Archive for August 8th, 2011

“What Are Taxes, Daddy?”

“What are taxes, Daddy?”  That was the question posed by my seven-year-old daughter as she counted change in her piggie bank, hoping to have enough for a certain toy. 

Five years ago, I would have answered with something like “Taxes are something our government charges people to pay for public services like police, firemen, schools, and courts.”

Today?  I’m not so sure.  What would you tell my daughter?  What, exactly, are taxes for?  

Many have opined that Social Security will be obsolete within my lifetime, despite those who worked and paid into the system their entire career.  Recently, Social Security recipients stopped receiving cost-of-living increases, even though those on fixed income need these increases the most.  I guess helping the elderly, even those who worked their entire lives, is not what taxes are used for.

Our court system is so grossly under-funded that rocket-dockets and senior judges were installed, to the frustration of homeowners and consumer advocates, yet that system was scrapped for budgetary reasons.  Now, many judges feel the need to adjudicate motions in foreclosure cases without a hearing.  I guess the courts are not what taxes are used for, either. 

Governor Scott recently signed a bill that took took away tenure for Florida’s teachers (even though Florida teachers are underpaid by any measure, compared to other states).  I guess public education is not what taxes are used for, either. 

Meanwhile …

America spends trillions of dollars overseas, fighting wars ad infinitum for which the average American can’t explain the purpose.  31 soldiers just died towards this cause.  Is this what taxes are for?  

The St. Pete Times recently showed a story where BB&T proceeded with foreclosure against a local businessman because he was one day late on his monthly mortgage payment, then refused to drop the case even when he repeatedly offered to pay all arrearages.  As I explained in a recent blog, it did so because our government ensures, through the FDIC, that banks in this situation are paid in full.  Is this what taxes are for, to pay banks who have already been bailed out?

How, exactly, do I answer my daughter’s question?  I’d like to say something like …

Taxes are monies our government charges people to help pay for things we need, things like police, firemen, schools, and courts.  Unfortunately, the system has become so corrupt that our tax dollars are often allocated inappropriately towards services that aren’t needed for the benefit of people and companies that don’t need them.  Now, America is now trillions of dollars in debt as a result of this improper spending, and you and your siblings will have to re-pay that money when you enter the workforce. 

A little too intense for a seven-year old?  Certainly.  And that’s a shame.  It’s a shame that when my daughter asks “What are Taxes, Daddy,” that I struggle to give her a fair answer.

Mark Stopa

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