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Still a Happy Tax Day

April 18th, 2011 . by economistmom

I wrote the largest check I’ve ever written to the IRS this weekend (I can’t even say how much–it’s so painful), but it was understandable given it was related to my withdrawal of my retirement savings to pay my legal and medical bills over the past year.  So I was devastated to see my bank account wiped out, but on the other hand still believe that my taxes pay for good things–and that what goes around, comes around.

I still believe in the vision of government that President Obama suggested in his speech the other day.  I have been pretty darn lucky in my lifetime so far, even as hard as the past couple years have been as I’ve gone through a divorce.  I got a good, public-school education and went all the way to getting my Ph.D., and I’ve never had a hard time finding work.  I have four beautiful kids who have also benefited from public schools and government-subsidized, employer-provided health care and who are very smart and healthy as a result.  And I know that most families struggle much, much more than I do, and that (as President Obama reminded us) “there but for the grace of God go I.”  I don’t consider the taxes I pay to be none of the government’s business.  I know that I’m paying my dues for government being there for me.  I know that if it turns out I am not so blessed in the future, there will be a safety net there for me and my kids.

So I still feel the way about taxes as I did five years ago when I wrote this piece for the Boston Globe.  There are still lots of good reasons for taxes and why we shouldn’t begrudge paying them today.

12 Responses to “Still a Happy Tax Day”

  1. comment number 1 by: Gipper

    Economistmom,

    I’ve done quite a bit of travel through Honduras so I’ve seen a country that doesn’t collect much internal revenue. As a result, things get done with bribing gatekeepers. In the end business people pay more with greater uncertainty and with a sword of Damocles hanging over their head. So yes, I appreciate a well-ordered government, and that requires a strong system of internal revenue collection.

    However, the founders of this nation envisioned a very different type of government that what came after the New Deal and Great Society. The welfare state isn’t a safety net, it’s a security blanket. I’ve seen first hand the destructive power of welfare programs upon the initiative and moral fitness of its recipients. The Welfare State destroys individual initiative and fosters a dependent and idiotic citizenry.

    Yes, I actually hear illegal immigrants complaining that they won’t get their Social Security benefits as they fraudulently use someone else’s number while utilizing Medicaid and sending their children to public schools that cost far more than their annual income. And the Democrat Party gives its full-throated endosement to these policies to curry the votes of another ethnic group. That’s some safety net!

    The welfare state is utilized as a tool for mobilizing political control by extorting money from a minority of the population to support a majority of the electorate. There is no charity and love implicit in any of this. It’s pure power.

    How many Democrats actually go to skid row and invite a homeless person or family to spend the night with them? Shower, have a meal, get to know why they ended up where they did? Yeah, it’s zippo. It’s easy to love humanity, but it’s much, much harder to love humans. So I go apopolectic when I hear leftist congratulating themselves on their superior values.

    All of the cases of totalitarian misery in human history were wrought by adherents of bigger government and more control over the economy. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Mihn, etc., etc. I don’t know how Leftist can sleep at night with that kind of historical baggage to carry.

    There’s no excuse for having welfare programs supported at the federal level. This is an issue of federalism. Drive it to the state, county, and municipal levels.

    My taxes are far too high, and I pay them grudgingly. At the federal level I want the abolition of the Depts. of Education, Agriculture, Labor, Commerce, Energy, HUD, and HHS. Keep Defense, State, Justice, most of Interior, FBI, FAA, health and safety functions, and courts and legislature. That’s all we need at the federal level. Then our taxes could be much lower, and our economy would do much, much better.

  2. comment number 2 by: Foreclosure Guy

    Much as I hate to do it, I’ve got to go with Gipper on this one. Perhaps, in a perfect world, where social welfare policies are enacted by selfless men and women, with no regard for favoring specific demographics based on constituency, it would be different. But the post-LBJ welfare state is a monstrosity, and I resent every dime I have to pay to maintain it.

    Not to mention the huge portion of your tax bill that will go towards maintaining American imperial hegemony in over 100 nations across the globe. And to pay the salaries of unelected bureaucrats who sit around and think up ways to mandate what kinds of toilets or lightbulbs or showerheads I’m allowed to use.

    The upshot is, either my money belongs to me, or it belongs to the gov’t. The implication that we should all be good little serfs and pay the lord his due, reeks of the idea that all our assets and income actually are the property of the government, and we should be glad for whatever of it they leave us. You’re better than this, EM.

  3. comment number 3 by: Vivian Darkbloom

    Well said Gipper, even though I don’t think I would be quite as far as you do in the last paragraph.

    I was quite surprised that Economist Mom had come out so strongly in favor of the Obama speech the other day. She appears to have so totally taken in by the lofty rhetoric about the role of government that she was blinded to the actual lack of specifics and the bogus claims as to how we can get our fiscal house in order. I know this is not the Concord Coalition web site or blog, but here’s what their mission statement says:

    “The Concord Coalition is a non-partisan, grassroots organization dedicated to educating the public about the causes and consequences of federal budget deficits, the long-term challenges facing America’s unsustainable entitlement programs, and how to build a sound foundation for economic growth.”

    If Economist Mom share’s President Obama’s view of the role of government, then it must be difficult to reconcile that view with the Concord Coalition mission statement, particularly the bit about unsustainable entitlement programs. I guess the idea is that they are sustainable so long as we can tax the rich to pay for them.

  4. comment number 4 by: AMTbuff

    Government health care spending that grows faster than GDP forever is not sustainable. That’s a mathematical fact. Until Congress enacts a solution, more taxes merely allow the problem to grow larger and increase the severity of the ultimate fiscal crash.

  5. comment number 5 by: Claystein Global

    To say that entitlement programs should be done away with is totally wrong.

    One person on the West Coast born with multiple advantages over one born on the east coast without those advantages.

    What are the advantages? Generational wealth, an educated mother and father, food on the table, efficient government systems, shelter, education and others to name a few.

    What are the disadvantages? The opposite of the advantages.

    My question is, how does one with all the disadvantages not need some type of support?

    My BIG question is, how does someone with even a few of the advantages, who’s made it out of poverty even, look back and curse the one who is struggling.

    What a fool!

  6. comment number 6 by: Gipper

    Claystein,

    Doing away with welfare at the federal level doesn’t imply you do away with them at the state level. I don’t advocate abolition of all programs. I just want the responsibility shifted entirely to the state and local levels.

    And please, don’t confuse being an “advocate” for “the poor” with being effective helping people who are impoverished. Programs that don’t hold recipients accountable for making changes in their habits and lifestyles to avoid and/or climb out of poverty are worse than doing nothing.

  7. comment number 7 by: Gipper

    Diane,

    How can 2 economists get into a divorce and wind up outside the Edgeworth Box with both sides worse off?

    I’d expect that from 2 lawyers, not 2 economists. Liquidating retirement savings is a nasty remedy. Ouch!

  8. comment number 8 by: Jeffrey

    Sorry to hear of your troubles, I truly am. Unfortunaley, it is the belief in a beneficent gov’t that is the root of our problems. What areas of the economy have seen the greatest cost increases over the last 50 years? The ones most encumbered and subsidized by the gov’t - healthcare and education. The centralization of decision making in a bureaucracy the size of our gov’t can never work. No one agency or person has the requisite knowledge to make the proper decisions. At best it distorts, at worst it results in the opposite of what was proposed. (Remember the gov’t pursued policies to make sure everyone could own a home - how did that work out?)

    We have a spending/debt problem that can only end badly. The longer we put off the necessary cuts the worse we will be. By the way, we never ran surpluses in the 90’s. Just because the Social Security liabilities were off balance sheet doesn’t make them less real.

    Here’s to hoping you have better days soon.

  9. comment number 9 by: Gipper

    Jeffrey,

    Regarding surpluses, it’s helpful if journalists understood financial accounting. In terms of net operating cashflows, the government did have more cash coming in from tax revenues than going out for expenditures. That’s the equivalent of looking at a company’s Statement of Cashflows.

    However, Jeffrey, you’re correct to point out that the Balance Sheet of the US continued to deteriorate because a good chunk of the revenue came from payroll taxes that represent the liabilities created by current workers who will retire someday to get Medicare and Social Security benefits.

    As someone who knows a fair amount of accounting, I feel like I’m listening to idiots when I hear “experts” discuss the nation’s fiscal policies.

  10. comment number 10 by: Jeffrey

    Gipper,
    Agree 100%. If more people truly understood gov’t accounting there would be outrage. How they are able to run their Ponzi schemes that would land others in jail (Madoff) is risible. How they call reduced increases as “cuts” is another. The only answer I see is truly limited gov’t.

  11. comment number 11 by: Kat

    I can’t believe you’re an economist.

    I have news for you, honey.

    The government didn’t subsidize your health care, I did. The government doesn’t produce anything but mess. So, I had to produce to subsidize you.

    Of course, if you were in trouble, I would have been happy to help. I, of course, would have sought out a charity with very low operating costs so that the vast majority of the money I gave you actually went toward helping you.

    The money the government wrenched from me in your name was mostly wasted on its vast, inefficient bureaucracy. You’d think an economist would be sort of against this kind of inefficiency, but I guess just because you’re an economist doesn’t mean you’re a good one.

  12. comment number 12 by: AMTbuff

    Some of the commenters here are demonstrating that if you post anything personal here people will use it as a weapon against you. That’s pathetic. Don’t let them discourage you, Diane.