Consider taxes as membership fees | As It Turns Out | February

No one joyfully shares their hard-earned money with the government, but paying taxes is still not a punishment.

“Taxes are what you pay to be an American,” writes George Lakoff, University of California Berkeley linguistics professor (and an author who has gotten my attention lately).

I certainly don’t want to pay any more than I have to pay, but I’ll pay my fair share — or my “membership fee,” as Lakoff calls it. I’ll know it’s necessary because those taxes pay for services desired and required by us for a fair and acceptable quality of life.

Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Taxes, after all, are dues that we pay for the privileges of membership in an organized society.”

Let’s look at where some basic taxes go and briefly imagine what life would be like if the services weren’t there:

• Education — an educated public benefits us and our children.

• Law enforcement — police, county sheriff deputies, state patrolmen, etc., are needed to respond to criminal activity, at the time we need them.

• Fire Department and emergency medical services — we need trained firefighters and medics to respond to fire and medical emergencies, at the time we need them.

• Transportation and infrastructure — we need to keep our roads and bridges safe and in good repair so that our school buses, law enforcement vehicles, and fire and emergency vehicles can get to where they need to be when they need to be there and so that you and I can get where we want to go when we want to go there.

Taxes are even more crucial when the nation is in recession, as we are now. Businesses, home loans and job security are all failing. The majority of Americans have decided our government should be able to step up and give people most affected by economic hard times a helping hand.

There are many conservatives who campaign emotionally against taxes without considering how any of these services will be funded. The American government has received the main source of its revenue by taxing the same things the British taxed ever since the Boston Tea Party, just without the British.

Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist, claimed in December that there are three main groups against health care reform.

First, there are what he calls the “tea party and death panel people,” who appear to be just half a bubble off. Then there are the “fiscal scolds” who openly protest rising debt, but who actually want no one getting social insurance. Third, there are some “progressives” who are so disappointed that the bill has been stripped down so far from it’s original public option form that they can’t settle for what’s left.

The idea of raising taxes for the health care reform bill has caused claims that our government is turning America into a socialist nation.

Is this socialism? That’s a good question for anyone who hasn’t taken the time to look at the meaning of socialism. From my corner of Kingston, America is still every inch a capitalist nation.

As I write this, President Obama and the House of Representatives are still debating the health care reform bill. Hopefully, by the time the paper is published it will have become law and effective funding for it will have been decided upon wisely.

I can’t pretend to have any answers to funding of the health care reform bill beyond raising taxes. It’s obvious the government must operate in a fiscally responsible manner according to the wishes of the people.

But it’s also obvious that it’s up to each of us to try as best we can to understand what the government does for us and how we pay for it.

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