Friday, 14 November 2008

Brave New World (of Taxes)

I was listening to the radio on my way home last night, and Rahm Emmanuel was being interviewed. Mr Emmanuel, the new proposed Chief of Staff for our incoming President, made a comment about how forced "volunteerism" will teach young Americans what it means to be an American. Now, setting aside the obvious, Orwell-style problem with such definitions of volunteerism, or even that forcing people to serve the State is somehow compatible with being an American, I am struck by the idea of just what it *does* mean to be an American. Is it participation? Is it contributing to the general well-being? What, exactly?

I was listening to the radio on my way home last night, and Rahm Emmanuel was being interviewed. Mr Emmanuel, the new proposed Chief of Staff for our incoming President, made a comment about how forced "volunteerism" will teach young Americans what it means to be an American.

Now, setting aside the obvious, Orwell-style problem with such definitions of volunteerism, or even that forcing people to serve the State is somehow compatible with being an American, I am struck by the idea of just what it *does* mean to be an American. Is it participation? Is it contributing to the general well-being? What, exactly?Then today, I saw a datum from the Tax Foundation, a think tank in Washington who advocate for various tweaks to the tax code. (www.taxfoundation.org)According to their data, in 2006, approximately 1/3 of filers, 45.6 million, were ultimately responsible for *no* income tax. That number will rise in 2009 to 47 million. Under President Elect-Obama's plan, the number will jump to 63 million. Yes; 44 per cent of all filers will not be responsible, at all, to contribute via income tax to the running of our country.

Does this strike anyone else as strange?

f we all rise and fall together, then what is it, exactly, we are asking of the bottom half of our citizenry so far as keeping the government going? Should we not ask that they contribute, if even a token amount, to this?

Anyone who knows me knows that I am sceptical to taxation as social policy, but I am also not a zealot or an anarchist. The government does provide services- services that apparently a majority of us wants. And like it or not, those things cost money. Is it really too much to ask that all of us who think that these services are worth while pony up something to pay for them?

I am no economist, but I understand one fundamental truth: the DEMAND for something for which there is no apparent PRICE will be unbounded. And nothing better crystalises our real values - not those things we say we like or pretend are important, but those things that empirically are valued - than what we are willing to spend.

If these programmes are valuable, if there are truly shared burdens, then let's all answer the call.

Put it on someone else's bill just ain't going to cut it any more.
Post a Comment