Monday, April 17, 2006

The drag and joy of taxes

Yeah, taxes are a drag. I’m no more thrilled about them then you are, yet taxes are much more than an irritation. Whether they are federal or state, being sent to D.C. or Topeka, Kansas, taxes are one of the ways that we help each other.

Sometimes they pay for things we don’t like. (Personally, I’m not thrilled by the Bush Administration’s policy of funneling money to conservative churches or military spending.) But other times, taxes are the means by which we help children in need, families struggling with illness or people swept up in natural disasters.

Taxes and the government programs they fund aren’t the only way that people get help. However, they are one effective way for all of us to pool our resources. They help us support those who need a helping hand up to get out of bad situations.

The rich get those eager hands from parents or grandparents, or an economy that enables them to buy the help they need. George W. Bush got that helping hand when his father’s friends bailed him out of repeated business failures early in his career, not to mention all the other ways his name and money got him special help that a poor man or even a middle-class one would never have received. (Think about how Bush got into top academic programs with mediocre grades, to name just one example.)

This is not a rant or a call for class war. In fact, I hope it’s not a rant at all, but a somewhat sad, but determined commentary about why we all need to own up to our responsibility for each other.

Usually, the rich can buy what they need. The rest of us sometimes must look to our neighbors for help. There are also moments, though, such as disasters of the scale of Hurricane Katrina, when everyone needs the help government can provide.

To turn our back on taxes and to undermine the system, as the GOP appears to want to do, is to turn our back on our neighbors. I will take no part in that.

This is why on Tax Day, I am both a tad irritated and happy. I want to help people. Don’t you?

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has some interesting tax facts.

Among other things:

  • The percentage of income that most categories of taxpayers pay in federal taxes is at the lowest level in decades. Despite this fact — and despite the large current federal budget deficit and the even larger fiscal problems projected for coming decades — the Administration and Congress are pushing for additional tax cuts that would aggravate these problems.
  • Federal revenues below historical norms. Federal revenues in 2005 were smaller as a share of the economy than their average level of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s. These low revenues have been a major contributor to the return of large deficits.
  • People making over $1 million a year are $100,000 better off on Tax Day. In 2005, households with annual incomes above $1 million (who represent only one out of every 500 households) will receive an average of $100,000 apiece due to the tax cuts enacted by Congress in 2001 and 2003. This is about twice the total annual income of the typical American household.
  • Tax cuts for millionaires wipe out deficit savings from program cuts. The President’s budget proposes sizeable reductions over the next five years in nearly every domestic discretionary (non-entitlement) program. Yet the President’s tax cuts for people who make over $1 million a year would cost more than the total savings from all of the proposed cuts in domestic discretionary programs, including the cuts proposed in education, environmental protection, veterans’ medical care, and medical research.

No comments: