A Golden Fallacy

I was chatting with a friend the other day and he sputtered out a common belief.

Taxes are bad. The lower the taxes we pay, the more money we have to keep. I must have heard those words a zillion times, but as the expression goes, just because you hear something a lot doesn’t make it true.

A great example of where taxes gave us a lot more than they took was the GI Bill. As a result of this investment following World War II, the education benefits produced 450,000 engineers, 240,000 accountants, 238,000 teachers, 91,000 scientists, 67,000 doctors and 22,000 dentists among a diverse set of other professions. This produced the greatest boon in American history and set us up as the most powerful nation on earth; the most affluent and opportunity rich of all the countries. The world we see today, as it applies to our country, owes a debt of thanks to those taxes because for a cost of about $500 per taxpayer across 5 years, look at what we got for our money!

Atop that we got the national highway system and much of the road infrastructure that included bridges opening up difficult to reach low population zones that opened them up for development and spawning literally millions of jobs. The taxes collected and spent on the nation’s present and future did good so pervasive that directly or vicariously took the median human age at death from 47 up to 72 years. Doubting Thomas’ need only read the governmental reports (or read up on history) to see that this isn’t a claim of ego or politics, it’s true.

When taxes are collected at appropriate levels to the taxpayer’s economic status and then spent on valid expenditures to benefit the nation at large, economics consistently demonstrates that it creates wealth across the entire citizen spectrum. When that happens, it’s amazing how a nation can flourish and grow, and offer such a higher quality of life to its citizens than in countries fraught with corruption and greed at the top levels of the economic spectrum. Individuals are not job creators. They never were and never will be. It is the relative health of the nation which spawns the financial growth that creates jobs as a feature of the national growth. History is rife with this lesson; when the monarchs were benevolent and spent the country’s coffers on the nation, the nations experienced growth and prosperity. When they sacked the national coffers for their own avarice, the nation would suffer, falling into decline.

It really is that simple. When taxes are fair and the collected amounts spent to bolster the infrastructure and education, countries flourish. Any other situation causes the reverse.

The United States is in decline. No one argues that. Our highways and bridges are a mess, and to such a degree that we see news stories about catastrophic collapses of bridges, train derailments, exploding water mains… and on and on. The only reason we’re seeing these news stories is because our country has virtually withdrawn its support for the infrastructure maintenance and improvement necessary to keep people and cargo moving. Our tax dollars have instead been cut and cut so that there simply isn’t any money to invest in the country. That’s also undeniable–unless one is deaf, dumb and blind –or profiting from the circumstances and are unwilling to recognize and admit to the obvious.

The sad fact is, that the worse off the citizens of any country become, the less willing they are to approach personal costs rationally. So the ideas that promote taxes as being a bad thing are wrong. Yes, taxes might take dollars from from us, but the return on personal investment in the nation come back a thousand fold, IF the collected dollars are indeed used to foster the giant projects like the national infrastructure. Government investment in business has spawned tremendous benefit for the country. Like the space program, which many saw as a waste of time that dealt with fictional fantasy, produced vast new technologies which have become key to our existence. If you turn a circle in any room of your home, there’s a 99% chance that investment of tax dollars produced one of the things that you’ll see. Sometimes it’s military hand me downs like wireless data transmission or GPS that benefit us, still, that was tax dollars that brought those things to us.

On local levels, the collection of tax dollars has done the very same for states and municipalities as they use it to encourage businesses to locate there, or pay for fire and police departments that permit us to freely engage in business and home endeavors with vastly less risk than we’d experience without those things. Even our hospitals benefit from taxes that subsidize them so they have the revenues to continue to operate, supplying health care not just to those unable to pay, but to those who can pay or have insurance to cover their care. If the hospital closes, no one gets to use it regardless of how the facility might have gotten its money.

I’m kind of fed up with the truckloads of misinformation shoveled at us by the ton. At times I wonder just how ignorant we can be, and how non-survival that ignorance can make us. To that end, I’m tired of how glossed over the positives of taxes can be because I’m fed up with having to pay a much higher price to live and support  myself. Had our country taken a better look at the self-defeating nature of tax objection, we’d have seen that our taxes have not been collected with proportional tax rates for economic position, and worse yet, have not been spent on America to maintain the country’s wonderful surges forward. The more we think in terms of our own immediate situation, the less we look ahead at the bigger picture. And the more we do that, the more our country continues to experience decline.

Of, by and for the people.. those words are supposed to be the foundational principal of the United States. I believe in those words because I have, in my own lifetime and personal experience seen the gains we enjoy when we make it a point to apply that ideal. I have seen the losses we suffer when the ideal is cast aside. And so have you. Ill spent taxes don’t do anyone any good, and we got to see that in technicolor when dishonest bankers and traders were handed 700 billion dollars with no restrictions. While we stuck a finger in the financial dyke, there were no conditions attached –by design– and so there has been no improvement in the derivative speculation that got us in such a terrible position. In fact, there is current worry that Bank of America is teetering under over leveraged derivative speculation.  But the good that can come from taxes, projects that propel the nation forward like the space program and all of its technologies, or investment in infrastructure are good –as are the public municipal services that defeat monopolistic price gouging, are a necessary item that seem to be money out of pocket but save thousands as time passes are a good investment.

Taxes collected appropriately to an individual’s solvency, spent to benefit the nation at large is a good thing. It gives us much more life and quality of life. And that’s the truth about taxes.