Thursday, September 18, 2008

Proud to Be a Taxpaying American

After a disastrous week so far, today the McCain campaign tried unsuccessfully to grab some traction out something Joe Biden said.

Asked about taxes on Good Morning America this morning, Biden repeated something he'd said earlier this month: “Anyone making over $250,000 ... is going to pay more,” Biden interjected. “You got it. It’s time to be patriotic, Kate. It’s time to jump in, it’s time to be part of the deal, it’s time to help get America out of the rut.”

John McCain immediately jumped in front of a camera to rant about just how un-American it was to say that taxes were patriotic. "Raising taxes in a tough economy is not patriotic, it's not a badge of honor," McCain said at campaign stop in Iowa today. "It's just plain dumb."

Republicans and McCain's other fellow travelers of the Right wasted no time lining up to sound the alarm -- Rush Limbaugh , Matt Drudge, NewsMax, and other people who just generally hate taxes.

Of course, the Republican reaction made me angry. Biden didn't say it was patriotic to raise taxes; he said it was patriotic to pay taxes. And most folks know by now that under Senator Obama's plan, people making less than $250,000 a year will get a tax cut; folks fortunate enough to make more than that will be asked to pay a little higher percentage.

But some people get upset even when they realize that only those those with yearly incomes topping a quarter million dollars will face a tax increase. They call Sen. Obama a socialist (even though it's their party that just nationalized a large part of the mortage industry), a class warrior, and various unprintables. According to them, Obama's plan just isn't good enough if it doesn't lower everyone's taxes. It's not fair to "blame" the wealthy for their wealth, to "punish them" for being successful, they argue. Taxes are bad, government is bad, and the two together are poisonous.

I'm sure this will come as a shock to none of you, but I disagree.

Before the British hanged him, Nathan Hale said of America, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." Would he be ashamed of wealthy Americans today who aren't even willing to part with a couple more measley percentage points of income?

First of all, somebody has to pay taxes. In case anyone has forgotten, we are fighting two wars and scrambling to be prepared for a potential third. The national debt -- much of which is owned by everybody's favorite Communist country, China -- is approaching ten trillion dollars. That's $10,000,000,000,000, if you're keeping track of zeros at home. As anyone who's ever financed an extravagant lifestyle with a Mastercard knows, that bill will come due sooner or later. How are we going to pay it? Sell Alaska back to Russia?
Second of all, the idea that people who make more should pay more comes straight from the Bible. The simplest, most straightforward statement on progressive taxation in Western civilization is, "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required." And remember that Christ instructed His followers to "render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." Mind you, I don't think "because God said so" is an adequate justification for government policy, but I'm always intrigued that the same party that boasts the Christian Right also embraces a fundamentally anti-Christian tax structure.
You've heard the old story about the chicken who suggests to the pig that they get involved in a breakfast restaurant focusing on bacon-and-eggs: the pig, of course, has justifiable qualms about the idea. At the risk of reminding us of last week's mindless misconstrued pig metaphors, I'll just say there are a lot of pigs giving their all in this country right now while a lot of chickens do a lot of squawking every time they're asked to surrender a few more eggs.

James Otis, Jr., to whom is attributed the famous Revolutionary quote, "Taxation without representation is tyranny!" Notice he didn't say there was anything tyrannical about taxation itself.

But on a more personal level, I consider it an honor to pay my taxes. Granted, I'd like a competent, more efficient government to make better use of my tax dollars. But I love this country that has given me so much, so many opportunities that generations before me didn't have, that people in other countries still don't have today. I love our Constitution and legal system. I love our culture. I love the beauty of our landscape, the convenience of our Internet and interstate highway system, the diversity of our ideas.

I love that I can turn on the kitchen sink and drink a whole gallon of tap water without fearing dysentery. I love that I can go to sleep at night knowing that there are cops on the street to protect my life and property, and there are soldiers in distant lands standing guard to protect my liberty and the security of my as-yet-unborn children. I love that for a lousy $.42, I can drop a letter in the mailbox in Chicago, Illinois, and by the next afternoon, have it delivered anywhere in the United States (except maybe Wasilla).

I love that I went to a state-funded college and state-funded law school so that, thanks to the generosity of the United States government, I have 30 years to pay back what I never could have afforded up front.

I love that I can pack my suitcase and walk one block to get on a public transportation bus that will take me five miles to an Amtrak station, where I can board a train that will take me all the way from Lake Michigan to the Gulf of Mexico.

I love that Teddy Roosevelt sailed America's Great White Fleet ostentatiously around the world, just to prove he could. And I love that when a world got sick of sailing around Cape Horn, Teddy Roosevelt moved Congress, heaven, and a whole lot of earth to carve a canal through the Isthmus of Panama.

I love that I can drive to Kentucky and see a mass of concrete, rock, and steel where another Roosevelt and raw American grit tamed the flow of the Tennessee River to electrify a valley and power a country back to its feet again.

A miracle of American sweat and ingenuity (not to mention good Democratic governance), Kentucky Dam, seen here on August 3, 2008.

And I love that I can walk through Arlington National Cemetery and wonder how many free people there are in this world today thanks to every one of those stately American tombstones.

And none of that -- not a drop -- would be possible without the tax dollars of patriotic Americans.

After 9/11, many of my friends and family members enlisted in the Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy, and National Guard forces. Many of them fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, some served two or three tours before they were through, some still serve today. Thankfully, none of my loved ones have died, but the fact that they have been willing to die makes them worthy of eternal honor, in my opinion.

But most of us didn't go. Most of us have stayed here at home either patriotically supporting or patriotically opposing the Iraq War, and going about the business of working our jobs and raising our families and mowing our lawns and living our lives. For us, the very least we can do for America and for those men and women who served it so selflessly is to pay our taxes with a smile and thank Almighty God that we're still alive and free to do it.

With $1000 in rent and $1000 in student loan payments monthly, I'm not exactly rolling in the dough, but if I had my druthers, I'd tell Obama to keep my tax cut, because America needs it worse than I do right now. I'm just as proud to pay my taxes to keep America moving as I am to give my church offering to keep the light bill paid.
I don't know how much Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Mitt Romney, and Cindy McCain pay each year in payroll taxes, but I pay $12,284.64.

And it's worth every dime.

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