Believe me, I wish we could decide how our tax money is spent. But as far as I know, abortion is the one thing we can say for certain that our tax money doesn’t fund. If I could choose, I would fund abortion, health care, environmental policies and sex education, among other programs, with my tax money. I wouldn’t fund wars. I wouldn’t fund abstinence-only education. I wouldn’t fund John Boehner’s salary, or Michele Bachmann’s, or Mike Pence’s, or either of my U.S. senators. I wouldn’t fund the defense Boehner is planning to mount for DOMA challenges.
However, I can’t do that. As soon as we allow one group of people to exempt themselves for reasons of personal conscience, where will it stop? As Jason Kuznicki writes in “How responsible are you for where your taxes go?“:
In theory, we could go on and on — continuing, in fact, until every taxpayer earmarked every cent of his taxes specifically to one purpose, or another, or some unique constellation of them. Legislators would set tax rates – you must pay so much — but not tax destinations.
It would be a legislative nightmare. And really, in some cases, even if you oppose certain government services, it’s in your best interest to fund them. Some people oppose paying taxes to public education because they don’t have any kids. But your neighbors’ kids are going to grow up to be your police officers, lawyers, teachers, nurses, politicians, accountants — and don’t you want them to be good at their jobs? We all benefit from an educated populace.
In a similar vein, I saw this post by Miriam at Feministing about “Why I would pay more in taxes.” She says she would pay more, if she could, to ensure our social safety net is intact. She also continues the Thank Taxes campaign by listing six things taxes have done for her. I think that’s a great idea. So here are just a few things I’m grateful taxes have provided to me:
1. My father’s life. My father might be dead, and my parents would possibly be bankrupt and homeless, if Medicare didn’t pay for my father’s thrice-weekly dialysis treatments for kidney failure. If he’s lucky enough to get a transplant, Medicare will pay for that, too.
2. My education. I spent 17 years in public schools (kindergarten through college) and learned a lot of awesome stuff. I enjoyed the humanities best, but here’s a nugget from 11th-grade physics: because of the way light reflects, you have to be facing away from the sun to see a rainbow.
3. My parents’ well-being. Social Security payments are a large part of their income and financial stability.
4. First responders. It is reassuring to know trained professionals such as police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians are only a phone call away in a crisis.
5. Farm subsidies. Both of my parents come from farming backgrounds, and each can claim a Hoosier Homestead farm, which is one that has been in the same family for at least 100 years. It is unlikely that they would be able to boast about that without help from government subsidies.
6. Unemployment benefits. I have been fortunate enough to keep my job through several rounds of layoffs at two different jobs during the recession. Not everyone I know was so lucky, and family members were able to keep their heads above water thanks to unemployment benefits.
What have taxes provided that you are grateful for?