By Edwin Cooney
Now that tax season is over for most of us, it’s probably a good time to evaluate our personal feelings as citizens and taxpayers.
So now that you’ve paid your taxes, do you feel more like a citizen or do you feel, for the most part, like a mere “taxpayer.”
Therein resides the second question. Is there a difference between feeling like a citizen and feeling like a taxpayer?
Third, have you just invested in your country or have you been merely fleeced by it? In other words, are you a driver or a victim of American society?
It is, of course, human nature to resist the tax collector, but a lot of things are indicative of human nature. It is human nature to love, hate, procrastinate, excuse, rationalize, resent, share, give and complain just to name a few human tendencies both unproductive and productive, negative and positive.
The ultimate question is the historical and typical American inquiry: “so, where do we go from here?”
A lot of us for a lot of reasons (mostly having to do with concern for the security of our individual social status and pocketbooks) are sure that many other Americans are receiving a financial benefit for which our tax dollars are paying. Even worse, we believe we weren’t consulted about making such gift payments. Even worse than that, we’re convinced that the recipients of our gifts don’t even appreciate our financial sacrifices on their behalf. Worst of all, we’re probably right in that conclusion.
I think the healthiest way to “...go from here” is our acceptance of several basic truths, some of which may be rather hard to swallow.
TRUTH NUMBER ONE. Although not everyone pays income taxes, everyone does pay some kind of tax. We’ve been assured by some socio/political ideologists that “welfare queens” and deadbeat dads don’t pay taxes, but that’s false. If they smoke, drink, consume fast foods, purchase automobiles and the gasoline required to drive them, attend ballgames or purchase homes, they pay taxes. They can’t avoid doing so, due to the next truth.
TRUTH NUMBER TWO. You can be absolutely sure that one of the reasons commodity prices are as high as they are in Twenty-first Century America is because producers and merchants who pay income taxes inevitably pass that tax burden on. That’s the way it should be, of course. It could hardly be otherwise.
TRUTH NUMBER THREE. The rich and the poor have one thing in common: they both vote for politicians who tell them what they want to hear about taxes. People with a comfortable income want to be told by their elected representatives that they are justified in resisting taxes in order to preserve their “pile.” Even more, politicians assure them that they will assist them in that effort even if it means shutting down the government to make it happen. Politicians elected by the poor and those less well off know that people want to be told that there are resources out there that can alleviate their poverty. The politicians want people to think that those financial resources will only be procured if we elect them.
TRUTH NUMBER FOUR. The rich and the poor are permanent elements of society. We need rich people and the rich, although they don’t realize it (let alone appreciate it), need the less well off to sustain their status. The medium and low-income earners in society constitute the vitally important laboring and market forces that ultimately sustain the rich. Donald Trump, the Koch brothers, Warren Buffett and others could never have become as successful as they are if it weren’t for the spending power of “the masses.”
TRUTH NUMBER FIVE. Too many of us have surrendered to the idea that success or the lack of it has primarily to do with personal morality. No one, of course, much notices the sins of the idle rich since their sins are usually absorbed by the resources and mores of their cloistered societies. The sins of the rest of us, on the other hand, are noticed and judged by an open and exploitive public.
TRUTH NUMBER SIX. The healthiest feeling in the wake of April 15th ought to be pride. Too many of us have been encouraged to believe that one serves America most nobly as a soldier. With all due respect to the soldier, I assert that the citizen who sustains this, the most equitable of all human societies, with his love, labor, constructive concern and taxes, makes America worthy of our tears, our fears and our cheers!
Even more than the soldier, Mr. and Mrs. American taxpayer, you are our hero. If you’d only allow yourself to act the hero, proud, yet humble and self-effacing, you would feel like the hero you truly are!