Paying taxes is probably not the feel good, holiday topic you were expecting, but it's all about perspective. Let's have have some help from those legendary, literary spirits.
Some form of taxation has been with us at least as long as recorded history. It has taken many forms and the proceeds have been for different uses. Simple taxes comprised of giving a portion of crops to the state. Other taxes have been a percentage of income, tax on goods, property, and necessities.
Some taxes went solely to benefit rulers and monarchs. Taxes evolved to pay for, what is deemed, the common good -- defense, infrastructure, education. Failure to pay one's assessment has resulted in fines, imprisonment, indenture (forced service), and even execution.
From the early 20th century to the present, United States citizens have been subject to the gamut of taxes. We are taxed on income, luxuries, necessities, property, and inheritance. Mandatory portions of our income are taken specifically for social programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance.
While monies collected continue to be for the common good, there was an increasing awareness that we have a responsibility to those at the bottom of the socio-economic scale. No one should have to go without the basic necessities of life.
Not only is this humane, but it actually makes good economic sense. If we offer a hand to the less fortunate, we can help them up to become productive members of society. Support in the present translates to hope for the future.
Gone are the debtors' prisons and workhouses brought to us by Charles Dickens, but there are still many who live below the accepted poverty level. Unfortunately, we are hearing an increasing amount of rhetoric from politicians which is all too Scrooge-like.
Our 113th Congress has gone home to celebrate the holidays in comfort and security without voting to extend unemployment benefits in a time where we are still experiencing 7 percent unemployment.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) opined: "When you allow people to be on unemployment insurance for 99 weeks, you're causing them to become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our economy." Does anyone want to try to support a family on the subsistence afforded by unemployment benefits? Must I also point out that dollars paid out to help those who are most in need are put right back into the economy -- leading to increased demand for goods, which then leads to increased jobs? Everyone benefits, including the economy. It's not just the right thing, it's the smart thing.
Nicholas Eberstadt wrote a book titled A Nation of Takers: America's Entitlement Epidemic. "Takers?" How about trying to feed your family on $1.40 per person/per meal? That's what the Supplemental Nutrition Benefits Assistance (SNAP) payments, on average, will be reduced to for 2014. Think about that while you're sipping your must-have $4.50 Peppermint Mocha Latte, this holiday season.
These views of Americans as "Takers," or "lazy" is just wrong -- especially in a period of economic combustibility. Paul Krugman explained:
This all makes sense in the Ayn Rand intellectual universe, where a handful of heroically greedy entrepreneurs are responsible for all that is good. And if you live in that universe, your dividing line between makers and takers isn't drawn at the point where people make enough to pay income taxes; everyone who isn't John Galt should be grateful for what the Galts do, and we're all takers by asking those heroes to pay any taxes at all.
I am strongly optimistic that common sense and the inherent goodness within us will win out over this temporary nostalgia for the "good old days" when the wealthy and powerful grew or retained their wealth -- the rest be damned.
How can we have a future if we don't feed, house and educate our young -- the most vulnerable members of our society? We need to reinvest in infrastructure. The Affordable Care Act is a step towards improving the health of the nation at large. A more reasonable path to higher education is inevitable.
Now, about the Joy of Paying Taxes: I'm neither stupid nor selfless -- I don't exactly like paying taxes. What I am, is hugely grateful that I am earning money and in a position to have to pay my share. We should not look at it as Uncle Sam reaching into our purses and taking from us. We are privileged to be able to share and contribute. Be aware of the tax message you teach your kids.
With a little guidance, even old Ebenezer Scrooge awoke as a man changed for the better. We, as a nation, need to examine our collective soul -- shift the paradigm from greed to unity. We will be a healthier, happier, safer, and more prosperous people in the long run.
God Bless Us, Everyone!
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