COMMUNITY COMMENTARY:

Over the last number of years, starting mostly with the rise of Ronald Reagan as president, a new religion, or rather a cult, has risen and overwhelmed our country. The mantra of this religion is “no taxes,” or “cut taxes,” or “no new taxes.” This mantra has been promoted primarily by the so-called “conservative Republicans” and some Libertarians, but has also been adopted by many in the general public — the latter having been brainwashed by the endless repetition, and never questioning the real reasons for its promotion.

The claim is that the concept of taxes implies that the government essentially steals the money of honest, hardworking men and women, and then squanders it on frivolous enterprises or on the dreaded “bureaucrats.”

And herein lie several contradictions and concepts. To begin with, to my knowledge nobody likes to pay taxes. Our prehistoric ancestors most probably did not pay taxes. But much has happened since the prehistoric times, empires came and disappeared, but importantly, democracy was created by the ancient Greeks.

The basic premise of democracy established that all the citizens of a state have rights as they have obligations to the society that they live in. The rights include the ability to elect their leaders, to participate in major decisions, such as war, the creation of public works, and to be taken care of when in need. The obligations of the citizens included serving the state in governing, the military and contributing to the society based on their ability, through taxes. The taxes were used to take care of the society, in the construction and maintaining of public works the public benefit, and the military.

Of course, taxes were also imposed in non-democratic organized states and societies, albeit without offering to the subjects of these societies many or any rights.

The concept of taxes has been a fact of life with organized societies for thousands of years, with the difference being that the contributions in a democracy have been based on the ability of the citizens to pay, while in other societies, on the whims of the despots ruling these societies. This means that the wealthy in a democracy are expected to contribute more and the poor less. As a matter of fact, in ancient Greece, the wealthy were expected and obligated to serve the State pro bono.

Fast-forward to the new “No Taxes” cult. Their loud and repeated proclamations have attracted others who never gave much thought to the matter other than the natural impulse to not want to pay anything. These cultists want no taxes for anything, under any circumstances. Some of them have become successful in their businesses. They then conclude that — now that they “made it” — they can live in a vacuum in the society.

Presumably, they have no need for schools and universities for their children, sewers and waterworks for their needs, paved streets to travel on, public health departments to prevent diseases from spreading, firemen to extinguish fires, air traffic controllers to keep aircraft safely in the air, nurses and doctors and emergency hospital rooms and paramedics to take care of them in an accident, building inspectors to make sure that construction is correct, national guard for natural disasters, bridges, dams and flood control projects, and a multitude of other entities, persons and activities, not forgetting the military.

In the rather distant past, a political conservative implied someone who believed in fiscal responsibility, but not necessarily at the cost of social isolation. What the no-tax, mostly Republican cultists mean is that what they want is for themselves not to pay for the society's needs and services, but for the rest of the citizenry to do so. They don't want those in the top 1% or so to pay taxes at all if possible. This is not sufficient, to borrow the money, even to the extent of balancing our state budget, and transfer the burden of repayment to our, or someone else's, children.

My conclusion is that the no-taxes cultism is a phony issue, as no civilized country or democracy can survive without taxes, and taxes must be predominantly paid by those who can afford them the best. The taxes must be charged and collected in a manner that our state's and nation's finances are placed on a sound financial basis rather than charging our shortfalls on a credit card to be paid with interest and penalties by our children. They must accept the notion that a lot of the expenditures, such as educating our children and building and maintaining our infrastructure, are an investment on our nation's future.

This is our country, our democracy, and we have rights but also duties and responsibilities, including the paying of taxes for the common good. As responsible citizens, it is our sacred duty to be informed in the political process and be vigilant and ready to take to task our elected representatives to ensure that our taxes are not squandered, as in the form of subsidies to greedy mega-corporations or usurious banks, or in supporting senseless wars and occupation of faraway lands.

Why should our children be responsible to pay the debts, plus interest, of our follies, such as the preemptive war in Iraq and the abandonment of our schools, so that we can maintain our “no taxes” policies? Why should we allow the infrastructure of our nation, which we and our parents built with their labor and taxes, be left to crumble, so that we pay “no taxes” to maintain them?

Is not destroying our schools in order to not pay taxes equivalent to eating our seed grain, as far as the future of our nation goes? Which decent person among us can have a clear conscience by doing this through a “no taxes” policy? How inhuman can we become espousing “no taxes” slogan?


?THEODORE POLYCHRONIS lives in Glendale.

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