Taxes Are Not a Punishment

We have a problem in our country.  It’s the same problem I have in my own personal house, which is that I do not have enough money to buy everything that I want.  Of course, like our country, I would not have this problem if I could just look at my bank account and then not buy the things I don’t have money for.  But that’s not really fair, because there are some essential programs that I cannot cut, like rent.  In fact, after trimming the fat from the food budget and switching to cheaper basic cable, our budget is still shot, and I feel like I don’t spend hardly ANYthing!

As in our national debate, there is some conflict in my own head about what exactly an essential program is.  I could cut out cable entirely and just watch TV on the internet.  I could cut out the internet, not watch TV at all, and check e-mail on my iPhone.  I could get rid of my iPhone, the single biggest expense after rent and food, and just throw rocks at trees for fun.  But I love my iPhone sooooooo much!  So what to do?  Well, according to pretty much every finance blog and money management website, you have to make more than you spend.  And, according to these experts, the way to do that is a combination of spending less and earning more.  Sounds simple, right?

Well, in my house, the way I spend less is to buy fewer things, and the way I earn more is to make pizza at night.  Nationally the way we do this is to cut programs and raise taxes.

Let me be very clear about this.  We need to do both.  We need to make metaphorical pizzas, and we need to buy fewer things, both actual and metaphorical.  I am fully against raising the debt ceiling, while also fully aware that it may be a necessary temporary fix at this point.  I am also fully in favor of cutting back most, or all of our government programs.  Boy, these are great ideas!  I should run for president!  Don’t the Republicans need someone?  But here’s the thing; if we don’t also raise taxes then it won’t work.  Not just on the wealthy, but on everybody.  Uh oh.  Cancel my presidential nomination.

The problem, I think, is how taxes are viewed by the Americans most able to actually pay them, which is that they are some sort of punishment for success.  That’s crazy.  Taxes are not a punishment, they are what we all pitch in to have a working government, which includes the military, social services, and a variety of other programs supported by members of both parties. If you view taxes as a punishment, feel free to move somewhere else and stop taking advantage of the freedom I am paying for.

And the arguments against raising taxes are silly.  Honestly.  Job creation?  According to all the data I have seen, lower taxes do not lead to more jobs.  Take a look at this chart from The Washington Post showing tax rates compared to job creation rates.  When taxes are low, the businesses don’t have to produce as much to make the same amount of money.  When taxes are high, they need to do more to make the same amount, and job creation goes up.  So higher taxes lead to more jobs.

Wait, is that true?  Well, it’s as good an argument as any I’ve seen that say lowering taxes will create jobs.  You can take any chart, any graph, any set of data and drawn wild conclusions from it.  It’s fun!  I did it myself not one paragraph ago.  The thing is, the economy is far too complicated to pretend that any one thing can steer it exactly where you want it to go, and saying “This one piece of information proves X” is almost always going to be a straw man at best, and totally false at worst.  All we really have to work with here is common sense (not so common, sadly) and what years of general financial experts have given to us.  And what they have given us is that we need to raise taxes and cut programs.

And in the end, I guess it comes down to what type of country you want to have.  Picture this: You make $50K a year, your sister makes $150K a year, and your brother plays the pickle tubs in the subway for about $15K a year.  It’s your Mom’s 60th birthday and you are all going to go in together on a present.  Now, should your sister put in more?  She makes more, but is it fair to ask her to contribute more money because of this?  And I say, that depends on whether you want to give your Mom a wine tasting weekend in California, or a slanket.  And the same goes for our country.  If we want it to be great, we need to ask the citizens to contribute according to their ability.  Because I am tired of living in a slanket.

If I have a point, it is this:  You anti-taxers need to change your attitude about taxes.  We all live in this country and we all have to pitch in for it to have a working government.  The programs that the government spends money on are decided by our elected officials, so if you don’t like them, change your vote.  Remember, the places with the higher condo fees have the better pools.  And you anti-program cutters need to realize that clinging desperately to your pet program’s budget is not going to matter on the day the money runs out.  So let’s work together.  Let’s compromise.  Let’s remember that cutting government programs means cutting jobs, because the government actually, you know, employs people and stuff.  And raising taxes may or may not mean loss of jobs as well.  The economy stinks right now, and there’s nothing you can do about.  But there’s something we can do about it.  So let’s do it.

Posted in Politics, Rant, Taxes.


  1. I agree with your rationale here. We need both to survive. I am fine with taxes being raised, as long as I know that the additional money we are taxed is going to pay down our debt and not to fund government programs that are chronically inefficient and ineffective. Make some big, drastic cuts to government spending and then you can raise my taxes to pay down the debt.

    (Though I also agree that, because of the public opinion on taxes, any politician that asks for an across the board tax raise will not last long in office.)

  2. You are so wonderfully funny in your rants that it is almost easy to miss that you are making some very astute connections 🙂 I totally agree with the overall theme of your post, however, as much as I complain about way our government runs things sometimes, there are actually lots of really great, effective and well evaluated government programs that by putting $ into now we are preventing what will likely be increased costs in future years. I’ve heard a lot lately about the need to “cut programs” to save $, but I think we need to be really careful about how we advocate for that. We may be able to cut programs now and lesson the debt TODAY, but cutting programs that impact healthcare, nutrition, substance abuse prevention, activities for youth, etc. will most likely only increase the amount of $ we (or our kids) have to pay in 10 yrs to deal with the increase in chronic illness, obesity, incarceration, substance abuse, etc… I have no idea what the right answer is, but I agree with your statement that there is no one right fix and “cutting programs” might not be that fix either…

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