Toxic Attitudes Toward Taxation

 For the first time in a long time, I'm pretty proud of Obama.

Over two weeks ago, the President came to Georgetown and talked about energy policy. I was not there to listen to him, because an insane number of people lined up to grab the limited number of tickets to the event available. To me, though, the whole thing didn't seem so important - although I did in fact join the line, only to end up getting turned away. In the end, energy usage is not the be-all end-all of political life, governmental policy, or indeed our own lives. I'm proud that Ketchikan largely runs off of hydropower, and I'm all for energy efficiency, but energy policy doesn't all come from the federal government; indeed, I'd say most of the ways we use energy every day are determined by private citizens and corporations. (Also, it's not particularly in Alaska's interest for the country to go on an all-out anti-oil crusade. See here.)

(Images: two views from my stint waiting in line for a ticket to see Obama - which I never received)

In any case, just a few days ago Obama went to the George Washington University, and needless to say I think it's a little unfair that GW got to host the President when his speaking topic was far more important: the country's finances, taxes and deficit. I say this because I agree very much with the President's statement that our government's budget plans "will require us to choose a vision of the America we want to see in five and ten and twenty years down the road.” Taxes and associated structures absolutely determine what path a society takes, and unfortunately, not only have those structures been particularly unjust for the past few decades in the United States, but the Republicans in Congress want to make things even worse.

Though I don't know whether it's particularly responsible for me to use Fox News as a source, this article makes pretty clear the sort of dystopian vision some in the "GOP" seem to pursue. (I think the GOP acronym is ridiculous, but I understand why the media constantly uses it; writers are always seeking brevity as well as variety in their phrases.) Not only do Republicans perpetually stand against anything resembling an increase in taxes, their attempts at balancing budgets - when they actually have that as a goal, unlike during Bush's tenure - are always always always regressive.

And what do I mean by regressive? I call regressive that which hurts the most the most. It's when programs that aid the majority are targeted for crippling and destruction while taxes that favor the rich and the few are preserved. Two days ago, I listened to a panel of progressives who came to Georgetown under the auspices of a new liberal magazine on campus that I very much recommend - Counterpoint. There, Matt Yglesias talked a little about Americans' general perception of who's "rich" - and his phrasing stuck with me. (Here's a recent post on his blog about this same topic.) He said that Americans often think of rich people as being big real estate agents in their towns or things along those lines, but in reality, the richest Americans are far more removed from us. Indeed, I've always thought there were rich people in my town, but the reality is that only really rich people in Ketchikan are those who park their yachts there in the summertime.

The current tax system in the United States is inexcusable. I paid about $70 for my recent taxes, when if I had been living independently I would have been well under the poverty line, even if I had worked year-round doing the job I did last summer. I believe that many struggling families in the United States need to be exempted from taxes entirely, and those at the top need to be placing a great deal more of their obscene amounts of wealth towards the common good. (I went into the history of U.S. income taxes over two years ago.) As our President stated, "the amount of taxes you pay [shouldn't be] determined by what kind of accountant you can afford." I hope he can move closer to changing the deranged tax system that currently allows that to take place.

[Addendum: Here's another article on America's growing economic inequality, and hey - if even the Economist can get right what I've been bringing up for years, I think people may finally be getting the picture.]