Call me a communist, but taxes make me feel all warm and fuzzy. I like the idea of everyone in America sharing what they have and working together for the common good. Of course I’m not naive: I know that not everyone pays their fair share, and a great deal of tax revenue is mismanaged or used to better the lives of only a select few. But when the majority of Americans make a significant contribution, amazing things can happen!
There are two ways to look at where your tax money goes.
It gets mixed in with all the other revenue and I pay a little bit for everything.
In this view, I pay a tiny amount of money towards every program that receives tax funding, whether I use it or not. This view makes me feel good because I like knowing that I helped pay for elementary school computers, college grants, the highway construction on the south side, my brother’s military helicopter, my dad’s social security check, the rehabilitation of a convict I’ve never met, and a million other worthwhile programs. This also means that only a very tiny amount of my money was frittered away on wasteful spending. Less than a penny of my cash is going to help build that bridge to nowhere in Alaska! That’s okay, and I can always replace it with the penny I find on the sidewalk.
It all goes to pay for one thing I value, and none of my money goes to things I don’t benefit from.
In this view, I have to choose one destination for my cash. It’s here that I start to really see how good a deal I’m getting. Should I choose to believe my money is all going to clear the snow from my street? Or that I paid for the new books I read at the library? I can believe my money is being spent on the cleanup of the graffiti next door, or that it’s all being generously donated to the local animal shelter that rescued my kitties from the street. When I start to add up the sheer expense of all the benefits I’m getting, I can quickly see that I am getting far more than I paid for. If I had to shovel my own street, acquire my own library, clean the graffiti off the building next door and pay for hundreds of kitties kibble, I would certainly be exhausted and flat broke! And with this view, I can only assume that the bridge to nowhere was paid for by the idiot senator who proposed it.
When everyone rows in the same direction, it’s really amazing how far we can go. I like paying taxes because I enjoy the feeling of being part of a big community full of helping hands. The tax system isn’t perfect, but I’m happy with it.
Big Huge Note:
I am aware that there are gross inequalities in the fairness of our tax system, and that wasteful spending of tax revenue is a shame. I think every system should be continuously aiming to improve, and that our elected officials should be accountable for the failures of the tax system. That said, I still really do enjoy paying taxes and doing my part to make America a better place.