I’m no student of economics. I don’t know Alan Greenspan from Alan Alda. As a college student when the professor was teaching the law of supply and demand, I was daydreaming either about my favorite baseball team or of shagging the girl with the shag haircut in the front row (not necessarily in that order). But, like our president (whom I suspect was having the same daydreams during Economics 101 when he as at Yale), I am ready and willing to share my theories with you anyway. If you feel yourself nodding off while reading this column, have yourself an extra cup of caffeine.
I don’t believe taxes are intrinsically evil – now I’ve already made all the Republicans angry. Taxes are what enable the government to provide the basic services most of us crave, from collecting trash and keeping our streets safe, to educating our kids and grandkids and keeping our country secure. Notice to politicians: It’s not paying taxes that bothers people so much, it’s paying taxes and not getting anything for it.
Republicans long for the day of smaller government and, hence, lower taxes. I admit, when I’m able to stop thinking about sex, I have similar dreams. I also wish we still educated kids in little red schoolhouses and Lincoln was president, but those days are no more likely to happen than for our government to shrink like George Costanza’s you-know-what in a cold swimming pool. The idea you can run the world’s only superpower with a government that can be drowned in your bathtub is a longstanding Republican myth – like Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey swearing they’d love one another ’til death did them part. Once we get by the myth of small government, maybe we can get on with figuring out how to make Government more just and efficient.
Poll after poll shows the public expects the same things from their Government, no matter what their political affiliation. When they don’t get it, they get angry and cynical – in other words, they become conservatives. Listen to what the conservative talk show hosts are telling us now that Bush has fouled up so badly:
"What did we tell you all along," they say, "you can’t depend on Government." In other words, the fact a conservative Republican president and a Republican Congress have made a mess handling Katrina and Iraq is not proof of their incompetence, it’s proof governing is an impossible job. But actually that’s not the case. Sure, people always gripe about their Government, but polls have shown until Bush they usually think their president is doing a pretty good job of governing.
If you haven’t dozed off by now, remember a couple of paragraphs back I mentioned the things most people expect from Government. Here’s what they don’t want: They don’t want their taxes supporting unnecessary wars. This means if you’re going to spend billions on invading another country, make sure it’s the right country and, please, bring CooperPriceWaterhouse along to audit the books. Voters also hate it when Congress sneaks their own favorite pork barrel projects into the budget. This means they don’t want to fund a highway to nowhere or spend as many tax dollars protecting Wyoming from al-Qaeda as we do New York City just because Dick Cheney likes to hunt there. Al-Qaeda couldn’t find Wyoming if it wanted to and, if it could, it would be more cost effective to let them have it.
I also think it’s important, if you’re going to ask Americans to pay taxes to support their Government, we ought to make sure everyone pays their fair share. This means out with taxes on food and clothing, which take a disproportionate share from the working poor, whom we profess to admire so much. It also means doing away with property taxes based on the paper value of a person’s home and not what they can afford. Now at this point you would be justified in asking, "Cardella, are there any kind of taxes you would favor?" I’m glad you asked because I’m running out of column space.
I favor a progressive income tax without a bunch of loopholes. The progressive income tax has been unfairly maligned. It rests on the basic principle that you pay according to what you can afford. What could be more fair? As far as unearned income, you should tax all forms of it equitably. That means no special break for capital gains, let the free market decide without the Government’s help where people want to invest their money. Yes, I would keep the inheritance tax because, in a fair world, unearned income should be taxed higher than income that’s earned while working. Taxing inheritance is no more unfair than the Government taxing the interest earned on our savings accounts. It won’t destroy the incentive to work because it may force heirs to actually work to earn a living. Do we really want to worry that Paris Hilton won’t be able to afford a new dress because we taxed her daddy’s income when he died?
With apologies to my accountant, who is a good person, but who makes far too much money at this time of year off people like us, you shouldn’t need a CPA or H&R Block to do your taxes.
I rest my case.