An old American adage lumps death and taxes together as the two things from which no one escapes. And while death is a certainty worth delaying if possible, I think it’s unfair to treat taxes with the same sense of anxiety. You see, I just don’t pay taxes, I believe in taxes.
I’m a 4th grade teacher in the kind of neighborhood most people in this country would rather forget about. It’s extremely poor, with a dismal per capita crime rate that assures it exemption from the housing market fluctuations that are currently pre-occupying our media. Yet in this small school, built nearly fifty years ago during the hay-day of development along Florida’s Space Coast, you can find the very latest in teaching technology. Rather than dusty chalkboards or ancient overhead projectors, the children that walk into my classroom every day find a surround-sound speaker system, document camera, digital overhead projector, and a smartboard equipped with the latest educational software. The tools at my disposal are innovative, engaging, and lets not forget, expensive.
On the other end of the life spectrum, my grandfather, who’s now in his late seventies and a self-described fan of social security, recalls the days of his youth when his grandparents had to move from house to house, staying with relatives when they were no longer able to work for a living. During these rants, he usually closes the monologue by painting the grim picture of those who had no relatives or children to stay with, at which time they went and lived on the county farm. While far from providing a luxurious lifestyle, social security grants independence to the elderly in the United States who would otherwise be dependent upon family to provide for their basic care needs.
I think it becomes lost on Americans that the taxes we so often dread and lament are the mechanism we’ve used to create an impressive infrastructure of roads, public utilities, public schools, and social programs that keep our standard of living the envy of most of the planet. I can mail birthday cards to my friends for 41 cents, or if that doesn’t suit me, I drive (on paved roads) to literally any city in the contiguous United States within three days and deliver it myself. Those are options I believe are worth having, but they aren’t free, and they can’t be free. We’ve got to pay for them.
People that cheat on, or avoid paying taxes are missing an opportunity to build a better nation for themselves. It’s a privilege to hand a percentage of our money to the government each April knowing that we’re going to get something out of it. Will some of it be wasted? Of course it will. We’ve all heard of the stories of $900 hammers and $300 toilet seats. The system’s not perfect and deserves scrutiny. But I believe it’s a great system that redistributes wealth, builds a collective ownership in our country, and creates the sorts of opportunities that foster a truly democratic society. One where kids who know the sting of poverty, can also know that the rest of us our doing our part to give them a shot at the American dream.
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