Editor’s Column: Knowing where your tax dollars are going

Everyone likes to talk about who’s spending taxpayer money, but few taxpayers seem to know (or care) where their personal tax dollars go.

We pay a lot of taxes, from income tax and sales tax and property tax, business taxes, payroll taxes, inheritance taxes, retirement taxes, capital gains taxes, excise taxes (gasoline and cigarettes, for example), tolls and tariffs. It’s a miracle any of us are surviving when you look at all the ways our money is being sucked out of our bank accounts before it ever reaches our bank balance.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not totally anti-taxation (my checkbook just growled at me). Taxes keep our roads (mostly) functional, our bridges (mostly) safe, provide (mostly) for our soldiers and veterans, pay for our sewers and our water supplies (if we’re lucky), and so much more. Our national infrastructure—from airports to public toilets—is largely based on a system of taxation.

Why do we rely on a tax system? I assume it’s because people are naturally selfish, and won’t pony up the funds to pay for a failing bridge or the newest missile unless there’s a penalty for not complying.

There’s another benefit of a taxation system… if we all have to pay for the highway through a percentage of our income, none of us can claim that highway, or section of highway, as “OURS” and put restrictions on who can or cannot travel that segment of roadway. (Remember the stories about the evil troll on the bridge who wouldn’t let anyone pass?)

But the system is flawed, as are all human systems. There are too many loopholes. Everyone doesn’t pay their fair share. Some have boasted publicly that they haven’t paid into the system in decades. Something is wrong with that, and I think most of us who’ve paid in our part would agree.

Fixing that is bigger than anything we can tackle here, but it brings us back to knowing where our tax dollars are going. In short, it’s a complicated rabbit trail with multiple rabbits to follow. One place you can start is in the Public Notices section of the newspaper. This week, for instance, you can see the county’s check register last month. If you read through that list and think, “WHAA??” about an expense, it’s time to ask a question. The explanation is likely to be simple and straightforward, but it’s better to know than to wonder.

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There’s been some discussion about personal rights and freedom of speech lately.

Here’s a thought: if you’re offended by it, your best course of action is probably to ignore it. Folks who put up blatantly antagonistic items for all the world to see are begging for attention. Don’t give it to them.

The potential repercussions are probably not worth the momentary pleasure you might get from pointing out that objectionable flag, picture, bumper sticker, T-shirt, political poster or what-not. It’s certainly not going to change anyone’s mind.

Speaking of freedom of speech, it’s one of the five freedoms protected for all Americans in the First Amendment to the Constitution. Sadly, 37% of Americans cannot name more than one of the five when asked, according to a 2017 survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Perhaps even sadder? According to a 2019 survey by the First Amendment Center of the Freedom Forum Institute (a survey which is done annually), 29% of Americans think the liberties of the First Amendment “go too far.”

Really?

 

By Niki Turner | niki@ht1885.com

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