Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In This Country, Taxes Are Voluntary

This arrived in yesterday's email:

The intent is to demonstrate Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's utter cluelessness by getting him to state that paying taxes in the United States is a voluntary act and not a coerced transaction by which unwilling Americans are forced to transfer their hard-earned dollars to undeserving welfare recipients. In the video, a hapless Reid makes the mistake of giving a technical answer to a gotcha question.

(Note: For any Palinistas reading, the interviewer in this video asks gotcha questions, which -- no matter how much you think to the contrary -- differ from a straightforward inquiry about which magazines Reid reads. Also, I'm not defending Reid's ineffectual response: He ought to be able to handle the questions. I do wonder why he consented to an interview with this doofus in the first place.)

The plain fact is, though, that in this country we choose to tax ourselves. If enough people decided that we should no longer tax ourselves, they would elect candidates who would eliminate taxation (along with public safety, national defense, public education, roads, basic scientific research, what little public health system we have, and so forth). I'm not unsympathetic to the dilemma of tax dollars going to undeserving recipients. If someone could figure out a way for me to earmark my taxes so that none go to the Iraq war, no-bid Halliburton contracts, and a bloated military, I'd listen with open ears. 

In the absence of that, though, I and everyone else are stuck with an imperfect social contract under which we all agree to pay taxes distributed -- for better or worse -- by our elected representatives. This is called "taxation with representation," and we fought a war to establish that particular practice as a right of the people. If I don't like what's happening, I vote to change it. I'm also free to contribute time and money to that end. The field of play is hardly even, but it's the one we've got.

My message to right-wingers like the interviewer above is this: You had eight years in power and you screwed up. Completely. Both ideology and competence of your standard bearers are discredited. And the best you can do now is to ask Harry Reid a couple of cheap shot questions?...

New Orleans' recovery requires "unconventional thinking":
New Orleans offers an unprecedented opportunity to find more effective ways to make urban coastal areas safer around the world, Törnqvist and Meffert say.
“A concerted effort to restore and transform a coastal urban center whose functioning is inextricably tied to its surrounding natural ecosystem can only lead to new knowledge and understanding that will prove critical once comparable conditions confront Shanghai, Tokyo and New York City,” the authors write.

Say what you will about the publicity surrounding celebrities and charity (and I don't say much), Brad Pitt's Make It Right New Orleans project meets with the authors' approval...

Over at Mouse Medicine, a grandfather writes to his grandchildren about his trip from Connecticut to attend the inauguration of President Obama:
I won’t describe the swearing-in ceremony since I’m sure you saw it for yourself. What I will tell you is that the emotions of all the people around us were on display. Families hugged, children sat on shoulders and tears of happiness were shed, including more than a few from Papa. We hung on every word and didn’t leave when it was over. No one wanted to leave. Everyone wanted to feel the way they felt at that moment forever. If only we could.

R. I. P., John Updyke. If you've never read his classic New Yorker essay "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu," treat yourself now. You don't have to be a fan of baseball, the Red Sox, or Ted Williams to appreciate writing this good:
Fenway Park, in Boston, is a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark. Everything is painted green and seems in curiously sharp focus, like the inside of an old-fashioned peeping-type Easter egg. It was built in 1912 and rebuilt in 1934, and offers, as do most Boston artifacts, a compromise between Man's Euclidian determinations and Nature's beguiling irregularities...
Longtime Boston Globe sportswriter Bob Ryan remembers how the famous essay came about and contributes his own assessment of it...

Dirty Linen polls its readers as to what Cajun/Zydeco album should get the Grammy. Citizen K. is fer sure down with Cedric Watson. Watch Cedric paint the Blue Moon red:


SparkleFarkle said...

Just got word of Updike's passing. Good night, Rabbit, we won't forget you.

Roy said...

Ooh! Zydeco! Yeah you right! But Cedric Watson is a new one to me. I'll have to listen to some more of his stuff.

And isn't it boring when those dweebs trot out the old "income tax is voluntary" thing? I didn't realize that was Republicans, though; I thought that was the favorite bee-in-the-bonnet of the really hardcore Libertarians. Although, come to think of it, the old John Birchers used to harp on that theme a good bit, too.

Another good post, K. Keep up the good work.

Renegade Eye said...

In several Texas cities, because of the budget when Bush was governor, the street lights shut down at 6pm.

The conservatives never learned, that even to push a conservative program, you need government.

John Hayes said...

Great post as usual: loved the Updike essay. As you may or may not have seen, Jacqueline T Lynch of "Another Old Movie Blog" (I know you keep up with that excellent blog, too) awarded me the Premio Dardos earlier today. As part of that award, I get to choose 5 blogs that also are deserving-- not hard to find 5, but hard to find just 5! Anyway, I'm happily passing the award on to you-- you can grab the award jpeg over at RFB from today's post.

Here's the scoop:
"The Dardos Award is given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing. These stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing affection and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web."

The rules:
“1) Accept the award by posting it on your blog along with the name of the person that has granted the award and a link to his/her blog.
2) Pass the award to another five blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgement, remembering to contact each of them to let them know they have been selected for this award.”

Pleasure to pass it your way-- by the way: "Great Expectations?"


Anonymous said...

You are forgetting one fundamental truth, that the majority must not be able to vote away the rights of the minority. Even if we vote higher taxes, how can one morally justify taxing some more than others. That means that the rich, the minority, must forefit their rights and wealth to the less rich, the minority. In essence this is slavery, where the majority, by nature of their numbers can decide the fate of the minority.

K. said...

How do the most affluent justify paying the same tax rate as the most poor? And since the wealthy are the ones who benefit most from our society, it seems to me that they ought to be more than willing to do their fair share to keep it prosperous.

Anyway, we're talking about taxes, not rights. Arguing that a progressive tax system means that one sacrifices liberty as one accumulates wealth is sophistry. Plainly, the wealthier one is, the freer one is to take full advantage of the benefits of a liberal society: To come and go as one pleases, to ensure the education of one's children, to obtain the finest medical, to have a financial impact on the political system, and on and on.

I also point out that the actually pay lower tax rates than most people because of capital gains income and because their social security payroll tax tops out at $102,000.

Really, I can't think of a single good reason why Bill Gates should pay the same tax rate as I do on a $100 of income when he has so many more hundreds than I do. Incidentally, he likely agrees with me, as the Gates family are prominent champions of the progressive income tax and the estate tax.