Are Taxes Evil?

The roads we drive on, the Medicare that helps senior citizens, the garbage that is collected every week – we all know the source of funding for these services – the taxes assessed and collected by the government, paid for by you and I.

In today’s political climate, there’s no way in hell a candidate would be caught dead calling for an increase in taxes. We’ve all been trained since Nixon’s first campaign to repeat the mantra: tax cuts good, tax increases bad.

But the worldwide financial crisis has changed things considerably. America’s taxpayers bailed out not just America’s largest banks, but quite possibly, the world’s economy. Before all the knee jerk reaction starts about how the government overstepped its bounds, let’s remember who was frantically calling for this governmental action – bank CEO’s, leading investors, leadership of both political parties and the President.

Like roads, Medicare and garbage collection, this use of good old American tax dollars was not only helpful, it was critical.

Do we need to make government more transparent, efficient and accountable? God knows, the answer is yes. But it’s time to acknowledge the appropriate role for government and then work together to make its services more responsive.

Should the government take a greater role in health care? Absolutely. If you didn’t like the financial meltdown, wait til you see the return premium payers are getting from insurance companies.
Should the government take a greater role in mandating – yes, mandating – stricter environmental laws? Absolutely. It doesn’t seem like carbon-emitting industries are going to do it themselves.

Taxes, and the services the government provides with those taxes, help create civil society. They force us to debate about what common priorities should be, and argue about which elected leaders’ priorities we agree with more. They bring us together to demand more accountability for our tax dollars and make us think about the future and what the needs of our children and children’s children will be. And most importantly, they create a counterweight – a balance – to the check of an unfettered free market, which has proven over and over again that if left alone, will allow greed to become the primary organizing principle.

Let’s put to rest the debate over whether we want a role for government, and shift into the 21st century debate about what we want that role to be.

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