Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.

7.29.2011

Of Death to Taxes

It almost seems pointless creating a new post with "facts" after my last one basically saying there's no such thing--at least as far as politics and this kind of thing goes--but everything I've ever shared here has been with the assumption it comes with my point of view (see the header above). So, without too much commentary, here's a whole bunch of articles and interesting information that's caught my eye recently, loosely related to the standoff about the budget and debt ceiling.

A friend posted this status update on Facebook the other day:

I know I'm shushed away and called a Pinko Commie, but I simply cannot understand why people don't like to pay taxes. Taxes are good. They pay for good things that enrich our lives and protect us from people who want to kill us. We are in debt as a nation, and we have insufficient funds in the bank of reality. Why is it bad to raise taxes? Please, give me the best reason you got.

One of the commenters asked, "Do you really believe the government can spend your money better than you can?" and I love her response:

Yes, I do believe the government can spend my money better than I can. Teachers will be able to broaden my daughter's horizon more than I can. Fire fighters, police, highway and bridge and levee builders can keep me safer than I could doing those things for myself. Our miliary protects me far better than I ever could from people who want to kill me. (If attacked I'd probably fall into a fetal position and start crying.) Our judges and legislators can figure out the law better than I ever could. The FDA and EPA keeps me healthier than I could on my own. Government sponsored arts and social and humanities projects allow me to experience things I wouldn't get to on my own. Us taxpayers pooling our funds together so my dad, who is a veteran of World War II, can afford the nine prescription medications he takes to survive and dance and get engaged at age 85 gives both of us a more satisfying life. Please don't cut medicare and social security. I don't want my dad living with me, and I certainly can't afford his meds.

One of the most direct and eloquent statements I've ever seen in favor of taxes. Of course, it's not an opinion apparently shared by many these days, as the discussion demonstrated. Some of those furthest from this position would like to see federal spending cut 40%. Here's a look at what that might mean:

The federal government is scheduled to spend about $300 billion in August. Something like $125 billion of that is debt. So if the debt ceiling doesn't get raised, the government can only spend about $175 billion. Very roughly, here's spending for the month of August in the areas Nan Hayworth says are off limits:

Social Security = $60 billion
Veterans benefits = $10 billion
Medicare/Medicaid = $70 billion
Interest payments = $20 billion
Military pay = $15 billion

Total = $175 billion

So there you have it. Nan Hayworth is right: we
can fund all of these things without raising the debt ceiling. Unfortunately, that's it. There's really no other prioritizing necessary. There's not a single dollar left for any other function of government. Not defense spending, not the FBI, not foreign embassies, not the court system, not prisons, not disaster relief, not unemployment insurance, not the border patrol, not TSA or the FAA, not roadbuilding, not maintenance of any kind, not national parks, and not pensions for retired federal workers. Not anything. And aside from military personnel, every single employee of the federal government will have to be furloughed.

It gets a little more spelled out in 40 Percent Less Government Will Be Fun! Things like:

You just cut the IRS and all the accountants at Treasury, which means that the actual revenue you have to spend is $0. . . . The border control stations are entirely unmanned . . . All of our troops stationed abroad quickly run out of electricity or fuel. . . . No federal emergency assistance, or help fighting things like wildfires or floods. . . . The money your local school district was expecting at the October 1 commencement of the 2012 fiscal year does not materialize . . . and much more.

Another way to look at the benefits of taxes and some of the things that get forgotten in all the talk of cutting them is 102 Things NOT To Do If You Hate Taxes. The first few:

1. Do not use Medicare.
2. Do not use Social Security
3. Do not become a member of the US military, who are paid with tax dollars.
4. Do not ask the National Guard to help you after a disaster.
5. Do not call 911 when you get hurt.
6. Do not call the police to stop intruders in your home.
7. Do not summon the fire department to save your burning home.
8. Do not drive on any paved road, highway, and interstate or drive on any bridge.
9. Do not use public restrooms.
10. Do not send your kids to public schools.


Of those supposedly untouchable areas that shouldn't be cut, Medicare is really the only one growing unreasonably out of control because healthcare costs keep skyrocketing and we're not doing anything about it. That leads to articles like Soylent Greenbacks: David Brooks Wants People to Die for Debt Reduction.

. . . Furthermore, he argues, the reason for these soaring costs is that very old and very sick people insist on clinging on to their miserable lives, when they ought to be civic-minded enough to kick off. It's not the insurance companies, which reap huge profits by serving as useless, greed-driven middlemen. It's not the drug companies, which are making out like bandits with virtually no government regulation. It's not the whole corrupt, overpriced system of medicine for profit, which delivers the 37th best health care in the world, according to the WHO, at more than twice the cost of the best (France). No. It's all about us greedy geezers. We're the ones who are placing an untenable burden on the younger, heartier citizenry, with our selfish desire to live a little longer. . . .

Or, in another vein, Why is the Most Wasteful Government Agency Not Part of the Deficit Discussion?

. . . Of course, I’m talking about the Pentagon. Any serious battle plan to reduce the deficit must take on the Pentagon. In 2011 military spending accounted for more than 58 percent of all federal discretionary spending and even more if the interest on the federal debt that is related to military spending were added. In the last ten years we have spent more than $7.6 trillion on military and homeland security according to the National Priorities Project. . . .

Just yesterday, in fact, I was talking to someone on leave from the military. He actually requested a new, less desirable assignment with a pay cut because he was tired of his assignment being sitting around for eight hours a day. Literally, because the reason for the assignment had not materialized, so his job was just to wait around until a new purpose emerged.

Since this is a very divided, partisan issue, I guess I'll include a bit of finger pointing and claims that my facts are truer. From What if You Held a Class War and No One Showed Up?

. . . But then, for about the thousandth time, my mind wanders over the past ten years. Republicans got the tax cuts they wanted. They got the financial deregulation they wanted. They got the wars they wanted. They got the unfunded spending increases they wanted. And the results were completely, unrelentingly disastrous. A decade of sluggish growth and near-zero wage increases. A massive housing bubble. Trillions of dollars in war spending and thousands of American lives lost. A financial collapse. A soaring long-term deficit. Sky-high unemployment. All on their watch and all due to policies they eagerly supported. And worse: ever since the predictable results of their recklessness came crashing down, they've rabidly and nearly unanimously opposed every single attempt to dig ourselves out of the hole they created for us. . . .

Along with waste, one of the big complaints about taxes is supposed unfair redistribution, taking from people who work hard for it and giving to people who don't deserve it. One of the "facts" being thrown around rampantly these days is that half the nation doesn't pay any taxes. That's not quite right, as The 51 Percent Zombie Lie goes into. Half don't end up paying federal income taxes. But, in addition to federal income taxes, Americans pay excise taxes, payroll taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, state income taxes, and various other taxes. . . . In one form or another, even poor Americans pay a fair chunk of their income in taxes. I would argue that even that most extreme example, illegal immigrants, can't avoid the majority of these taxes because of the way they're built into everyday life. A bit more of detail about that 51% number at Breaking Down the Lucky Duckies.

And there's all this outrage being generated about these so-called freeloaders, but why doesn't anyone seem to care about the fact that Amazon is able to beat the competition's prices by not having to pay state sales taxes? Don't think that's such a big deal? You should see all of the money they're pouring into efforts to make sure that doesn't change at Amazon's Scorched-Earth War Against the Rest of Us.

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