The taxonomy of taxes

Everyone hates taxes, or so it’s said, yet of the certain both death and taxes are included. The anti-tax crusaders bellow “no new taxes!” while the pro-tax crusaders sound apologetic. At best the pro-tax forces muster arguments about “fairness,” but this is not a terribly convincing message in a country which began with “Don’t tread on me!” but now believes “It’s all about me!”

The pro-tax “don’t raise my taxes, raise the other guy’s taxes” philosophy doesn’t sell very well. People with big money have bought and paid for political protection from Congress and they generally get it, so for the past several decades America’s progressive tax system has been effectively dismantled. Taxes have shifted to the most regressive forms, such as sales taxes, where the proportion of taxes paid as a share of income increases proportionately for those with the least money. Such flat-rate taxes have the outward appearance of “fairness” but in reality shift the burden away from those who earn the most money. The wealthy may be clever, but the real secret of their success is that money talks.

The wealthy complain about “class warfare,” the implication being that the wealthy are unfairly treated hapless victims and that their wealth needs to be protected. But the dismantling of tiered income tax rates set higher for those who earn more is a direct result of class warfare successfully waged by the wealthy (half the Senate are millionaires). The unbreakable cycle of poverty in which many millions of Americans are now caught is characterized by the rich as due to failure of character, such poverty is entirely self-inflicted. Accordingly, welfare and programs devoted to helping lift people out of poverty have been eliminated and when budget cuts happen, the poor suffer the greatest damage.

Without doubt, government wastes a lot of tax money. Each citizen has an opinion about how government money should be spent, and Congress reflects some diversity of opinion. Congress seems to have no reluctance on spending billions on military hardware; much of it, like nuclear weapons, will never be used. It’s ironic that despite uncountable spending on defense, one lame guy trying to light his shoe on a flight has resulted in billions of dollars in security equipment, personnel and long lines of shoeless travelers at the airport. It’s the trip to the airport that’s dangerous, of course; the odds of being killed on the freeway are 19,000 times greater than death by terrorist.

What’s lost in the tax debate is that we’re all in the same boat, and will sink or float together. Tax money to prevent illness of the poor protects the rich by halting the spread of diseases that don’t care about bank accounts. Taxes spent on removing toxic wastes, research on global warming, insuring that water is clean and providing quality childhood education brings benefit to society overall. Government is an institution created to meet the needs of society as a whole; when it is tax-starved and prepared to be “drowned in a bathtub” as some anti-tax radicals advocate, everyone suffers.

Our country’s current taxonomy of taxes includes species of Americanus wealthianus, workingclasseatus, and povertanus. Unfortunately, in our current political atmosphere a new and self-destructive species has mutated and is quickly reproducing: Americanus hypocriticalis. Let’s hope natural selection does its job.

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