Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Paying For the Welfare State

Matt Stoller is a liberal who is proud to pay his taxes. He argues that right wingers are unpatriotic because they don’t want to pay taxes. Let’s look at his piece, “Paying For America.”

I just paid my taxes, and I have to say, I always take pride when I do so. I don't like having less money to spend, of course, and the complexity of the process is really upsetting. But I am proud to pay for democracy, and I feel when I do send money to the DC Treasurer and the US Treasury that that is what I am doing. The right-wing likes to pretend as if taxes are a burden instead of the price of democracy. And I suppose, if you hate democracy, as the right-wing does, then taxes are the price for paying for something you really don't want.
Not to make too fine a point of it, but the USA is republic, not a democracy. I assume by democracy you mean something like “representative government with free elections.” But America didn’t even have an income tax until the 20th century and it was a free country with free elections in the 19th century. Indeed, it was a much more free country then, and taxes were much lower. Taxes are not the price of freedom or democracy, but of the welfare-regulatory state or mixed economy.

Your inference that the right-wing hates democracy because it hates taxes is wrong. The right hates the welfare state, which makes taxes “paying for something you really don’t want.”

Personally, I find banking fees, high cable and internet charges, health care costs, and credit card hidden charges much more abrasive than taxes, because with those I'm just being ripped off to pay for someone's summer home.
This is economic ignorance. You think producers arbitrarily raise prices in order to purchase summer homes. If that really happened, then competitors would do without summer homes in order to charge less and win market share from the guys with summer homes.

In this list of services that you resent paying for is health care costs. These are high because of decades of government intervention and regulation of health care. If we had a free market in health care, prices would be a fraction of what they are and the product would be superior.

Patriotism is about recognizing that we are all connected in a fundamental moral and physical sense, that the war in Iraq is our war, that poverty in New Orleans is our poverty, that public funding to cure cancer comes from each of us and not just the scientists who have made it theirs.
Patriotism is not collectivism. My patriotism is based on the fact that America was founded as a nation of individual rights.

The tax burden we face is a very small price to pay for the privilege of taking responsibility for our own freedom and our own society. And the hatred of taxes on the right comes from a hatred for this responsibility. It's childish and immoral and unAmerican.
As I noted above, America had more freedom when taxes were lower. Today’s tax burden is necessary only to pay for the welfare state, a foreign idea that FDR got from Bismark’s Germany. Since America was founded on the principle of individual rights, the collectivist welfare state is truly un-American. It is not childish and immoral to oppose the welfare state, but it is childish and immoral to attempt to paint opponents of taxation as unpatriotic. Our Founding Fathers waged the Revolutionary War because they didn’t want to pay certain taxes.
Now, what is a problem is the complexity of our tax system.
Right. So why do liberals oppose a flat tax?
Complexity is a tool that powerful elites can and do use to intimidate and control people without access to capital and connections.
So why do liberals oppose a flat tax, again?

With modern technology, there is just no reason for this complexity anymore except the business coalitions that push for specific tax breaks and the politicians who love them. This complexity not only upsets and disempowers people like us, it empowers the powerful to skip out on their tax burden.
If we got the government out of the economy, taxes would be lower and simpler. Complexity is a result of our increasingly fascist system, in which the state dictates the economy. Fascism is a type of socialism.
It's not a coincidence that Grover Norquist, the architect of the right-wing ascension to power, runs an organization called Americans for Tax Reform. People like Norquist, who are charlatans at heart and deeply unpatriotic and immoral, use the complexity in the tax code that they help to create to persuade Americans that taxes are bad. This is also true in states all over the country, where it is the unpredictability of property tax burdens and not the amount that causes schools to go wanting for funding.
If our tax code is the result of a conspiracy of powerful elites and unpatriotic, immoral conservatives, why do liberal politicians support it?
Our tax code is the DNA of our nation's moral compass.
This is a mixed metaphor. Compasses are man-made devices and do not have DNA. It would be better to call our tax code the north pole of our nation’s moral compass. Actually, it would be best not to use high-flying rhetoric that is meaningless.
I am proud to pay taxes because I take pride in America, and paying some tiny burden to keep our society running is an extremely small price to pay for being able to call myself an American citizen.
If America were a laissez-faire capitalist nation, you could call yourself an American citizen for free.
The old expression 'you get what you pay for' is apt for all sorts of situations.
Yes, but money taken from people at the point of a gun is not money paid for anything, it is money stolen.
People tend to express what they value in how much they are willing to pay for it. I am willing and feel privileged for the right to pay for my country. The right-wing is embittered to do so, if they do so at all. And that, more than anything, says something about how much they value this experiment called America.
You’re happy to pay for the welfare state. Those who oppose taxation value America, but not the welfare state.

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