Sunday, January 31, 2010

My Civic Duty

Is someone close to you a teacher? Soldier? Social worker? Cop? Librarian? Firefighter? Civil servant? Someone who manages, works with, or supports any of these people? Do your kids go to public schools? Have you ever called the police, taken a bus, mailed a letter, voted, or checked out a book at the library? Do you drive on roads? Do you claim to love America?

If you answer "yes" to any of these questions, then you should be eager to pay your taxes. Paying your taxes is patriotic. They are the dues you pay for living in a democracy.

I always find it ironic when Americans complain about paying taxes. Especially those on the political right who claim to love America. They'll say that America is the greatest country on Earth, but they'll be damned if they have to pay for it.

Why is the government taking MY money? It wouldn't be your money to begin with if the state didn't maintain the infrastructure necessary (education, laws, transportation, protection) for you to earn it. No one lives in a vacuum. It's only "your" money insofar as society allows it. Civilized people understand this. And do their part to support the system.


So, with my attitude that taxes are a good thing, you may understand that after filling out my taxes today, I feel a little guilty.

Due to the first-time homebuyer tax credit this year, I will be getting more money back from the federal government than I paid in taxes. This year, the government is paying me. I am not contributing at all to the federal budget.

I'm feeling a little guilty, but not enough to give any of the money back. I still have a mortgage to pay and home maintenance costs. And there's a reason why the government offered me this credit-- I did contribute to the economy.

It's just weird to me that I'm not contributing to the national budget this year. At least not directly.

It reminds me of the year I spent studying in Germany on a Fulbright Fellowship. At the time, I realized that every cent I'd ever paid in taxes was coming back to me, directly, in the federally funded stipend I got through "Die Kommission" to live there. Yeah, the program promoted peace and understanding among nations, blah blah blah, and I would be a better, informed citizen, yadda, yadda, yadda, but at the time it just felt a little funny to be living off the government like that.
Since that time I have paid the government back, and then some. Although, since I've always worked for libraries and colleges, a lot of my pay has come from a combination of state and local taxes. So there's a complicated formula of where the money has come from and gone to. But I've bought things, like a house, and a car, and stuff to put in my house and car. So where ever my money comes from, I put it back into the economy.

And I don't try to get out of paying my taxes. Because I support my country.


I think it's very telling that when I tried to search for images about the benefits of paying taxes, all I could find was a bunch of cartoons and signs with the same message over and over again: The evil greedy government wants your money so it can waste it. The image of a the tax man holding someone by the ankles and shaking out all their money is the clear winner. I saw at least a dozen different examples of this.

Apparently, my attitude toward paying taxes is a minority one. It's not the first time I've been out of the mainstream. And it probably won't be the last.


Dan S said...

It is an interesting phenomenom that those who claim to love their country the most are the most against paying their taxes. It's like claiming to love your family, but then having a tantrum every time anyone asks you to help out around the house.

Tim said...

Maybe such people love their family because they don't expect them to help out around the house?