In my previous post I talked about conservatives getting their ideal – and what it looks like in reality. A commenter asked “what level is enough before you tell the government ‘no more’?” Which led me to this question – what level of government services are you willing to do without? It’s a question that really needs to be answered first. Everyone thinks they pay “too much” in taxes. Most are probably wrong about that, but that’s a different post entirely. We expect our government to provide certain services, and in order to pay for those, we have to pay taxes. It’s not free. What I have seen with various conservative anti-tax crusaders is their disconnection from that reality. You cannot have a government service, or demand the government take certain actions, without paying for it.
I accept that. But in listening to many prominent Republicans, I hear them say things that tell me that they don’t. They want to cut taxes, but they don’t believe – or want to tell you – they have to cut spending to pay for those cuts. Then they’ll turn around and posture about the deficit or balancing the budget. Being rather … realistic … I understand the concept that in a balanced budget, spending must equal income. If I reduce income (reduce taxes), I have to reduce spending (government services) accordingly. Then again, I’m a Democrat, so maybe I’m not understanding the reasoning that the Republicans are using when they say that we don’t have to do it.
We expect our governments to do certain things. Some of them are required by their organizing documents (their constitutions), while others have been legislated as being for “the common good.” We may not benefit from a specific service or program, but enough of our fellow citizens do to make it a valid function. For example, I don’t have children in the local school district, and I’m not going to. I never attended school here either. Why should I have to pay taxes for a school system I didn’t use, and will never use? Why? Because we, as a society, have long considered it important that people should be literate, that they should be provided with at least a basic education. It’s a societal good. So even though I’m not personally using it, I still pay taxes to pay for the school.
That’s just one example, but it cuts across a lot of what government does. It’s even important to businesses. Ever look at what businesses consider “important?” Yes, they may look at the tax burden, and the cost of labor, but they also look at things like transportation infrastructure, educational systems, public safety, and cultural opportunities. The tax rates and labor costs may be fantastically low in the middle of the Gobi Desert, but getting your product to market is next to impossible, and there’s no nearby schools, universities, or the other things you’d like. Roads, colleges, schools, police and fire departments, and even parks and theaters are things that add to the quality of life – and enable you to hire good people and get your products made and sent to market. Which means taxes – because they have to be paid for.
So when asked about taxes, my question in return is: What are you willing to do without? If you want roads, schools, public safety, emergency services, and so on, then you have to pay for them. If you’re not willing to do without something, then stop complaining to me about taxes.