April 04, 2006

Taxation Without Representation

Geov Parrish asks the question: Why pay taxes? He points out that, under the current Patriot Act, it is now illegal to provide money to organizations that practice terrorism. So should US citizens refuse to pay their federal taxes as a matter of national security?
At the local, state, and especially federal level, we now have a political system where low, middle, and even upper middle income people get far less back in services and benefits from the federal government than we pay in. Meanwhile, the extremely wealthy -- the top one percent -- get far more. Military spending, non-military corporate welfare, and interest on the national debt alone accounts for more than 60 percent of the discretionary part of the federal budget each year. Public opinion surveys consistently reveal preferences for spending less on the military and more on social programs. The schism between public opinion polls and the leadership of both major parties regarding what to do in Iraq is an obvious example. Meanwhile, as we've seen this year, programs for the poor and needy are always the first to be cut.

The impact of how this money is and isn't spent is even greater when considering how much money isn't in the budget in the first place because of what the rich don't pay. Corporations and high-income folks are getting more tax breaks each year, while already-inadequate social spending continues to be gutted and more and more prisons get built to hold the people who can't cope.

The very rich are getting richer while many of our wages have been stagnant or dropping for years. Governments -- whose office holders are funded largely by the wealthy, in both parties -- are one of the primary mechanisms for this wealth transfer. The rich get richer, and a relatively tiny portion of their proceeds are then reinvested into purchasing politicians and policies to ensure an even more beneficial tax, legal, and regulatory structure. The ordinary U.S. citizen today has little meaningful choice or input in almost any important public policy issue at the state level, and none at all nationally.


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