Tuesday, April 15, 2008

proves how little i really understand taxes

Relative to the services that you receive from the government, do you feel you pay too much in taxes? Explain.

So begins the project known as Thinking Homeschoolers in which participants blog concerning the current question. You can read other entries HERE.

The following is my rambling, probably often disjointed, view of the question. I will admit openly and up front that I'm almost the last person to ask for an intelligent discourse on taxes, how they are collected and how they are spent. Where I lack in knowledge I overflow in opinion.

In a sense I don't feel that we are getting certain services that we should be getting that would be paid for by our taxes. In many areas I feel that we do get adequate services for the taxes we pay. At the same time, I feel that many of the services for which we pay through our tax dollars should be completely changed.

Many of the other posts that have already been added to the Thinking Homeschoolers project mention schools, a service for which most of us pay without getting any of the benefits. Some of the homeschoolers use online charter school options, so it's arguable that they are getting those benefits. The utopian ideal of school that festers in my brain would first of all not be mandatory. It would exist to provide education for those that choose to use the service, and it would be available for anyone at any age to use the service when they were ready for it. That's a system I would happily pay for.

Medical care in our country is a very unfunny joke, and I don't only mean for the people like my family who have no medical insurance. My ideas would certainly cause many people to scream socialism, but I don't understand why anyone could think we don't have a right to basic medical care. Just being born, to me, should provide the right to be able to have regular medical, dental and vision screenings giving us the ability to spot potential problems and fix them early enough to avoid the high prices we face when something is allowed to grow worse.

The continuously failing war on drugs is a sponge that can never be full of our money no matter how much we throw at it. The very idea that we are ever going to fully prohibit people from finding ways to self medicate and/or tilt their brain a little is laughable. Since the very first human first drank the intoxicating grain brew and liked the effect we have tried to duplicate it, and along the way we've found increasingly interesting ways to achieve a broad array of highs and drunks.

It would be stupid of me to not recognize that many of the drugs people choose to use are extremely dangerous and addictive, but I don't believe our government should be using our money to address this particular moral issue. By decriminalizing most drugs and legalizing others we would free up a huge cash resource that is currently being spent on more cops, more weapons used by the cops, more jails and would allow that money to flow into programs designed to study, understand and treat addiction and the people who become addicted. We make criminals of people who need help, and we incarcerate them, insuring that they will not only not get help but will exit the system in worse condition than when they entered, more likely than not to reoffend and reenter the system.

Legalizing certain drugs would also allow for their sale, much the same as with alcohol and tobacco. Taxing these would create new tax revenues that could help to fund medical care for all as well as our new school system.

Corporate subsidies just don't make sense to me and never have. If you have a solid business plan and run your business intelligently and provide a product or service that people want or need then you don't need the government holding your hand and slipping you money to stay afloat. Having said that I do feel that it is often a good idea for government to look at taxes and business and help when it's appropriate.

My town is in long range discussion of TIF's or Tax Increment Financing which basically allows certain businesses, usually developers, to temporarily hold onto some of what they would be paying in property taxes in order to feed that money back into the business. Because of well used TIF's our downtown has, in recent years, seen a number of new businesses open. We have several buildings that were once sitting empty and abandoned and are now newly remodeled as condos and stores and restaurants. We have a growing population downtown that is breathing new life into what was once a dead area, pretty to drive through with nothing to do. There is now excitement and reason to go downtown more than once a year. The TIF's were part of what helped all this to happen, but now other developers want a piece of the pie, and they want to do an end run around how business should operate in order to line their pockets and increase their own profit. I'm happy that my tax money can help revitalize our downtown, but I certainly have no interest in helping someone pave over a wetland or flatten yet another ridge in order to build yet another mall. I certainly am not interested in allowing yet another big box to abandon their big box in order to build a bigger big box down the street. We already have enough empty big boxes.

In the interest of keeping this from growing too much larger and keeping me from talking even more nonsense out my ass I'll try to bring all this into a tight little bundle. Do I think we are getting our money's worth? Sort of, but I also think that all too often the taxes flow into the wrong hands. It's not that we pay too much in taxes for too little service, it's that we are paying too much for all the wrong services and too little for what would really benefit your basic, average tax payer.