Ichabod's Kin
A place for politics, pop culture, and social issues

The Power that Dares Not Speak Its Name

The past week called to mind the anniversary in 1912 when the world’s greatest metaphor hit an iceberg–and our ax deadline. The latter refers to the power that dares not speak its name: that of government  to levy and collect such duty. That of course was before modern so-called conservatism, lacking coherent ideas by which to inspire and govern, decreed that taxes are but unwanted pustules on the body politic.

It is easy to view taxes as democracy’s demon necessity because they are easy targets, as in the truism, “nothing’s sure but death and taxes” (to which may be added. that a Kenyan will win the Boston marathon). Well, yup. With great privileges go certain responsibilities which, by the way, are not as great as we think.

We are the least taxed of all modern societies but you wouldn’t think so, since the wingnuts–of whom there seem to be a frightful number in the land today–began to wag and gag about them, ad infinitum, ad nauseum, their first complaint being that we were overtaxed–before moving on to the complaint of being taxed at all. Many believers in wealth really don’t care if the U.S. were to become a banana republic of a rich few and the rest poor–as long as they are among the former.

The less people have in terms of wealth, the more they feel the pinch of taxes but such is, in truth, a scapegoat. What’s hurting us more are interest rates–or what was called “usury” in the old days, and that’s how conservatives got rich and richer: by gouging consumers through mortgages, loans and other lending. But so far they’ve dodged that rap and distracted voters with loud beefs about taxes.

Hence the great divide in America. Imagine for a moment two children of the same family. One identifies with rich people: i.e., wants to be one of them, and is an easy mark for the rhetoric that other people are poor because they deserve to be. The other child identifies with the poor, which is not to say wants to be poor, but considers poverty an unjust condition in a society as wealthy as ours. When all is said and done, the financial status of the two may be negligible though they were committed to opposite ends of the economic spectrum.

This is the state of America today: many people who work hard but are subject to harsh realities of the economy fail to realize that the rich have created a financial game, or club, that is difficult to break into. When the working poor fail to do so, they buy the fat cats’ rhetoric that it’s because they are over-taxed and too much is given, undeservedly, to the poor in the form of welfare and other entitlements. When the ruse works, the working poor tend to vote with the rich.

The really poor live with a different reality: that regardless of economic conditions, they will remain poor because the gulf between them and financial well-being is an even bigger stretch, and the rules even harsher.

Regardless of rhetoric, a certain political creed wants to do away with taxation altogether. Be not fooled by the jibberish of those who call for “limited taxation.” Look closely and you will realize that they would quash taxation completely if they could but get away with it. In their minds, the cry for fewer taxes is but a first step to getting rid of all of them, expressed often as the wish to get rid of the IRS.

The meaning of taxes is that we are all in this together. We do not need to be rid of taxes; we need tax reform. As Obama goes about this delicate surgery, you can hear the howls and screeches from those whose wealth is harmed neither by taxation nor recessions: they just don’t want to part with a single dime of what is so much easier for them to get than it is for others.

Greed is a terrible thing. Witness all the Enron-type messes and, more lately, AIG-type crashes and Goldman Sachs mischief–not to mention the need to bring us all back from the brink of disaster by means of bailouts.

Fareed Zakaria has suggested, and not without merit, that we could join those hundred nations that have a national sales tax of less than 20%, which would indeed allow a drop in income tax rates and add hundreds of billions yearly to our coffers. Or, like no few Scandanavian countries that have enjoyed as much growth as ours for over thirty years, we could have value-added taxes as high as 25% that would pay for our health care and do away with income taxes for those who earn less than $100K.

The problem however is to manage being heard over the shrieks of right-wingers who, having nothing in common with the average American, are adept at scaring the hell out of them.

But there’s nothing wrong with taxation. It’s okay to say the word. We just need the right kind.

2 Responses to “The Power that Dares Not Speak Its Name”

  1. Right on!!!

  2. To quote my mother, “I don’t care how much they tax us as long as they leave us a little money.” As you rightly point out, it is not the taxing which is a payment on hard infrastructure (such a roads, and alas, bridges), and on the soft infrastructure (such as a healthy population eating regularly and living indoors), it is the usurious interest that bleeds us all dry as it forces money into a funnel that is skilfully designed to benefit the mega-wealthy.

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