Sunday, April 03, 2016

Paying Taxes

I have paid my taxes, once again.

I am all for the payment of taxes, by the way.  This is not a whine about how eeevil the government is for taxing us. I like living in a place with roads that are paved, and water that is (often) clean, with decent schools and social safety nets.

In fact, I wouldn't mind if the taxes were higher, and the social benefits were better.

For instance: when we lived in Charlotte, NC, we had an amazing public library system, and amazing public parks. This was because the taxes were a bit higher.

But was it worth it?  Absolutely.  We almost never had to buy books in Charlotte -- the library always had whatever I was looking for, and when they didn't, they had an online form.  I could request that they buy the book I wanted. The library would buy it.  Then they would tell me -- via email -- that they had bought it, and that they were shipping it to my branch library so I could borrow it.

Compare that to the local library, which has the best librarians, and beautiful buildings, but almost no books.  It's very rare that when I look for a book in their holdings that they own it.  What does this mean for me, personally?  Well, I've bought more books per year -- spent more of my own money -- than anywhere else I've ever lived.

And that's fine, you know.  I have enough money to buy books, and what else would I spend it on? Shoes? (Bwahaha!)

But what about the huge population of Fort Smith that can't afford to buy books?  That's most of this city, most of this county -- 15% of us live under the poverty line, and the median income here is 32,000/year.  You don't buy many books when you're having trouble making rent. Nearly a quarter of our children live below the poverty line.

When I was a kid, we didn't have much money.  But I did live in New Orleans, which had good libraries.  (I also had a mother who would spend what little money she had on books.) If it hadn't been for my ready access to those libraries, I'm not sure I'd be a professor now.

Well, what about the children of Fort Smith?  What are we doing for them?  Saving a couple of bucks in taxes a year, at what cost?

I donate money to the local parks, and I donate books to the library.  And if every citizen who had the means did the same -- donated freely, to every good and necessary civic cause, without being taxed -- then sure, who would need taxes?

But no, people won't do that. People never did, despite the revisionist history you sometimes hear anti-statists spinning.  That's why we instituted taxes in the first place.

So this is not a whine about OMG I had to pay my TAXES.

This is a statement: I paid my taxes.  Yeah, they were high.  But if they were higher, this would be a better country, and the lives of everyone in it would be better.

That's a price I'm willing to pay.


Contingent Cassandra said...


Unknown said...

I used to have bumper sticker that said "Freedom isn't free, so stop whining & pay your taxes". Got many a 'thumbs up' from a wide variety of people - bikers & truck drivers were always a surprise, but very welcome indeed!

delagar said...

Oh, I love that bumper sticker!

I may have to hunt one down.

Anonymous said...

DH and I are going to miss the blue-state library here most of all when we return from leave. :/ There are so many books and an extensive system to obtain what they don't have.

Rosa said...

in one of Kat Kincade's books about the intentional community Twin Oaks, she talks about this on a very small scale - every year, they had to decide what to do with the community's money. Dole it out to the people? People like that, but it was very small amounts divided up like that, and mostly people spent it on short lived perishable goods (it's an old book, her example was everyone could get a Walkman. Or invest in the community? If you put in sidewalks with this year's money, you'll have sidewalks for a long time. But it has to be a balance between the two - if people never get their pittance, they leave. But if you never put in sidewalks, people get tired of having muddy feet and leave too.

It seems like the people who get more by pooling money via taxes than they'd ever have to spend on our own are such a majority, it ought to be easy to raise taxes. And yet it's really hard. We live in a great city with a lot of services and pay relatively high taxes for them, but I wouldn't trade for less services - I'd love to see more taxes and better services and I vote that way every time I get the chance.

delagar said...

That sounds like a writer I need to read.

I vote for more taxes and more services every time I get the chance, too. But here in America, the anti-tax/anti-government messaging is so strong, it's hard to get voters to hear any other message.