The U.S.A. today: Representation without Taxation!

Representation without Taxation!

I’m sure you’ve all heard recently of the dismal survey that shows that Americans refuse to consider to pay higher taxes even as they refuse to support cuts in government services.  Gee, I wish we had a Transformational President or some visionary state governors who would point out the fact that 1) Americans have historically paid much higher taxes, and 2) that our federal taxes are more regressive than they have been in the past.  Instead, we have a President and a Congress who are pantomiming their “seriousness” by suggesting that cuts in WIC and PBS are the solution, and we in Colorado have a “Democratic” governor who released his new budget plan:  “Spending on K-12 education would take the biggest hit in state history, colleges would get less money, state employees would see less in their checks and Colorado would close four parks and a prison under a revised budget Gov. John Hickenlooper unveiled Tuesday.”

What, according to Hickenlooper, is the key to our financial crisis?  “‘[w]e have to change the culture of the state,’ the governor said. ‘We have to find ways to make the entire culture of the state more pro-business.'”

Well, what about raising the incredibly low, regressive taxes we “enjoy” here in Colorado?

However, Hickenlooper said raising taxes was a non-starter.

“There is still a deep-seated belief out there that in this economy, people don’t want to pay more taxes,” he said.

The biggest change Hickenlooper proposed is a $375 million reduction to public schools from Ritter’s budget, which includes a $257 million reduction in general fund support for education and Hickenlooper’s decision to not backfill a $117 million reduction in local share funding caused by decreases in assessed values.

Those decisions would result in a $332 million net reduction over funding for K-12 in the current year, or $497 less per kid.

Yeah:  what a brilliant “pro-business” plan this is!  Absolutely everyone wants to move their businesses to a state that’s cutting education!  It’s so easy to get your employees to see the advantages for their children of attending schools with huge class sizes and no “extras” like music, art, sports, or anything that’s not covered on the Colorado Student Annual Progress (CSAP) tests.  And if they love that, they’ll love the nonexistent state support for universities here!  (And guess what?  Republicans here are lauding the governor’s “seriousness,” while Democrats are treating Hick’s budget like a flaming bag of poo left on their doorstep.)

We get the politicians we deserve.  The fatuousness of these conversations among our elected representatives reflects our own unseriousness as citizens.  We expect to enjoy quality schools, universities, parks, roads, hospitals, medical care, emergency services, low-income assistance, prisons, public transportation, and all other services without paying taxes.  We’ve been living off of the crumbling infrastructure Americans invested in fifty years ago and more, expecting that nothing would change and that no further investment was required.

It would be terrific if a new Franklin Roosevelt would spring up and get himself elected and treat the dire state of American public services, education, and infrastructure like the threat of Nazi domination, and revive the Fireside (YouTube? Facebook? Twitter?) Chat to convince a majority of Americans of the need to pitch in and reinvest in our nation.  But until a working plurality of us citizens make up our minds to do this, he doesn’t have a chance in hell of getting elected County Commissioner on a platform of raising taxes.

What a noble ideal:  Representation without Taxation!  Depend upon it:  our era in American history will be notable for the smallness of its leaders, but that’s the fault of the rest of us.  They represent us perfectly.

0 thoughts on “The U.S.A. today: Representation without Taxation!

  1. Well said, Historiann. We live in a world (or maybe it’s only a country) that finds happiness in buying things for ourselves, but refuses to see that taxes buy things for all of us. How did a belief in individualism lead so directly to so much selfishness?

    Taxes need not be seen as “them” taking “my” money, but rather the admission fee for participating in our culture and economy. Those who don’t want to inhabit that culture and economy are welcome to become low-cash-income subsistence farmers and mountain men trappers who won’t pay taxes (or use any services?–who would be that mean?), but everyone else should be delighted to pay even higher admission fees, given all we get for them. And the higher admission fees now usually mean lower out-of-pocket later–but try selling that kind of selfishness, which is too long term for a world of short-term thinkers.


  2. But rich people don’t have to send their children to icky public schools. Or at least, they send their kids to the richest schools in the richest parts of town and contribute, in the style of Lady Bountiful, to the PTA fundraiser. So Suzy and Sammy Superrich can continue to enjoy a ski team and enrichment programs in STEM disciplines while other, less deserving kids, are shovelled into over-crowded classrooms, cramming madly for the NCLB tests with dog-eared textbooks (3 students to one book! What luxury!).

    Come to Canada. We pay higher taxes but, in the end, it’s not that much more a bite from our budgets because we get our health care pretty well covered, too. And our schools can be strapped, at times, but no one’s talking about eviscerating them the way these guys are in your neck of the woods!


  3. I don’t usually comment on the political threads because I just get too upset to express anything coherent beyond frustration. So … well, that’s about what I’ve got this time too. It’s insane, and Democrats since the 1980s have been guilty of playing along and letting Republicans — and not just Republicans, but the most conservative Republicans — define the terms of the debate. They lost control of the meaning of “liberal” by trying to disavow the term and getting labeled with it anyway; they’ve lost control of debates about taxation and the public good by running away from the Great Society and “welfare;” they moved right and right again on health care only to be labeled “socialists” for the Heritage Foundation plan that they eventually got passed. Stand for something, you jackasses!

    I wonder how many hundredths of a percentage point they’d have to raise the taxes on casinos to save the higher education system in Nevada:


  4. JJO: “I don’t usually comment on the political threads because I just get too upset to express anything coherent beyond frustration.” It’s not like my posts are anything but exercises in frustration! We should read Chris Hedges’s new book Death of the Liberal Class, in which academics like us are implicated (along with many others, to be sure.)

    Janice: one of the things that surprises even us is that my husband and I dream of Canada even more than we did when Bush was prez. Back then at least we could pretend that Republicans were the problem! But as Tom and JJO explain, they’re only part of the problem.


  5. “We get the politicians we deserve. The fatuousness of these conversations among our elected representatives reflects our own unseriousness as citizens…” That about says it all. It’s beyond puke, but it really is pretty much reflective of a society where people walk into utility poles while texting friends who they’re going to see in two minutes about the television show they sat together watching the night before. “Hick” should have continued to say that there was “a deep-seated belief out there that in this world where the ground is hard and even a small stumble can lead to days of missed work, people don’t want to be chained to gravity…”


  6. Re: Taxes in Canada…actually, Janice, at least at the lower end, I can assure you that taxes in Canada are much lower (and, you know, you don’t have to pay anything to go to the doctor). I live on a grad student salary in the central USA, and while the cost of living is much lower than in many parts of Canada, the taxes are at least 2-3 times what I’d pay for this income in Canada, and that’s before all the ways that non-Americans are double-taxed (basically, we don’t even qualify for the standard deductions). On an equivalent salary in a poor-ish central Canadian city like Winnipeg, my tax bill would be miniscule. I honestly can’t figure out what the American governments (both federal and state) are spending it all on–I can assure you it’s not sidewalks.


  7. Canuck Down South: I keep forgetting the exact number because it’s too huge to comprehend, but having a military that’s bigger than the next 50 militaries combined might have something to do with the no-services-high-taxes you’re seeing.

    As for the Democrats standing for something, I think they do. The light bulb went off for me when I saw a graph of median outside income of incoming Congresscritters (may have been only Democratic freshmen) in 2008. Around $75,000. The next year, that same cohort had a median income (not from congressional salary) of around $145,000. I saw this on Common Cause, League of Women Voters, some public interest group…I wish I could remember where.

    But it does seem pretty clear that votes are the ticket to vaulting into wealth. Actually working toward, as opposed to talking about, the public good wouldn’t help them along that goal, would it?


  8. “We expect to enjoy quality schools, universities, parks, roads, hospitals, medical care, emergency services, low-income assistance, prisons, public transportation, and all other services without paying taxes.”

    The problem is, there are an awful lot of people (some of whom are my neighbors) who argue that they don’t use the schools (they’re home schoolers), don’t use highways (they never leave the county), pay for their own insurance, don’t ride the bus, don’t commit crimes, are happy to defend their own homes, etc., so they have no use for federal services. They explicitly don’t expect to enjoy all those things, and claim this as a reason why they have no stake in paying taxes to the federal government.

    They are, of course, completely wrong. The point isn’t whether we expect all those things or even if we use them. The point is that, whether we expect them or not, and even whether we knowingly use them or not, anyone who does not live as a hermit on a mountaintop or an island, benefits from these services. The people who don’t travel the highway themselves, buy food delivered by truck on those highways. Whether or not your kids use the public schools, you are better off living in a community where your neighbor’s are literate and can therefore hold jobs. They benefit from the existence of the CDC and the NIH and the national system of hospitals by virtue of not catching easily curable infectious diseases from the people they do business with. And whether or not they ever commit a crime, they benefit from the fact that criminals are not roaming their neighborhoods.

    The simple, straightforward argument that “if you expect services you have to pay for them” doesn’t work in large parts of the US, where a culture of self-sufficiency denies the need for services. We need to move past the simple and start discussing the more complex argument of the impact of the government on our society as a whole.


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