Paying taxes, as a form of charitable giving, versus private charities


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“If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” President Barack Obama.

When liberals speak about taxation, they do so with high-minded rhetoric such as: “We should consider it a badge of honor to pay taxes.”  They also drop the ever present liberal meme: “We should give back to our communities” through government taxation.  They say that we should give back to the communities that allowed us to prosper.  They talk about how government built the roads we drove in on, the public schools that provided us the foundation of knowledge that we expounded upon, and they upload a laundry list of the things government did to provide us our current well-being.  We shouldn’t begrudge paying taxes they say when they’ve completed this laundry list, we should consider it an honor based on everything the government does for us.  The perfect response, as usual, is given by columnist Charles Krauthammer:

“Obama’s infrastructure argument is easily refuted by what is essentially a controlled social experiment. Roads and schools are the constant. What’s variable is the energy, enterprise, risk-taking, hard work and genius of the individual. It is therefore precisely those individual characteristics, not the communal utilities, that account for the different outcomes{1}.”

But the government is the lynchpin of society, liberals say, it is the great equalizer.  If the government won’t look after you, they say, who will?  It is what holds all of society together.  It is the only body that can prevent private industry from putting arsenic in our Ho Ho’s.  It is a set of individuals that fight the good fight to prevent corporations and churches from taking over our government, and it is the only instrument through which a sense of societal fairness can be achieved.  And you have to pay for that.

But we’re already paying for it, say conservatives, and their complaint is backed by Congressional Budget Office findings that the 10% of households with the highest incomes pay more than half of all federal taxes. They pay more than 70% of federal income taxes {2}.  Liberals ignore this fact in their pursuit of fairness, and they say that it’s about giving back and fairness, and helping people out, and recognizing that you couldn’t have done what you did in life if it weren’t for government assistance.  Therefore, it’s your responsibility, and patriotic duty to give back to your government, so they can help the less fortunate among us.

The element that is often forgotten in the liberal pursuit of fairness and giving back is private charity.  It’s not that liberals don’t believe in private charities, it’s just that it’s not a part of their ethos.  “I pay my taxes,” is the mind set of those liberals who may flirt with any notion of guilt for not giving to charity.  Former Vice-President Al Gore and current Vice-President Joe Biden don’t give a third of what former Vice-President Dick Cheney gives to charity.  Yet, if you were to corner them on this fact, they would probably say, “I pay my taxes.”  Joe Biden even went so far to say that it’s our “patriotic to pay higher taxes”{3}.  To further this point, if a Biden, a Gore, or any liberal for that matter, were to run across a man who is down on their luck, they probably wouldn’t tell them to seek assistance in the form of their local church, or a local charity, they would probably tell them to enroll in a government assistance program.  “That’s what it’s there for,” they would probably say.  One would think that with the federal government’s coffers depleting more and more every year that that mind set would start to shift, but it doesn’t.  They simply call for more taxation, and they call for less complaining about more taxation, so we can help our fellow man out.

Even though most conservatives despise the term “give back” for the sense of obligation that it intones, the do donate to private charities of their own free will.  Anyone who has worked in a field that studies charities knows that Americans (see conservatives) give more than their fair share to charity.  They give more than liberals{4}, they give more than any other socioeconomic group in the world, and statistics show that this sense of giving is extended and expounded upon despite economic conditions{5}.  Yet, it doesn’t fit into the liberal equation.

If aliens from another planet were to listen to the recent speeches made by these liberal provocateurs, they would probably believe that paying taxes was voluntary.  They would probably think these politicians were putting out a call for each citizen to reach deep into their hearts and pocketbooks and help fund the government, and its charitable giving.  As all humans, who live in America know, paying taxes is the law, and unless you’re Tim Geithner, Charlie Rangel, or Tom Daschle you face penalties, and possible jail time, for not paying them.  Your money is taken from you by force, in other words, and it is distributed at the whims of the leadership in Washington.  These aliens would probably believe that the only form of charitable giving occurred in federal government disbursements after listening to these speeches, and they wouldn’t understand why anyone would have a problem with it.

The problem with it, in the conservative equation, is two-fold.  The first problem, as I said, is that the money is taken by force of law, and it is distributed at the government official’s behest.  The individual American has little to no say in how their money is distributed in the liberal equation, and most conservatives believe that they can do better things with their money than those who give with their political interests in mind.  The second concern conservatives have with the liberal equation is that most of their hard earned tax dollars, taken with the provision that a percentage of it will be devoted to charitable giving, is the other percentage of it that is wasted and used in crony-capitalism.

Those who consider it a badge of honor to pay taxes don’t usually ask for such accounting of their tax dollars.  They are not as curious about this as others, because the representative spending the money is usually from their party, and they blindly trust them to do what’s right.  They voted for this person to represent their views after all.  To those who are curious, Heritage.org has come up with a list of 50 examples of Government waste.  We’ve all heard tales of government waste of this sort that include $25 billion being spent on unused or vacant properties, $2.6 million being spent on teaching Chinese prostitutes how to drink more responsibly on the job, health care fraud, and the millions spent on government officials’ parties and flight upgrades{6}.  We’ve all heard these tales and others, and we’ve all laughed when late-night comedians compile them into lists, but they haven’t impeded liberals from asking for more from those they deem can afford it.

“You can afford it,” the liberal politicians say to dismiss those who complain.  The question the complainer should then ask is: “If it’s our obligation, and our patriotic duty, to pay more, as you say, isn’t it your responsibility to spend our money more responsibly?”  This complainer could also say, “It’s obvious that you don’t trust us to fulfill this obligation, this patriotic duty, when you hire countless agents to make sure we do.  Do you think that we, the people, should hire watchdog groups to make sure that you spend it responsibly?  Nothing against you personally, mr. lawyer and politician, but don’t you think that an outside accounting firm should be brought in to clean up all of the waste, fraud, and abuse that occurs with our money, so that your colleagues in Washington are forced to fulfill their duty to be accountable and transparent in the manner all politicians profess they will be when they take our seats in the federal government?

If paying taxes is not voluntary, and it is forced punitive action upon your finances that is a jailable offense to those who fail to comply, why are we seeing such a push to glorify paying taxes to badge of honor status?  Is it to shut those who complain up, or are there historically high taxes on the horizon that representatives facing election fear we may rebel against?  Whatever the case, there is a huge push —more than usual anyway— to make businessmen and entrepreneurs feel guilty for wanting to keep more of the money they’ve earned.

{1} http://news.investors.com/article/618822/201207191846/in-obama-vision-government-not-individuals-central.htm?p=full

{2}http://www.usatoday.com/money/perfi/taxes/story/2011-09-20/buffett-tax-millionaires/50480226/1

{3} http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26771716/ns/politics-decision_08/t/biden-calls-paying-higher-taxes-patriotic-act/

{4} http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/21/opinion/21kristof.html

{5} http://www.philanthropy.iupui.edu/news/2011/06/pr-GUSA.aspx

{6}http://blog.heritage.org/2009/10/08/50-examples-of-government-waste/

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