Shire Network News #88 has been released. Click here for the show notes, links, and ways to listen to the show; directly from the web site, by downloading the mp3 file, or by subscribing with your podcatcher of choice.

Below is the text of my commentary segment. Actually, this is the full text of what I was going to say, until I timed it and it came to over 6-1/2 minutes. SNN commentaries are generally kept to something under 3 minutes, so this one was way too long. As it is, the version I wound up using was still over 4 minutes. Apologies for the lack of humor in what is normally a satire show, but this subject is rather seasonal, and I wanted to make some points during the time of year where folks would be more inclined to really listen to it. Hopefully, the next segment will be less dour.

Hi, I’m Doug Payton, and this is “Consider This” for Shire Network News.

This past week in the US, the deadline came for settling up our income tax bill with the government. Normally, people either fill out their own tax forms, sometimes with the help of computer software, or they take it to a tax preparer. But Jim Geraghty, writing in the New York Sun, reports that John Edwards, Democratic candidate for US President, thinks that the Internal Revenue Service itself ought to be able to fill out your tax forms. Now, in addition to the huge conflict of interest issue this brings up, there are some practical considerations. Here’s how it’s described:

For Americans whose employers and financial institutions send all of their relevant tax data to the government, the IRS would calculate their bills and mail them completed returns, which he called “Form 1.” Filers could sign the form and return it, or reject it and file their own return if they disagreed with anything in the IRS’s calculations. Form 1 would not be an option for taxpayers with more complicated returns.

First of all, the IRS would only be relieving the burden of those with the absolutely simplest returns, and generally those with lower incomes. Sure, no pandering there, right? Secondly, who would pay for this new governmental feature? We would, likely in higher taxes. Even if this was all or mostly computerized, the government is notorious for winding up paying more for stuff than it costs in the private sector.

So now we’d have another income redistribution program of sorts. We’d all be paying an inflated cost for those who can’t seem to figure out what John Edwards admits are the simplest tax situations. This says more about the complexity of the tax system than anything else I can remember. The problem with the tax system isn’t that people who have the simplest situations have to pay others to figure it out for them. The root cause, if you will, is the complexity itself. But Edwards would rather make this onerous tax code easier for you to bear than deal with tax reform. Say, how about we go back to the old Roman empire days when tax collectors just came by and told you how much to pay? Simple, convenient, and certainly free from graft, right? Right?

And then just a few years down the road, of course, we’d hear liberals defending this program as a basic human right. If the government pays for it, we simply can’t do without it.

Matt Stoller, of the left-wing blog MyDD, is quite proud to pay his taxes, whatever the amount. Now in fairness, he, too, doesn’t like having less money to spend and is upset at the complexity. But he’s simply overjoyed to send in that check and calls it “the price of democracy”. Well, nobody’s denying that taxes are the price we have to pay, but let’s not forget that you can be overcharged for things, and that you can be force to buy things you don’t think are helpful to our democracy. Of course, in saying that, I’m proclaiming my hatred of democracy. Matt said so.

The right-wing likes to pretend as if taxes are a burden instead of the price of democracy. And I suppose, if you hate democracy, as the right-wing does, then taxes are the price for paying for something you really don’t want. Personally, I find banking fees, high cable and internet charges, health care costs, and credit card hidden charges much more abrasive than taxes, because with those I’m just being ripped off to pay for someone’s summer home.

What Matt conveniently fails to point out is that costs for those items, even to some extent, health care costs, are all voluntary, whereas taxes are not. You’re not required by law to purchase them. If you decided you don’t want to pay your taxes, however, you’ll likely find your wages getting garnished at best, or find yourself behind bars at worst.

And your taxes can be just as busy paying the mortgage for some bureaucrat’s summer home.

He’s also got a problem with understanding how we ever managed without an income tax.

Patriotism is about recognizing that we are all connected in a fundamental moral and physical sense, that the war in Iraq is our war, that poverty in New Orleans is our poverty, that public funding to cure cancer comes from each of us and not just the scientists who have made it theirs. The tax burden we face is a very small price to pay for the privilege of taking responsibility for our own freedom and our own society. And the hatred of taxes on the right comes from a hatred for this responsibility. It’s childish and immoral and unAmerican.

Yes, we do own all these things about our country, but then how did we pay for the War of 1812, and the Great Chicago Fire, and any of those medical breakthroughs that were discovered before the 16th Amendment in 1913? Truly amazing.

Tariffs were the general means for the government to raise money, and what’s interesting is that the tariff increases for the War of 1812 are credited with the strengthening of US industry. Has the income tax ever really done that? The city of Chicago was rebuilt mostly by private donations from around the nation, as well as business leaders, not government, going around the country getting other businesses to invest in Chicago. Hopefully, it’s obvious to Mr. Stoller that Chicago has indeed come back from that in a big way, and before the federal income tax.

Were these folks unAmerican for working it out for themselves rather than begging from Washington, DC for money? Or is it just right-wing, anti-democratic, unpatriotic and unAmerican to speak ill of taxes, to consider them burdensome? Then we need to consider the folks who said these things and what we should think of them.

“It would be thought a hard government that should tax its people one tenth part.”

“To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”

“If we run into such debt, as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our calling and our creeds… [we will] have no time to think, no means of calling our miss-managers to account”

“I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious.”

“I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending,
on the objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”

“The power to tax involves the power to destroy.”

“No matter what anyone may say about making the rich and the corporations pay taxes, in the end they come out of the people who toil.”

I think I’d like to be counted with “unpatriotic”, “unAmerican” “childish” “right-wingers” like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, or Calvin Coolidge, among many others. Yes, democracy-haters all, right Matt? More likely, they had a healthy skepticism of government–any government–and its power to destroy.

Back to you, Brian.

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