Thursday, April 7, 2011

Who Will Make the Sacrifice?

The national deficit is rising. State deficits are rising. I’m not a math expert, but I understand why it happens. The government spends more money than it collects.

There are two solutions. The first is to collect more revenue. The other is to stop spending.

The most palatable solution for your average shmoe is to simply spend less and not raise taxes. It seems so simple. No one wants to pay more taxes, so let’s just cut everything.

Everyone has to make a sacrifice. We all agree that sacrifices must be made. The problem is that everyone feel s that everyone else needs to make a sacrifice. “Don’t make me give up my benefits or pay taxes. That’s for the people who don’t deserve what they get.”

In Wisconsin the governor decided that the highest income residents of the state were making too much of a sacrifice. They needed a break, so he gave them a giant tax cut. The next thing he knew he was faced with a giant budget shortfall. No one said the wealthiest state residents should consider giving up their tax cuts and pay the taxes they had been paying all along to redress this deficit. No. Instead the governor said, “Let’s make it harder for public employees to make more money or receive more benefits.”

Are public employees worthy of what they receive? Do they deserve benefits? Do they deserve the right to protest against their employers if they feel they are being paid or treated unfairly? The government of Wisconsin would say no. Non-government employees say no. It seems the belief is that is they don’t deserve it. Their jobs are expendable. They are underworked and overpaid. Let’s make them sacrifice so the rest of us don’t have to pay taxes.

How many of you would want their jobs ? Could you be a teacher? Could you be a social worker? Could you be a psychologist in a state-run mental hospital? How would you feel walking a mile in those shoes? What makes you think government service jobs are so easy that they’re not worthy of the pay you think they receive?

Throughout US history it is has been the taxes on the wealthiest that have built our infrastructure and our services. This seems unfair from a purely economic standpoint. Why is one group paying for the services for everyone? As the government has begun to offer more benefits and more services, it seems even more unfair. It almost seems like justice to put more tax burden on the middle class. It is the middle class that is at risk for having a catastrophic event cause them to become dependent on government assistance. It is the middle class that wants the best public schools. As for the lower classes, they obviously aren’t working hard enough, so they really don’t deserve anything, right?*

But let’s look at it from a less selfish standpoint. Everyone uses the infrastructure – rich or poor. Everyone benefits from an educated populace. Taxing the top tier of wealth in society has never resulted in a shift of wealth. The rich can pay taxes and still be rich.

How much money does anyone realistically want? If you have multiple homes, travel first class around the world, have a designer wardrobe, a garage full of high-end cars, and the knowledge that you will never want for any of the basics in life, how much more do you want? You live in a country that allowed you to amass wealth because of the freedoms it granted you. Why not give back? How much worse off would you be if you paid your fair share? You may benefit as much as the poor lazy slobs you claim are sponging off the taxes.

Corporations are now moving overseas to avoid paying any taxes at all.
American companies with American leaders are now ceasing to be American. These are companies that generate billions of dollars and yet they refuse to give any of it back. They don’t want to support the country that gave them a home. The CEOs will tell you they have no loyalty to their country. Their loyalty is to their profits and their shareholders. I suppose there is nothing morally wrong with that. Corporations are entitled to make as much legal profit as they like.

What I would like to know is why those of us who question this system, who say this kind of unchecked capitalism might not be ethically sound, are considered un-American? If I say I think it’s wrong to leave the country to avoid paying taxes, then I’m an evil socialist/communist who hates America. Somehow it is un-American to question companies who will say outright that they have no loyalty to America at all.

So no one will pay taxes. The top 1% of wealthholders will avoid paying taxes at all. The middle class doesn’t want to pay for the people they believe to be freeloaders, knowing that they might be a few paychecks or medical bills away from being freeloaders themselves. In an effort to make the budget balance, the Americans who need their services cut the least, will be the ones who suffer the most, the ones who have the least amount of power: children, the elderly, the disabled.

So even though all of us agree that something needs to be done to save this country, who out there is willing to make the sacrifices needed to do it?  Many a patriot has said he will lay down his life for his country.  Who among us will be a little less dramatic and lay out some cash?

*Just wanted to check that you read the sarcasm in that sentence.

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