Thursday, April 16, 2009

My view on taxes

I wanted to post a response to Indie Army Wife's post: In Honor of Tax Day, but am struggling with her comments section (but thankfully I am trained through dealing with Sarah's comments section always rejecting my comments too, so I have saved it...) I am posting it here:

I come here via Trying To Grok, and I just wanted to explain my point of view. I don’t intend to be combative, and I hope that my comment is received in the way it was meant: just trying to shed light on, well, I wouldn’t call it an “obsession with taxes”, but I think “healthy concern” would be more apt.

It’s not that I don’t want to pay taxes. I don’t want to live in a lawless society where I am responsible for making the road in front of my house, and getting a water supply to my house and dishing out law and order. I like deferring the responsibility for the upkeep of infrastructure to someone else in exchange for paying taxes. However, I do think that where we differ in opinion is the degree of services that taxpayers should be paying for. So you have listed:
Roads (Transportation), emergency services (I will bundle these under Protection which includes police, fire, court system, etc.), military (Defense), Social Security, tap water (Water Supply), electricity or gas (fuel and energy). So I would like to pay for all of those except Social Security (my logic with Social Security is that, we pay into that and that payment could go into private savings instead of the current public ponzi scheme..the caveat though, is how do we wean ourselves off this system without screwing those who faithfully paid into it over the years? I think I could agree to paying into it for another say 15-20 years with it tapering off for the last covered by it…I am just paying it to support those who would be left dry, because they trusted the government with this scheme…but I think everyone else from now on should take care of their own retirement savings.). So there’s one place we differ. I would also like to pay for public education, not because I feel it is a right, I just think it’s smart for a country to educate its population. I think the current system is a failure, but I do think that a publically funded system can work (probably best with vouchers). Then I think we have to pay for the general running of government. I personally support the recreation and sports spending, which I believe public and national parks falls under. I also think the government should take care of waste and water waste disposal.
But I don’t want to pay for Welfare (a certain very restricted safety net I might go for, but certainly not the current system in place). I also don’t support Public Healthcare for various reasons.
So if we go over the Federal Budget for 2010 I come out with this: (all numbers are in $billion)
Transportation: 249.5
Defense: 828.9
Protection: 340.9
Education: 918.5
General Gov.: 115.2
Water Supply: 63.9
Recreation + Sports: 50.8
Waste + Waste Water: 28.4 + 48.2
Fuel + Energy: 101.4

Now the things I don’t want to spend in the federal budget:
Welfare: 480.6 (let’s say I would be for 10% of this spending, so I will remove 48 billion) 432.6
Healthcare: 1,029.2
Social Security + other pensions, disability etc: 951.1 (Social Security only makes up 695 of that)

Total of budget I disagree with: $2,412.9B
Total I agree with: $2,793.7B
I just wanted to illustrate how the things I don’t agree with amount to almost as much spending as those things I do agree with.

I am sure there are a few other things in the budget that I have overlooked but would also agree to spending on. But this current ideal budget of mine comes in under $2,800B. I will throw in $200B for things I have overlooked (and it may be more than that). So I come to $3000B.

However, the total budget for 2010 is $6,143.70 billion, which is more than double what I agree with.

So it’s not so much that I don’t want to pay taxes, it’s just that there is a lot in there that I don’t agree with the spending on. But the majority of what you have listed, I definitely DO agree on (with the exception of Social Security). I would want to limit it the scope of public spending towards exactly those things that you have listed, which currently only seem to make up less than half our budget. It’s those things that you have termed the “myriad of other things,” that I am not interested in, and would rather cut from the budget.

And I know that this is a fundamental difference between Republican views towards public spending and Democrat views, so I am not trying to say that my view is better than yours. I am just explaining why I am unhappy with the amount of taxes paid, and what we get for it. And honestly, I can afford what I am paying now, so it’s not so much that which is the issue. But just because I can afford to pay more taxes, it doesn’t mean that I think it’s okay to do so. I mean, I probably could afford to go out to dinner every night of the week, travel more, buy my baby only new things instead of getting them on Craigslist, garage sales and thrift stores, etc. It’s not a case of what we can afford…it’s what I would rather do with the money. So the more money I have to pay into taxes, the less liberty I have to spend it on things of my own choosing.

So although I am not a protestor in general, I appreciate the fact that these guys go out there and say they don’t want to pay more and more taxes. Taxes keep on increasing…more and more things are being taxed.

It’s not just federal income taxes. Los Angeles Country sales tax will increase from 8.25% to 9.25% next month…doesn’t seem like much, but it represents a 12% increase in taxation. That’s pretty significant. And I feel at the same time that the quality of what we are getting for our money is getting worse and worse. Probably the best way to compare this is to imagine this country as one big apartment building where you pay monthly rent for the upkeep and general services. And your rent keeps increasing, but the paint is peeling in the hallways because instead of repainting it every 2 years, it now happens only every 6 years, the pipes are leaking, mold is growing, the playground in front of the building is a dirty mess…you feel unsafe sometimes. So the service provided is of a lesser quality than it once was…but the rent still increases. I currently live in Alabama, and I have to say they have a better grip on the upkeep of infrastructure…but every time I go home to LA, I am so saddened by what I see: litter everywhere along the sides of the highway (15 years ago this wasn’t the case…it was always dirty, but not to this extreme), the streets are in a deplorable condition (it’s a city issue, not federal), etc. But taxes have continually increased: so obviously an increase in taxes doesn’t equal an increase in the quality of services.

I am not sure if you wanted a response from a Republican point of view, I just wanted to say that there is some logic behind the apparent whackadoodleness and I hope that you won’t take it as an affront that I have left this comment.


Blogger wifeunit said...

I am glad I am able to read this again, as I very much liked it the first time I saw it. I think it is a great thing to point out the commonalities that actually do exist and that perhaps Paul Begala and the rest might just be missing the mark.

6:31 PM  
Blogger rayanne said...

LA taxes are 9.25% but as of July 1st, they go up to 9.75% and up to 10.75% in some independent cities within LA County.
As far as how you perceive LA as being dirtier than 15 years ago. It hasn't changed, it's always been this way, not exactly great but not worse. However, a friend expressed the exact same thoughts as you whenever she would came back to visit. Because everything was so different where she now lived, a much smaller and less populated city and state, she perceived things as getting 'worse' here in LA. No, again, everything is the same, your observation is different, you notice it more and you are more sensitive to it. Don't get me wrong, it could be A LOT better. But in the SF Valley and especially the Downtown LA area, believe it or not, things are MUCH better than they were 15 years ago.

8:23 PM  
Blogger CaliValleyGirl said...

I didn't know about the subsequent increases in LA taxes, thanks for the update.
I see what you are saying about me being more sensitive to the perceived dirtiness, however my parents who have lived in Van Nuys for the past 48 years have seen the gradual degradation of their neighborhood (there was actually a sinkhole in the street, because of a neglected busted water pipe), so it's not just my perception. I have to agree with you that certain parts of Downtown have gotten really nice though, but would say that overall the San Fernando Valley seems to be suffering. There is such a stark difference between the City of Burbank and the City of San Fernando (both very clean with nice roads) and then when you leave San Fernando and enter into NoHo and other City of Los Angeles parts...
One thing I definitely suffer from now: before I used to think that it was totally normal to sit in traffic forever in LA, but now I it boggles my mind. My parents said that back in the 60s they could make it from Van Nuys to the airport in about 15-20 you can only do that at 4am.

8:50 PM  
Blogger rayanne said...

I live in the City of San Fernando and all it takes to get anything repaired is one call or email and it's done. That doesn't mean our small city doesn't have it's own issues. But in the LA City side, it might take a few persistent calls, but again
I remember it always being that way which is why the SF Valley has attempted to secede from LA City in the past, and should continue to try to do so.
But for the 7/1 tax increase, I could be naive, but I don't know why people are so upset about it. This particular increase is because of the measures they voted for back in November. So why are they complaining? They're getting their high speed rail to SF that they wanted and the chickens will have better cages now. Yes, yes all very nice, a fast trip to SF and very humane for the chickens. But everything needs to be paid for now, and it said right there on the ballot, 'will create an increase in taxes."
Now, the DMV registration fee increase, that is something to get upset about.

9:18 PM  
Blogger CaliValleyGirl said...

You are so right about people not understanding the cost of things. I think that when they have these Propositions up for vote, they should put the price tag next to them, and then offer the voter to either decide to either vote to remove some other program, and replace it with this one, or vote themselves more taxes. But it seems like they just give voters this smorgasbord of things to vote on, and people have no concept that it costs something. It's like Sarah says, they think the government has some independent source of income.

9:26 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Good discussion, even though I don't know much about L.A. Rayanne probably doesn't know what you mean by that last line, though. She's referencing this:

9:52 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

I have always wanted there to be a way on our tax forms for us to at least be able to say I want X amount of my taxes to go to X,Y and Z. That way we'd have some sort of say in how our tax dollars are spent. Even if we could only designate half of our tax dollars - then we'd have a much truer voice in government.

10:31 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

I love this quote by Ronald Reagan: "Welfare's purpose should be to eliminate, as far as possible, the need for its own existence." To me, that says it all...I see taxes as such a helpless situation. The government continues to take more and more of our money and spend in ways in which we have no control. The latest budget just shows how we are moving from a rugged and independent America to one dependent on our government for way too many things. It's not what we're all about, that's for sure.

8:58 AM  

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