I woke up yesterday to back-to-back stories on NPR about the congressional fights over last year’s budget and the impending battle in Washington over the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The Republican sound-bites were all about how the Bush-era tax cuts shouldn’t be allowed to expire because now isn’t the time to “raise” taxes on the “job creators.”
I admit I’m biased. Last year, Hanna and I had a combined income of a little over $50,000.00. Which is admittedly a healthy amount above the poverty line and was just enough to allow us to live in the area of Boston where we rent our apartment and pay for all of our expenses, including the minimum monthly payments on our student loans. As well as allowing us some discretionary money for things like visiting family, Christmas presents, new shoes, dinner with friends, and the occasional concert or theatre tickets. Plus, with my new full-time job I can finally start saving for retirement.
Oh, and we paid taxes. Not a lot, but some. Medicare and Social Security taxes, obviously. And income tax. We had to file separately, obviously, since under DOMA even if we were married we wouldn’t qualify for joint filing. But even so, we had a few hundred dollars in refunds kicked back to us. We’ll be using the money to visit my parents in Michigan this summer.
But here’s the thing: I actually don’t mind paying taxes. Obviously, I have strong opinions about what tax money should and shouldn’t be used for (the war in Iraq? Afghanistan? Guantanemo Bay? Executions under the federal death penalty?). Yet in principle, I believe in pooling resources to fund essential services. Healthcare, infrastructure, environmental conservation, emergency preparedness and response, industry regulation, oversight of food and drug manufacture and safety, fire and police departments. Ensuring all residents in the United States have access to educational resources in schools and public libraries.
For three years while Hanna and I were in graduate school our health care was free or nearly-free thanks to the universal health care legislation passed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (under Republican governor Mitt Romney!). We had access to doctors, medications, dental and eye car, all at zero cost or for minimal co-pays. Despite the fact that none of our part-time jobs offered health insurance.
This was made possible because the taxpayers of Massachusetts subsidized our care. And if some of my tax monies paid to the state this year go toward funding that public insurance program for other folks who are currently in a similar situation, then I am glad to pay. I’ve been there myself, and I may well be in that position again.
So this tax season, as people gripe about paying taxes (I googled “your tax dollars at work” to find an illustration to use in this post and all the images I got were sarcastic commentary on the ineffectual nature of government, Tea Party signs protesting socialism, and photos of aborted fetuses) I’d like to ask all of you to share some of the things (however small) you are grateful that tax money makes possible.
Note: I’m at a conferenceall day today, with no access to the interwebs … so have fun and I look forward to reading what y’all have to say when I return!