Yes, taxes are a burden – but they’re how we support our nation

THE OLYMPIANApril 15, 2012 

We published a letter to the editor this week by William Cosgrove who floated the idea of granting the right to vote only to people who pay taxes. In other words, if you aren’t contributing to the federal coffers, you don’t get a say in electing the people who spend our money.

It’s an interesting idea, and it got me thinking about some of the campaign rhetoric we’ve heard over the past several years. Based on that, you would think “tax” is a dirty three-letter word.

It’s no surprise that candidates attack taxes during a campaign. They were the focus of the congressional midterms in 2010, and a horse that many tea partiers who signed the no-new-tax pledge rode into office.

And no candidate expressed this viewpoint better than tea party queen and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin during her debate with Joe Biden. She said, “You recently said paying taxes is patriotic. In middle-class America, where I have been all my life, that is not considered patriotic.”

Think about that. If she’s right, then most Americans don’t believe it’s an act of support and loyalty to pay a fair share for our nation’s schools, parks, firefighters, roads, universities and so on.

There are, of course, many good middle-income American people who consider paying their taxes an act of patriotism yet, at the same, time have legitimate concerns about the inefficiencies of government.

If paying taxes is not patriotic, then what is it? When people wave signs saying “Support Our Troops,” what do they mean if not paying for the bulletproof vests, ammo and Stryker vehicles that keep our troops safe?

If you want better public schools and faster fire department response times, then you vote for levies and bonds, and essentially levy taxes upon yourself.

We can disagree on what programs or services we want to pay for with our taxes, and which of those are better provided by the private sector. We can disagree on how to collect the taxes, by income or consumer spending or whatever. We can disagree about whether the wealthiest 1 percent should pay more or even if paying taxes should determine who gets the right to vote.

But somewhere along the line, we seem to have forgotten the words of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, “Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.” Or, as someone put it to me the other night, “Taxes are the price we pay for membership in the Country Club of America.”

Both of them were saying the same thing: We should think of taxes as an investment in the standard of living to which we aspire.

ET CETERA

Just four days after writing that 72-year-old Oscar Soule had never caught a foul ball at the more than 750 major league games he’s attended, the Olympia baseball fanatic left a Tacoma Rainiers game with two. Soule didn’t technically catch them, as the balls merely landed in some empty seat near him and a friend, Stephen Bray, a former Olympian sports writer, picked them up. But it’s a start … Ever wonder what happens to Peeps after Easter? No, well the creative folks down at Olympia’s Timberline Library have and are displaying winners of the Peep Into My Favorite Book diorama contest for the next month, or until some curious child attempts to eat one … What makes a house a home? High school age students who can answer that question in a short essay could win a sizable scholarship from Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty. Their annual contest runs to May 26.

George LeMasurier, publisher of The Olympian, may be reached at 360-357-0206 or glemasurier@theolympian.com.

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