"Tax and Spend" Liberals. We hear that every election cycle. I find it amusing. The role of government is to provide infrastructure and services to the people it (theoretically) represents. In order to fund these services, the government must raise money. Government raises money through taxation. Government provides services by allocating money and spending for those services. Calling an elected official a tax and spend liberal is idiotic. It would be like trying to denigrate someone by calling them a "breathe-in, breathe-out" conservative.
(the entire "ABC's of Corpocracy" series is available here)
One of the most interesting measures of an entity(nation, state, city, village, family) is how its resources are allocated (both the process as well as the allocation). In America the government establishes a budget based upon our past debt, current needs and future vision for our country. We attempt to elect a government that will represent the will of "We the people" in the budget process. There are mandatory payments, and payments that are discretionary. Any money expended should satisfy any debt and serve to make America stronger for future generations. Once the budget requirements are determined, government raises money through taxation and/or borrowing funds.
The Tax Part
As a society we need to be secure on a global scale so funds are allocated for defense and intelligence. We need security on a local level so we fund first-responders such as police, fire and paramedics. We need to support travel and commerce so we build roads, highways, rail systems and airports. In order to be strong we must have a well-educated society so we fund an education system. Not everyone in our society may be capable of productivity and so we fund basic social services to ensure everyone can live their lives with dignity and a reasonable quality of life. We want to be certain that future generations can experience the unique beauty of America, its mountains, beaches (or shores -if you live back east), lakes and forests, so we create a system of national parks and maintain them. Government must maintain a balance that encourages commerce and economic growth, yet also make sure that its people are protected from environmental harm and are treated fairly by corporations (at least until Reagan accelerated the marginalization of Unions and Bush eviscerated environmental protection and enforcement). We must raise a significant amount of money to pay for services. A large portion of this money is raised through taxation. Think of it as a membership fee we pay to belong to a society with abundant resources and sizable advantages so our families and communities can continue to enjoy abundance and advantage.
The Spend Part
Throughout time, society may prioritize the allocation differnently because of internal or external events. Late 18th century America would likely not allocate much for the space program or freeways. The thought of an EPA superfund, fighting communism and government backed faith-based initiatives would not have been a priority either. And although we attempt to elect officials to represent our will, there is never a guarantee that they will actually represent "We the People". They may decide that it requires a significant amount of money to run a successful campaign (election or re-election) and therefore will represent those that have significant power and influence instead of you and me. One need not look further than Abramoff, Delay or Cunningham for recent examples of our will being subverted by money and influence. So spending is complex. You have the changing will of the people. You have the seperate actions of Congress and the Executive Branch either or both of which may be vastly different than the needs or wants of society. And then you have the politics ("you vote to allocate money to my pork project and I'll vote for your stupid thing"). There is also always tension in any budget between items of long-term significance and short-term wants or needs.
How were your recent (2005) federal income tax dollars spent? (Source: National Priorities Project)
Of the $1000.00 you paid in taxes:
$285.00 goes to the military
$187.00 goes to pay the interest on the debt
$202.00 goes to health care
$66.00 goes to income security
$41.00 goes to education
$37.00 goes to benefits for veterans
$27.00 goes to nutrition spending
$20.00 goes to housing
$14.00 goes to environmental protection
$3.00 goes to job training
$116.00 goes to all other expenses
This means that between "defense" spending (which is increasing due to the continued occupation of Iraq) and interest on our debt (which is increasing because of the fiscal policies of the present government), 47.2%, nearly 1/2 of revenue raised through income taxation is spent on guns, tanks and interest. This is from the government that claims "Family Values" and "Compassionate Conservativism". The fiscal actions of the U.S. Government at present are neither compassionate or conservative.
Let's look at it a different way -from a family values perspective -imagine you are an American family of four, mom, dad and two children. Together mom and dad make $50,000 net per year. Here's what your household budget looks like if we apply the U.S. budget on a percentage basis to your household on a monthly basis:
Family Monthly Income: $4,200
$1,200 per month is spent on Guns and Ammo
$780 is spent on interest payments on your loans
$850 is spent on doctors, dentists and prescriptions
$85 is spent per child for a teacher, books and school supplies
$83 is spent on rent
This means that the Bush/Cheney government that pontificates the vision of "Family Values" spends most of our American family money on bombs and interest on rising debt. Is it any wonder that the American "family" is torn apart? The future for any society is the system of education, based upon the budget, do you still believe that this government is strengthening the American future? What would a fiscal conservative recommend if they saw the monthly budget depicted above? Would they recommend shifting some of the expenditure to reduce debt so that it wasn't the third highest payment in our family budget? I'll tell you what a true fiscal conservative wouldn't do. He or she wouldn't say "You've got too much income, you need to reduce it.". That is precisely what Bush/Cheney have done. By attempting to eliminate estate taxes altogether, reducing the income tax percentage on the highest bracket and slashing capital gains taxes. The claim is that this stimulates the American economy. What it actually does is accelerate the consolidation of wealth and power. This will perpetuate the trend to plunder our natural resources, sell off our national parks and preserves and diminish quality of life and opportunities for many generations of Americans.
Whether you are a conservative or liberal you should be very alarmed at the trend of this government to plunge America into deeper debt, ruin the environment and cause us to expend even more of our resources on defense as the world grows in its hatred of our barbaric policies, our lack of international treaty cooperation and our contempt for international bodies.
We need a government that will rise above corruption and represent the will of the American people. "We the People" want an America that is strong, fair and respected within the world community, that can lead by example and not by force. We want opportunity for all our youth (not just Paris Hilton or the Bush Twins) that extends beyond military service, prison or violent death on our streets. We want to take our children on a picnic near an unpolluted stream in a national or state park that is not owned by Chevron or Exxon. We must have a world-class system of education with small, safe classrooms and safe neighborhoods for all. We want fresh air and safe drinking water. We want to dream again of what is possible when humanity is working together at its best -toward the exploration of space and our oceans. We want cures for AIDS and cancer. We want an energy policy that is predicated on clean, renewable energy from the wind, the sun or hydrogen that is cheap and will not cause environmental or planetary harm. We need a government that will use our military judiciously and will equip them with the resources they need to be safe when they must go into harm's way. All of these things are within our grasp. As a people, and as important as many polarizing issues are to us, we must put our differences aside. While we continue to be divided across race, class, gender and religion our pockets are all being picked.
Tax and spend is the job of the government. It is also their job to represent the will of its people. And if they aren't going to do their job, let's find representatives that will. November 2006 is a good time to begin to put America on course.
Just a few thoughts from my over-caffeinated alphabetic mind.
About the Author: Mr. Polisner founded alonovo.com in March of 2005. He has been working in most aspects of Information Technology since 1981 and was an early commercial adopter of the UNIX operating system. Prior to founding alonovo.com, George was a Director at Oracle Corporation. He is a frequent contributor to newspapers regarding political and economic policy and often appears as a guest on radio programs. In fact, when it comes to alonovo.com, it's pretty difficult to get him to stop talking.