Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Tax Mysteries Uncovered – Part 3

This is the continuation of the discussion started in part 1 and continued in part 2 of how people benefit from the services paid for by taxes and the simple principle that the people who benefit the most should pay the most. I have called this a corollary to the well known saying: “You get what you pay for,” and turned that around to: “Pay for what you get.”

Let’s look at some very basic government services (paid for by taxes) that benefit individuals or individual families as well as businesses – police and fire protection.

Of these, fire protection is the simpler example. People with more money generally have bigger, nicer homes and personal property (furniture and so forth). In addition, some people own more than one piece of real property – a second home, a business, etc. These all need to be protected from fire and, therefore, they add to the tax burden.

Owning more or better things also means more that the police are called upon to protect from theft, vandalism, and other types of property crime. What’s more, you can be sure that the police will put a lot more effort into investigating a stolen Lamborghini than a stolen skateboard.

People with more and better property obviously have more at risk and more that needs protection. But in addition, protecting this property actually costs more per person, and therefore more per taxpayer. So if you have more to protect, shouldn’t you pay more for the protection?

The government has also, with tax dollars, subsidized power-generation projects such as hydroelectric dams. I, for one, wish they hadn’t done this, but again – the people who have benefited the most from these projects are the ones who have used the most power. Large homes and businesses use a lot more power than a middle-class, three-bedroom tract house.

Also, remember that what you buy, you buy from businesses that depend on all these services and infrastructures as well. Their use of public services lowers their costs and, ostensibly, lowers the price you pay them for whatever you buy. And the more you buy, the more you benefit.

Anyone who has enjoyed success in this country has done so on the framework of its infrastructures, its resources, its people, and all the myriad of pieces that have been put together (many on the back of government) in the past. The idea that someone has “made it” all on his or her own, is an idiotic, narcissistically romantic hallucination.

So stop whining, and pay for what you get.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com

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2 thoughts on “Tax Mysteries Uncovered – Part 3

  1. While I find most of what Rossi writes to be good food for thought, I think his facts are off today. He writes that police and fire protection services ought to be based on need. These services are local and paid for from local property taxes which vary directly with the value of the property. Much of the revenues generated by vehicle licensing so to support vehicle services.

    We all benefit from public health services, we all benefit from the highway system, we all benefit from a good educational system. A progressive income tax seems a good way to fund these.

    AL

    Ride with me and Lightnin’ on our Year on the Road at http://allevenson.wordpress.com/

    • Allevenson, you make some good points, but what I was trying to say (without writing a book) was that people whine about taxes. That includes property taxes. I’m saying there IS justification to charge people more who have more to protect.

      Vehicle registration fees is one area that might benefit from some reform in this regard. Driving a Ferrari on the road doesn’t inflict any more damage than a Datsun B210. Maybe it should be by weight rather than the value of the car. That would provide an incentive for people to buy reasonably-sized cars, as well.

      Cheers!

      -Tom Rossi

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