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Words from Winterbilt

Taxes: more, less, flat, fair…

Shannon Bohrer

(6/2012) I recently had a conversation with an acquaintance, someone I don’t see that often but when we do meet, I enjoy our conversations. As usual, the topics included politics, taxes, elections, the TEA party and the PEA Party (People for Ethical America), the weather, medical ailments and getting old; the standard curmudgeon topics. My acquaintance— I’ll call him Mike— is very conservative and was slightly annoyed about paying his taxes (this is also a common ailment with curmudgeons). It was a very lively and engaging conversation, and it made me think about my taxes. I don’t think I am different than most people in that I don’t mind paying my taxes, providing my share is fair and equitable.

After the conversation, I drove home and conducted a little research, reviewing my own taxes and examining what I could find on the internet. What I found was that my taxes this year, and probably for many years, were a higher percentage of my income than Mitt Romney and/or Warren Buffet’s. From my perspective, that’s a lot more than my share. To discuss this matter in more detail, I convened a PEA party executive meeting. After a lengthy and involved discussion, all of the members present came to a decision, which may surprise a few people, since it surprised me. We decided to consider paying more in taxes, but only if— and it was a big "if"— certain conditions could be met. The conditions to be met are basically common sense and not unreasonable, at least from our perspective. However, our government may have a different perspective about the common sense part. As Voltaire once said, "In general, the art of government consist of taking as much money as possible from one part of the citizens to give to the other." Our government does this with a tax code.

Anyway, the first condition is that the government publishes how much money it collects and where the money goes in a detail. A full, honest and open account is needed. Is there money being wasted? (Remember the GAO meeting!) I am sure that there is money being wasted and before we agree to pay more, we want the waste and abuse cleaned up. Congress has been promising for a very long time to clean up the abuse and waste in government, but I guess they have just not had the time to do so. The publishing of this account would include the salaries of congress, their aids, benefits they receive, how much their medical insurance is subsidized and their retirement plans, etc. As citizens, we are shareholders, not unlike stockholders in a company, so it is only fair that our government give us a good accounting of where our money goes. We also want an account for the 2.5 trillion dollars that congress has borrowed from our social security fund. Where did it go? Maybe we should consider a class action suit against Congress— it would be nice to attach their salaries.

The next condition is that everyone must pay taxes. It has been widely reported that only 50 percent of individuals and only 60 percent of companies pay taxes. When individuals and corporations don’t pay taxes, then those of us that do pay become responsible for paying more than our share. In his book Common Sense, Thomas Paine talks about the fact that the primary purpose of government is security. A very good argument is that everyone in this country benefits from the security provided by our military. Not only security from foreign entities, but everyone benefits from public education, police and fire protection, roads to travel on, and the civil society that a government provides. The Pea Party realizes that the tax laws offer a lot of deductions for giving money to charities, business expenses, equipment deprecations and mortgage interest paid. The deductions are fine, providing everyone pays a minimum – period. If an individual and/or business creates so many deductions that they do not owe any taxes – then a minimum alternative tax kicks in. The congress had no problem creating a minimum alternative tax for the middle class, well let’s extend that to everyone. And the minimum needs to be at least as high as my tax rate.

Another argument is that if everyone benefits, then charities and non-profits should be paying their share, rather than placing this burden on others. This may not be a popular idea, but responsibility should include everyone, even churches. I understand that many readers would be shocked at this suggestion, but are the charities, non-profits and churches benefiting from the government? It was recently reported that very popular religious dominations have been receiving federal money for social programs. Organizations that don’t pay any taxes are receiving money from the federal government? I am not anti-religious, nor am I anti-charity, but being responsible means that if you receive benefits from living in our society, you need to contribute. Period.

While taxing non-profits and churches may seem somewhat over the top to many of you, consider that our current debt of over $15 trillion equates to about $50,000 for each citizen. An important point is that $50,000 is for each citizen, not each tax payer. One could make an argument that the very old and poor and the children in school make up half of our population, which means each tax payer is really in debt for over $100.000. Of course not all eligible tax payers pay taxes, so if only 50 percent pay, then each of us that does pay really owes $200,000– and that is a huge problem.

No, I do not want to pay any more in taxes than I already do, but I believe it is inevitable. What’s not inevitable, at least I hope not, is that the responsibility of paying off the $15 trillion is only placed on the individuals that pay taxes.

The PEA party conditions continue month in Part II…

Read other articles by Shannon Bohrer