Monday, November 01, 2010

Taxation without Compensation

The tea-partiers will tell you that their terminology was based on an acronym "Taxed Enough Already."  But are we?  Taxed enough, I mean?  Oh, I'm not arguing that we should be taxed more than we are, just that we don't get near as much from it as we should.  And the reason?  People like the Tea Party who throw fits when we TRY to get more for what we're paying.  Rather than having our tax money go for things like education and health care, opening them up to all Americans, they'll fight tooth and nail to take out exorbitant loans from massive financial institutions, at whatever interest the market will bear--not to mention risking bankruptcy should they have a major medical issue.

What's not to like?

No, I say the problem is not that we're taxed enough, but that our taxes aren't used to benefit us enough.  Europeans pay more or less the same tax rates--perhaps a little higher in some places--but they get so much more for their money.  Healthcare on the spot?  No debt?  Sign us up.  College tuition as a perk of citizenship?  And why exactly why do we think we're falling behind the rest of the world?  Do we really think the children of the indolent rich are champing at the bit to study science or anything else that might actually help people?  No, as a general rule, they're studying new and improved ways of stealing peoples' money.  Our money.

Add this to things like paid vacations, generous retirements, sick leave, maternity/paternity leave, and a political structure that isn't winner take all, nor driven entirely by the engines of wealth, and you have a far more equitable, democratic system.

Instead of taking lessons from the Europeans, we allow the terminally ignorant to decry anything socially democratic as "socialistic" without explaining, first, what they mean by the term, and, second, what's so terrible about a little socialism anyway?  If it means that the vast majority of people have a decent quality of life at the expense of a very few having a frightfully lavish lifestyle, well, so what?

Fact is we're being ripped off, we Americans.  Big time.  By the greedy rich, the corporate interests, and, yes, by our elected "representatives."  They'll take our money, but we're not really the ones paying their bills.  So they take our money, give our needs lip service, and turn around and service their corporate donors.

And, yeah, the right wing will point out that there are other special interests besides corporations, and they would be right.  None of them, even combined, have the kind of reach and power that corporations have in the United States, the power to throw money around as if it were nothing.  Of course, the unions don't have the ability to cheat their employees out of a couple of dimes worth of raise in order to pass along a hefty donation to the anti-worker, proto-fascist candidate their CEO favors.

Are our unions flawed?  Fuck yeah.  Starting with the fact that when they earned a permanent place at the table--at least in some industries, including civil service--they pretty much forgot about the rest of us.  They no longer chose to help drive industry toward a more democratic agenda for everyone... they took their money and left the rest of us to rot.  When a neighbor confessed to me that he makes 80 dollars an hour, including benefits, I had to stop and wonder... and people ask why there's such a strong backlash against the unions?  We've got enough problems with the whole "I've got mine" crowd.  Unions have become, at least in some minds, a refuge for incompetence, cronyism, and corruption.

The Tea Partiers accuse Obama of having a socialist agenda.  Hah.  If only.  A tepid health insurance reform law and a very necessary agency to regulate the interaction between wall street and consumers does not a socialist agenda make.  Not even close.

I'd settle for a touch of social capitalism, myself... for our workplaces, and the industries which control them, to be more democratic.  I'd like to see companies be about something more than making money... I'd like to see them dedicated to making America a better place to live.  For all of us.

I maintain that government exists to protect the vulnerable from the powerful, and suggest that, right now, it's doing a fucking shitty job of it.  I'm not getting nearly enough for my taxes, and I want that to change.  I'd like to have the chance to elect members of a party that actually reflects my views, not one that reflects some of my views some of the time.  The Republicans don't know how good they got it.  Sure, their elite may also think they're a bunch of dumbasses, but at least they try to hide the way they feel.  Those we elect, and fight hard to elect sometimes, seem to be as happy to use us as a punching bag in public as acknowledge how important we are to their success.

It's the mathematics of enthusiasm.  We're about as enthusiastic about voting for you as you are about delivering the goods.  It may not be taxation without representation, but a lot of us more liberal folks sure find reasons to question that assumption from time to time.

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