I have a friend whose knowledge of tax policy is second-to-none. He’s also experienced the highs and lows of our current economic insecurity. Armed with this wisdom, he recently explained to me how too many Americans aren’t assessing their tax burden how they should.
For many, taxes are withdrawn through deductions on every paycheck. That’s often not enough, and another lump sum is due on April 15. It can be a household’s largest annual cash outlay.
My friend thinks it’s justified to be critical of what many politicians call a citizen’s “investment” in America.
What is the government doing, for instance, to protect our kids other than trying to grab peoples’ guns after every school shooting? Why are bridge and highway infrastructures crumbling with taxes so high?
Frustrations about high taxes don’t abate when the race card and class warfare are played in their defense. The average, hard-working, law-abiding taxpayer doesn’t deserve to be called a racist or a “one-percenter” just because he wants to see a return on his investment with higher-quality and accountable schools, smarter regulations and policies that turn the nation’s tax consumers into producers of revenue.
My buddy’s point is that taxes make us involuntary investors. He paid $45,000 in taxes for 2012 even though he made less than $200,000 in Washington, D.C. (an area prone to significant wage inflation). That’s enough to buy the government a luxury car without financing. It’s not something he could, or would, do for himself.
Our tax dollars are invested through the government, we are told, to make society better. The government is expected to be a good steward of our involuntary contribution.
Just like any savvy investor, we should all want to know how our investment is doing and, if it’s performing poorly, divest or change our investment officers – politicians.
The media should serve as a means for investors/taxpayers to hold accountable the management of the company that is our government.
Instead, frustratingly, the media is hyper-focused on superficialities such as gavel-to-gavel coverage of the latest celebrity murder trial or a missing airplane or breaking news about Kim and Kanye.
Every second the media spends on trivialities gives the public less of an opportunity to understand why and how the money being spent to educate impoverished youth isn’t helping them become less dependent. Every second spent on tabloid news obsessions takes away from discussions on how to really reduce health care costs.
Fairness is just as frustrating a facet.
My friend explained how that he was laid off in 2009, but his unemployment check was taxed to ensure, in part, that Chrysler assembly line workers had their pensions protected through bankruptcy proceedings. Meanwhile, his own 401K retirement plan had no support at all.
He had to short sale his house in Phoenix to relocate to his new job in Washington. Is it fair that he had to forego buying a house in Washington while he rebuilt equity while his tax dollars funded programs keeping people who over-bought during the housing boom in their homes?
My friend is subsidizing the bad decisions of others now treading water after he purposefully lost his investment on his old house to right his own foundering financial ship.
Almost half the nation does not pay taxes into the general federal fund, but we all benefit from public roads, national defense and the like. There are too many with no skin in the game. Is that fair?
Fairness is a dangerous word if you’re not defining what is fair. The people pushing fairness in terms of money coming in never discuss accountability of the money already received. The two never seem to go together.
Taxes are an investment, but those who call it that need to remember that there’s a demand for responsible investing. And there should be repercussions if funds aren’t spent wisely.
Hughey Newsome, a business consultant in the D.C. area, is a member of the national advisory council of the black leadership network Project 21. Comments may be sent to Project21@nationalcenter.org.
Photo credit: Tax Credits (Creative Commons)