Monday, April 26, 2004

To tax or not to tax? That is the question.

Yes, Virginia it's an election year. A big one, there's no doubt. I therefore don't think I can possibly avoid sounding off on that nasty dirty subject: politics.

The subject of my little unsourced blog rant shall be taxes. Being a bit over-educated, my first impulse is to research the subject, fret and slave over a 10 page essay and ... you get the picture.

But I'm not going to do that. I'm just going to rant with the best of them. Let's see how it goes.

I'm sick and tired of these ignorant conservatives going on and on about how evil taxes are.

Now, of course, I don't like paying taxes either -- who does? I would hardly be American, or even human, if I took some gleeful joy in forking over my cash to the IRS.

But, taxes are the price one pays for being a part of civil society. It's as simple as that.

Here's how my little urge to rant came about. I went to a conference on small-business ownership and entrepreneurship at my alma mater the purple fungus a couple of days ago. The event was really interesting, and all the speakers had thoughtful as well as entertaining things to say -- until some neo-con harebrain took the podium on the subject of tax-credits for small businesses. Except he didn't give the audience one practical bit of information on tax-credits, but rather spent his 10 minutes on a rant about the evils of income tax, during which he claimed that income tax was immoral.

He backed up this preposterous idea by first noting that it took a constitutional amendment (the 16th, apparently, but remember, I've done no research, so check this fact out for yourself before you take my word -- or his -- for it), back in 1913 to begin the income tax. He claimed that an amendment was required because it was considered immoral back then to tax income. There is some very faulty reasoning here. What he seemed not to grasp was that the amendment was passed, which means a rather substantial majority (two-thirds of congress and two-thirds of the states, no less!) didn't have any moral problem with income tax at all!

This gentleman (I'm too lazy to get his name off the program) also made a specious and really pernicious comparison between the purported mottos of the American and French revolutions. He claimed that while the French revolution stood for 'liberty, equality and fraternity,' the American stood for 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,' never mind equality!

It seems that equality is what this guy has a problem with. This is distressing, to say the least. Is equality then un-American? Is it un-American to tax the rich more than we tax the poor? The neo-cons think so. I disagree.

Well, I couldn't help doing just a little research: reading the Declaration of Independence.

In fact, this august document says the following: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed ...

Now, what I get from this is that equality is an American ideal, and thus the neo-con argument rests on a false dichotomy between French and American ideals. Taxes are used to support the government in its business of supporting the rights and equalities of the people for and by whom the government is formed. There is nothing inherently immoral about requesting that those of greater means provide more for the support of the public domain and for the assistance of those of lesser means. Much of the wealth of the most successful is plainly superfluous in any case, far beyond what is necessary for "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" by any reasonable standard of measure (see my post on the ecological footprint.)

Unless a person wants to live on an island, or their own planet without any contact with other human beings, they are going to have to honor their social obligations -- including taxes.

In short, even if I were to become a successful businessman, I would recognize the obligation to pay my taxes. I wouldn't like it, but I'd do it.

Thus ends this unsourced political rant. By the way, the harebrain's name, for the record, is Richard Imprescia. I broke down and got the program out. Please pause while I step into my flameproof suit ...

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