Michael Battalio

Friday, September 06, 2013

My politics (part 2): Does Government Do Good with Our Money?

        Let’s stop to consider what the government actually provides for us. It gives us infrastructure, the roads, bridges, tunnels we use everyday. It gives us defense of our borders and civil security through the police, firefighters, and other emergency personnel. It gives us new technologies through NASA, NIH, CDC, NSF, NOAA, etc. The list goes on. We needs these services for society to function in a way that allows all of us to prosper. So yes, the government does good. The problem with government is that it does more than what we all can agree on as "good". The balancing factor is that I pay taxes for programs I don't support but you might like, and you pay taxes for programs I do support but you might not. The point being that we can't all get what we want. Your money is inevitably paying for something you don't want it to pay for. That is the price you must pay to have your taxes pay for the things you do want them to pay for. Think of it as a tax on your tax. So the question becomes how much tax are you willing to pay to get what you want knowing that some of the money taken from you goes to what you don't want.

        People are selfish, including me. You see that everywhere. The rich want lower taxes, not because they are afraid they’ll become poor due to the drain on their wealth, but because they are selfish. They “worked” hard for their money, and they should keep it. Where “worked” means “were lucky” in some way. (This is a topic for another post, but everyone is lucky in some way.) Comparatively they get very little of what they want from their tax money because they don't use many of the services the government provides to the rest of us. The poor want more social services so that they don’t live in poverty. Conservatives would call that selfish because they should pull themselves up and simply work harder. The poor get a lot of services off their tax burden. And then there are people like me in the middle. We want both; we want lower taxes and more governmental services. What’s a government to do?

        The question becomes how do we balance what the rich want from government with what the poor need from government, keeping in mind that the rich are rich because the rest of us have enough income to buy whatever product or service they sell. I'm not an economist, so I can't comment on what the exact rate of progressive income tax should be. However, when discussing taxes, the rich (and conservatives) should keep in mind that the programs that help the poor survive are a kind of ongoing economic stimulus. The poor are not saving this money; they spend welfare and food stamps immediately. That money goes directly into the economy. I'll go into the spending and collection of taxes in more detail later in a future post.

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