I live in the largest state park in the country. One of the things I’ve learned over the years from living here is that many people in this country haven’t connected “services” with “taxes.” In this area there are a number of state campgrounds. People have to pay to stay there or to use the facilities. Although people can (and do) gripe about the cost of using the facilities, they understand that they’re paying for the costs of running the facilities and providing those services. In addition to those, there are a number of wilderness camping areas. These are “free” to stay at, and they’re heavily used by people who either want the experience or don’t want to pay for staying at a formal campground. The reason I put “free” in quotes is that those sites aren’t free. They’ve been paid for by taxes. But, because people don’t make that connection, they assume that their camping there doesn’t cost anything.
I use that as an example, because it’s something that people never think about. Someone had to build those roads and trails into those wilderness areas. Someone had to construct the sites. Someone has to go out there and check on them, and make repairs or pick up any garbage. That someone is the government and government employees, and no, private business or groups wouldn’t do it. It took tax money to build them, and it takes tax money to keep them accessible and usable. The “free” camping people receive is actually tax-subsidized camping.
If that were the only example, one might excuse it, but it’s not. It’s a common theme and in particular among Republicans. We “pay too much in taxes,” we need “self-reliance,” and “government isn’t necessary.” It’s just that it’s the “free” stuff that businesses and people depend on. But there’s a cost attached to it, which they don’t connect with taxes. There was a story in one of the regional newspapers about what “used to be” in a small city. In winter, the city not only plowed the streets, they even had someone take care of the sidewalks. It was all paid for with tax revenues. Then the city decided to cut back on the services to save money and cut taxes. No more winter sidewalk maintenance, because of that. Great, people “saved” a lot on taxes, right? Well, not really. Whatever they saved was more than wiped out by having to take over those services. Yes, they had to shovel the sidewalks, or if they couldn’t, pay someone to do it. Sure, they weren’t depending on government anymore, but it cost as much if not more to do it themselves.
I’ve run a business, so I’m quite aware of how “the free stuff” impacted it. I needed good roads to travel on, as well as to receive and ship goods. I needed police around to make sure my business was secure. I had clean water, sewage treatment, and garbage disposal. There were school systems and colleges nearby, to not only further my own education, but provide educated customers and workers. All things my business depended on, and that’s just a small sample.
But if you listen to various “conservatives” – and yes, I mean the quotes – none of those are “necessary” or in particular, taxes to pay for them. They might want to take another look. Consider that Mississippi is routinely listed by various business magazines as one of the – if not the – “worst states for business.” Why? After all, they have very low wage rates, little state regulation, not many unions, and low taxes. All the things that conservatives say the country needs. Using those measures, Mississippi should have a booming economy. Except if you look at where else Mississippi ranks near the bottom: At virtually everything, with education and infrastructure among them. In other words, yes, you can do business “cheap” there with little regulation, but the other things that make it worthwhile – that you need as a business – aren’t there.
That’s why the President said that business people didn’t “do it on their own.” It’s because it’s true. You don’t start or build a business in a vacuum. You had roads built for you, you have utilities, you have educated customers, you have services. They didn’t “just happen,” and the someone who built them was the taxpayers. Just because you don’t know the costs, or that you’re ignoring them didn’t make it free. The day they might learn that lesson is the day they learn they’re going to have to do without.