1. a sum of money demanded by a government for its support or for specific facilities or services, levied upon incomes, property, sales, etc.
2. a burdensome charge, obligation, duty, or demand.
Verb (used with object)
3. a. to demand a tax from (a person, business, etc.).
b. to demand a tax in consideration of the possession or occurrence of (income, goods, sales, etc.), usually in proportion to the value of money involved.
4. to lay a burden on; make serious demands on: to tax one’s resources.
5. to take to task; censure; reprove; accuse: to tax one with laziness.
In looking up the definition of “tax,” I found it thought-provoking that each is laden with such negativism. Insupportable terms of onerous meaning like “money demanded,” a “burdensome charge or obligation,” to “demand” or “lay a burden” or “take to task.” What a way to start a concept of revenue… or just a discussion.
In light of the recent fiscal cliff (or physical depending on your reaction to the D.C. fiasco), I thought it worth a moment to reflect on our taxes, their effect and consequences. It’s true that none of us relish the thought of April 15th, yet we realize that a certain amount of money needs to be collected for such things as running the government, paying our military, building ships, planes and roads. It’s a requisite participation of a society where we all benefit and need to contribute.
America was born in strife, disagreement and violent conflict over… taxes. Local taxes in the colonies were low but the British Parliament (our government at the time) was belligerent and intrusive in its obsession to collect what we had over here to run their government and buy what they wanted over there. And they did it with disregard for the benefits we didn’t see for ourselves. To pay for a local road down the street here makes sense. To pay for a new carriage for the king in England wasn’t so popular.
Hence started the list of taxes and political-economic rift that propelled us into war and ultimately freedom from England.
· The Stamp Act – 1765 / Passed by the Parliament and required all legal documents, permits, commercial contracts, newspapers, wills, pamphlets, and playing cards in the American colonies to carry a tax stamp. It was to defray the cost of maintaining the military presence protecting the colonies. Something not exactly perceived as a necessity by Americans who rose up in strong protest, beginning the argument of “No Taxation without Representation.” Boycotts forced Britain to repeal the stamp tax, but convinced many British leaders it was essential to tax the colonists on “something” to demonstrate the sovereignty of Parliament.
· The Sugar Act – 1764 / Taxes on Sugar, cloth and coffee that came here but didn’t export from Britain. They wanted their share of our life that they weren’t even involved in. [Sounds like our current gas taxes]
· The Townshend Revenue Act – 1767 / Two tax laws passed by Parliament, and proposed by Charles Townshend, Chancellor of the Exchequer. They placed a tax on common products imported into the American Colonies, such as lead, paper, paint, glass, and tea. In contrast to the Stamp Act, the laws were not a direct tax that people paid, but a tax on imports that was collected from the ship’s captain when he unloaded cargo. The Acts also created three new admiralty courts to try Americans who ignored the laws. [You can see where this was going. Import taxes and ultimate legal oppression of citizens, IRS?].
· The Tea Act – 1773 / This received the royal approval on tea. The act was designed to undercut tea smugglers and was to benefit of the East India Company, in which England didn’t own shares of ownership but had indirect control. This single Act (or tax) prompted protests and became the prominent foundation of… The Boston Tea Party which angered Britain to the point of war with us in 1775.
So from our very beginning, taxes, tariffs and monetary impositions have indeed had their effect on the common people of the land and ultimately resulted in our break from England and freedom. The citizenry of then should see what “taxation WITH representation is like now.” It’s still not a popular annual event.
In 1862, to support the Civil War effort, Congress enacted the nation’s first income tax law. It was a forerunner of our modern income tax in that it was based on the principles of graduated, or progressive taxation and of withholding income at the source. During the Civil War, a person earning from $600 to $10,000 per year paid tax at the rate of 3%. A far penetrating scream from the total rate of 90% just 100 years later and today’s rate around 50%.
Today there seem to be two areas of passionate, often obsessive discussions that anger Americans when debating taxes. Areas which are growing and diverging in their use and meaning to the public who pays – or doesn’t pay them. Areas vocally evident and extensively exposed in the reality of our recent election.
First, most agree there are too many taxes. We’re particularly dismayed because what money we do send to Washington is wasted, frivolously squandered and even lost: Billions each year being unaccounted for. Even the heads of many government agencies can’t tell you how many vehicles they really own… or where they are. And the GAO is routinely unable to account for money and resources in the military, defense departments and others. And yet they want even more to play their expensive administrative Monopoly games.
Add to the “missing in action” you’ll find millions being spent for what seems more like personal enrichment than requisite resources. Agencies who demand a better resort instead of a hotel for meetings, accoutrements befitting royalty bringing newer and nicer cars, first class travel, bigger well-appointed offices and more. It’s a systematic harvesting of questionable reimbursements, benefits and other economic advantage; the people’s over extended credit cards run amuck if you will. No wonder average people become hesitant in their “contributions” to a bunch of governmental, ideological trogs who work less than they do but live the life of Riley at our hard earned expense.
The second dog in this fight has a contention bone that represents a large number of people who refuse to “contribute” or are unable to through reasons of either joblessness or laziness. With welfare growing at a distressing pace, food stamp recipients nearing 50,000,000, and so many unable to pay taxes for lack of employment, America is an economic scale tipping toward government dependency. A condition that is fiscally irresponsible and precipitously unsustainable. Half the people are supporting the other half…. through taxes. Money collected and redistributed for one irritating, vexatious reason or another.
Ah, redistribution. Remember that term? “Take from the rich and give to the… poor(?) But hey, when you rob Peter to pay Paul, you’ll always have the support of Paul. It’s Socialism at its best when you can give away the worth of so many to placate the wanton desires of others less willing to participate in an equal society. It’s the dream come true of dictators who want more control, more lauding and praise from the willing yet unknowing masses they subjugate.
But there’s a lesson to be learned and America will soon find itself living the manifestation of Margaret Thatcher’s truthful expression. “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” But our problematic reality is that rarely do governments – even ours – look far enough down the money road to realize that you can’t tax, tax, tax without consequences of your actions. They seem to think there’s some unlimited supply, some unrestrained never-ending wellspring of bucks coming their way. And of course with those ongoing windfalls come power.
The associated point of this is that benefits and availability of taxes are not only limited but limiting. A Socialistic leader or complicit governing body fails to rightly observe that taking money from people limits people. It reduces the resources with which a business can use to remain financially stable and even grow. It takes from people and redirects the very thing that an economy needs to remain solvent and stable, developing and growing: Money.
The more a family pays in income tax, property tax, sales tax, gas tax, capital gains tax, social security and Medicare taxes, and more local taxes you can count with a 200 foot long abacus, then the less money they can devote to dining out, a new or second car, a new house, clothing, a bigger TV, new furniture; Things that people actually work toward AND which supports the economy. Forget about education expenses, the medical emergencies, repairs, and other unexpected costs of just living that you can’t pay for if…you’ve paid too much toward to guy who finds it too inconvenient to work or the woman with 9 kids from 7 men but no means of support… except you and me.
Taxes are a part of life, an obligation of a responsible society as a cohesive, productive assemblage living and working together. But when taxes become burdensome, a demand, a limit or censure on people’s lives, then it’s time to examine the use to which our funds are expended. When they take away from people their desires or rights to participate in life, their quality of life for themselves and their families, and preclude them from meeting basic essentials, then it’s time for an answerable examination. A review before action becomes the next step.
Many say that 50% is a fair total of all taxes to be paid but really… to say that you work and slave sometimes 6 or 7 days a week to only start making money for yourself as compensation for your hard work in July every year? And many in some states are paying higher totals of 55, 60% and more of their hard earned wages. When does it really end? When people work totally and solely for the government and the government gives all to people in payment as housing, food, medical care, and life’s substances? That’s called Communism. An economic system where the government owns the factors of production and decides the allocation of resources and what products and services will be provided.
Karl Marx agreed with Louis Blanc (a French “utopian Socialist”) in how labor and income should be managed: “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” But that is not America. Not the way we were founded, led to believe, brought up and practiced our work, or pledged our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.
Is this where America is headed? Are taxes part of the controlling, limiting factor purposely imposed that decides our future? I pray not but they’re increasingly intertwined with our daily way of life, our work, our societal discourse. We’re quickly approaching a crossroads where we’ll be forced to certainly decide how we’re to live our lives. Some say this past election was the most important in our history and yet that group of 50% that lives off the other 50% decided they like “getting” more than “working.” The Obama phone was a great thing and having the government pay your healthcare, food bill, food stamps, subsidized housing, Pell grants, children’s head start, special allowance and tax credits, cold fuel payments, guardian’s allowance, maternity expenses, general welfare/public assistance/financial and community care grants, and more is quickly becoming an expected good thing for the masses – their new life du jour. But someone has to pay for these communal favors.
Will this continue the spiral from which we can’t recover?
I wonder… How soon before we run out of other people’s money?
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