Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Taxing Situation

God I'm sick to death already of Republican tax talk. I know that this is the ultimate political cash cow in election season (and ours has started earlier than ever, doubtless a function of our current massive disaffection), but I'm sick of listening to it, sick that it works, sick that we allow it if it doesn't.

Here's the deal: nobody likes to pay taxes. Nobody. (Well, OK, I had a high school social studies teacher who claimed to like paying taxes because he was doing his part to enable the stuff of government to get done; but even at the time I assumed he was making a point to counter we kids' parents' bitching.) But it seems that neither is anybody ready to accept the consequences of government getting restructured in order for those taxes to become lower. Our current train wreck administration enacted big tax cuts for itself--that is, for rich white guys--and has scrambled to do everything possible to keep someone from rescinding the tax cuts after we're mercifully free of these goons. Some vague, Reagan-esque logic was employed to justify the good that would trickle down to all of us because rich white guys were getting a break. They weren't restructuring government: they were helping everybody by helping rich white guys. Then comes the trillion-dollar war on top of the huge revenue shortfall, and *voila!* we have a real fiscal calamity on our hands.

The folk wisdom is that W and crew are trying to FORCE a shrinking of government obliquely with this starve-the-beast strategy. But if that's the case, why not call it by its real name? If government has become too big and cumbersome, why not say openly that you're trying to address that issue? And if the goal is to reduce the tax burden on citizens, why do only rich folks matter? And why in the same breath force us to spend unimaginable billions on a war where no options were given? Is smaller government always going to involve unanticipated trillion-dollar expenditures? What changes do we see in our pay stubs from this strategy? None. This seems like a failed policy. If this is conservatism, then I think a lot of people should want a different movement to follow.

What we get instead is Democrats promising to fix our current, obviously unworkable balance sheet (but they can't say "tax increase" though it's clearly what needs to happen), and Republicans yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater--"Dems will raise your taxes!"--but without addressing meaningfully what they'll do instead to stop the bleeding. Fuck this noise. It's is a silly shell game where everyone pretends that government will continue in exactly the present form, but that we'll all get to pay less for it. It's just a cheap, bullshit means of pulling on the most obvious cords of self-interest.

Do I like the idea of paying fewer taxes? Sure I do. Lately I think I'm starting to sound like all the guys I work with when I bitch about the huge cut that government gets every single time money changes hands anywhere, and when I fly over the vast territories of the country and think that every square foot of this impossibly huge expanse pays into government coffers; yet all those endless dollars are not enough. So sure, I'd love to see a fundamental change (though I don't know how big a priority it is for me).

But taxes are the consequence of our system of government, of its size and structure, and of the many things we task our government to accomplish for us: national defense and health care and a safety net for the poor and public safety and keeping people from flying with too much shampoo and a zillion things (all of which require departments and offices and huge, bloated staffs). Taxes reflect THIS, not vice-versa. If we want to pay less in taxes, we must determine that government should be fundamentally differently tasked--and say so publicly. The only one who seems to be openly addressing these things (to the extent that I can keep myself focused on the dynamo of spin and hype) is Ron Paul (whose abandonment of his libertarian principles in seeking to outlaw a woman's right to an abortion, and his seeking of the Republican nomination make him a non-starter for me). Everybody else seems to be playing the shell game.

Meanwhile, I find myself trapped between my desire to know what the hell is going on, and my inability to listen to any of the actual candidates, who are busy saying largely meaningless things which can't in any case be counted upon.

I think that high school social studies teacher must feel wanting for a legacy about now.



GreenCanary said...

This election, I'm writing myself onto the ballot. If I got enough people to write me in, you think they'd notify me? As in, "Dear Green Canary, 400 people in the United States thought you'd make a good president and wrote you into the ballot. Congrats... but you still lost."

wunelle said...

Let's get real: if you can't list polytheistic ass among your attributes, you're never gonnna beat me.


GreenCanary said...

Dammit, wunelle! Kill my dreams, why don't you?!