Money for Nothin’: Why Pay Federal Taxes?

The do-nothing approach of the know-nothing Trump administration to the COVID-19 crisis has raised a fundamental question for me. Why are we paying federal taxes?

I mean, if (unlike countries even such as South Korea and China) “the greatest country in the world” can’t even make sure that its citizens have enough cotton swabs for coronavirus tests, what is it doing for us? Why am I paying taxes?

And I’m just talking cotton swabs – not to mention low-tech items like test kits themselves or plastic gloves, protective clothing for nurses and doctors, face masks for the rest of us, hospital beds, or ventilators. Cotton swabs!

Of course, the answer is that we’ve somehow bought in to Reaganism. To use his words, it somehow convinced us that “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

Remember that? I do.

It was Reagan’s version of the Edmund Burke quote: “That government is best which governs least. . .” Or as Republican operative, Grover Norquist, put it, “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

Whatever the phrasing, its bottom line over the last 40 years has the government doing less and less for its citizens – and we end up paying more and more.

It’s as if we had two choices: (1) pay taxes those who provide us with the services we need (like healthcare, education, affordable housing, serviceable roads and bridges) or (2) pay them to those who on principle do nothing for us. Pay for something or pay for nothing! By electing Republicans (and many Democrats too), we’ve been making the latter choice.

Is that crazy or what?

And what’s the government doing with my tax dollars – and yours? It’s like we’re paying protection money — to our representatives — to protect us from the services we’re paying for.

I thought government’s first duty was to keep us safe. Right now, though, in the face of the biggest threat to our safety in the last 75 years, our “representatives” are doing nothing – absolutely nothing to that end.

And they’re proud of it.

In fact, we’re on track to re-elect the lot of them again next November.

Go figure.

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 45 years. Three grown children. Six grandchildren.

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