 4/17/2005 8:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And how would you like to delegate your tax dollars? Or do you even pay taxes? I suspect not. If not, put a sock in it. If not, maybe your voice doesn’t belong among the patriots speaking for valor and virtue. If not, get a job and then you can whine about the state of taxes...or better yet, keep working on your ideas for reform. They are worthy and could lead to concrete solutions.

At 10/21/2005 8:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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