Sunday, February 27, 2011

Demanding Taxes

California, like most states across the country, is facing dramatic cuts in government services.  Polls show that when asked about specific services, people want them.  But when asked about raising taxes, they shrink.

I'm sure much of what is behind the immaturity of Californians, of wanting to have their services without paying for them, is the relentless propaganda that for decades has been declaring government and the taxes we pay for it evil.  When the bill comes due, personal responsibility is no where to be found.  Instead the blame is placed on waste, fraud and abuse, and the terrible, bloodsucking unions.

Meanwhile, at the local community college where my wife works, they are canceling an entire section of remedial English courses, effectively shutting the doors on hundreds of prospective students.  This is just one of the many tragic stories that will be surfacing in coming months.

There is a lie being sold across the country: because the state is broke, we can't afford to pay for things.  The truth is that in our adoption of a right-wing view of limited government, we don't want to pay for things.  The dishonesty here is that one can say, "Look, I'd like to, I really would, I just can't afford it," and hold on to moral dignity of pretending to care.  But in reality one does not actually care. 

Much of the response to the plight of public sector workers, clinging to their bargaining rights and pensions, has been the rather spiteful, "I don't get a pension, so why should they?"  Stephen Colbert, playing his satirical role to the hilt, summed up this notion by asking, if a rising tide lifts all boats, then when the tide goes out, "I want to pull their boat down with me."  This might be more understandable if we were talking about the millionaires and billionaires who have been getting steadily richer throughout this great recession.  But it is not.  They have been having their taxes cut, while the public blames middle class teachers, firefighters, police officers and prison guards.

It is time to stand up for what we want from our government, in clear terms, and demand that those who can afford to pay their share do so.  They cannot claim that we are "stealing" their money.  They cannot claim that taxes will limit growth and prevent jobs from being created.  It is our right to demand taxation, as it is the price required to live and do business in this great country.

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