Friday, 15 April 2005
|0838 - "Tax" is a dirty word|
Today's Minneapolis Star-Tribune NetLets column (where they publish letters they feel need exposure, but don't make it into the print edition) starts off with a letter berating people who cheat on their taxes. I've got no quibble with that - if you owe tax, you should pay it - but the writer's argument holds little water with me, starting with the very first sentence: "Somehow, taxes have become a dirty word in America."
Guess what, Ms. Nelson? "Tax" is a dirty word. It's a euphemism for government theft at gunpoint, in the name of doing something someone else thinks is important enough to justify it. (Don't believe me about being theft at gunpoint? Try not paying your taxes sometime. I guarantee the people who come to take your property will be armed.) It's e a necessary evil, but that it's necessary makes it no less evil - and mandates that we minimize the evil as much as possible.
People cheat on their taxes because, unlike Ms. Nelson's contention, they don't believe that we get our money's worth with our tax dollars. What we get is waste and inefficiency, and our money goes down lots of ratholes to benefit people that do not contribute anything just so they'll keep voting for the ones who give them their bread and circuses.
There are a very few things that should be done by government, at the cost of taking the fruits of the citizens' labors by force, because they are best done that way. Our government is well past that point. Until we do get what we pay for with our taxes, we'll have lots of folks who feel good about cheating. I don't cheat on my taxes - it's too easy to get caught and the penalties are too severe - but I understand those who do.
current mood: irritated
I'm not going to argue about whether government spends our money wisely. I will argue, however, that the vast majority of tax-cheaters is NOT motivated by that argument. They'd just rather have the money themselves. Even if the government was spending it on things that no sane person could argue with, they'd rather have the money themselves.
In short, they break the law because they're greedy. Not because they feel civil disobedience is noble.
Whether or not taxation is evil, I choose to "render unto Caesar" cheerfully, and on the great balance sheet in the sky I believe my payment appears in the "GOOD" column.
I'm not sure that it's necessarily why people cheat on their taxes, but it most certainly is, as you imply, the reason taxes have become a dirty word in the U.S.
The use of taxes as a social engineering tool, rather than a revenue tool, is what irritates a lot of people, but I'm not sure it's what prompts cheating. I'm irritated by it, but I pay my taxes honestly.
Tax cheating/tax defiance predates this, of course, cf. The Whiskey Rebellion, which had other origins (rather closer to the force argument you mention).
People try to get out of paying their taxes because they're selfish and greedy. It's that simple. There's really nothing else to it. It has nothing to do with whether or not they feel the tax money is going to good use--if that many people actually cared about the economic welfare of the country, there'd be an undeniably powerful movement underway by now to shrink the federal budget and all the taxes we pay. But there's not. These kind of people only care about things as it pertains to them, and as such, they don't pay their taxes, because they'd just rather have the money themselves (though they're more than content to benefit from our nation's defense and our schools and our roads and our post offices and etc. etc.)
If you caught all these people and forced them to choose between paying up on their taxes or truly having to live without all the things their tax dollars would pay for, most of them would probably rather pay taxes. People are just greedy in this country and want it both ways.