If you haven't read this Los Angeles Times article about hypocrisy in South Carolina when it comes to federal spending, it's a real eye-opener. In it, a Rick Santorum supporter by the name of Nancy Garvin delivers the typical tea party rant about government. The 54-year-old complains, to paraphrase, that she's tired of the federal government frittering away money on useless programs:
"Washington is throwing money away through a lot of wasteful spending," she said, sitting at a picnic table beneath trees draped in graying Spanish moss.So typical. Just like the iconic tea party protester with the "Get Your Government Hands Off My Medicare!" sign. Blue collar right wingers hate government programs - except the ones they use. Which brings me to the reason why the very wealthy, the 1-percenters, should pay more in taxes than you and me and the Nancy Garvins of the world. More below the orange nebula galaxy.
But Garvin, whose husband, a carpenter, has been out of work for four years, depends on the very government she wants to see cut back. She collects disability insurance — it is what she and her husband have survived on as he's looked for work. Her mother is on Social Security. Garvin herself used to work as a nurse at a hospital where many patients paid for services through Medicaid, another program using federal money.
One of my favorite local public radio hosts regularly speaks about American economic issues on his show. When the issue of that uniquely visceral American aversion to taxes comes up, he sometimes rhetorically asks his guests, "Why don't Americans get the connection that when you pay your taxes, you get your government services?" I am just as befuddled by this conundrum as he is. Yeah, many Americans don't seem to get it that we have to pay taxes for the public services we rely on to maintain a civilized society. Public workers aren't slaves, and they shouldn't be expected to work for minimum wage either. They should be respected. If you want good services, you've got to pay for them.
On the other hand, the super rich, like Mitt "Mr. 13.9% Tax Rate" Romney, who want to see their taxes reduced even further, conveniently forget that they use up a disproportionate amount of our collective resources than the average American. Therefore, they ought to pay more in taxes. As a presidential candidate, a businessman, and, well, a rich guy who can afford to travel, Mittens probably has a lot of flying under his belt. So, he's gone into and out of many airports. The air traffic controllers in those airports get paid by our taxes. Taxes maintain the water, sewage, electrical and other infrastructure that these airports need. As for me, I haven't flown on an airplane in several years. The average American probably flies at most once or twice a year for major holidays.
What about roads? I'm sure Mittens hires a nice vehicle to ferry him to and from campaign stops. That's a lot of road usage. If you're a gazillionaire and have a whole fleet of expensive cars at your disposal - particularly heavy, gas-guzzling SUVs - you're tearing up the roads at a faster rate than someone who just drives one small, economy car, and goes to work and the grocery store. Taking this even further, corporations have fleets of commercial cars and trucks that are grinding down our crumbling roads every single day. FedEx, for example, has been accused of tax-dodging, and yet this company happily uses up our road infrastructure, something essential to its business.
How about housing? Mittens and his fellow gazillionaires tend to own multiple homes on prime real estate. And the superwealthy also like their homes to be far away from the rabble, sometimes behind gated communities, other times tucked away in remote areas only accessible by winding narrow roads. Here where I live in southern California, some of the rich live in wilderness areas, vulnerable to wildfires, or right on the beach, in areas vulnerable to mudslides. Of course, when you're rolling in dough, a small dwelling just won't do. No, when you're superrich, you've got to have a multiple-thousand-square-foot compound. All of that real estate lying in remote areas is going to take a lot of public infrastructure to maintain, for example, water and sewage. Larger homes use up a lot more energy, so the country's electrical grid gets strained. And when an emergency occurs - from a burglary on up to a natural disaster - it takes police and fire more effort and money to protect the homes of the superrich. Owning multiple homes adds up to the public expense. A corporation's "home" is its headquarters and satellite offices. All of those buildings are maintained with services from public infrastructure.
The point is, the amount one pays to help preserve our public infrastructure should be proportional to the amount one uses. The wealthy and corporations use our transportation system more, they have bigger homes, they burden our electrical grid, and they suck up most of the available water (see agri-business). The rich use up much of the court system to enforce contracts, or to sue each other (or the government). They use up much of our public safety budgets to protect their vast property holdings. Companies benefit from having workers educated in our public schools. They benefit from research and development paid for by taxpayers at government institutions. And rich individuals are still "entitled" to Social Security and Medicare. Like the rest of us, they can still use parks, libraries and beaches. The wealthy wouldn't be wealthy if there was no public infrastructure - no civil society - to help get them there.
So, I would like to ask Romney and all these other rich folks who insist on paying next to nothing in taxes, why should they get a discount on the price for civilization? Why do they think the rest of us - who barely have enough money to survive - should subsidize their businesses and their lifestyles? Is it less important for the rest of us to eat, and more important for us to kick in more of our meager incomes to finance yet another sports stadium most of us will never see the inside of? Why is that not welfare, but programs like food stamps and unemployment insurance are? Why are Social Security and Medicare considered "entitlements," but agricultural subsidies aren't?
All of these benefits - whether they go to average Americans or to corporations - are paid for with public money. What then, Mr. Romney, is the difference? Why do you wish to slam average Americans with higher income taxes, payroll taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, excise taxes and fees, and then cheat them out of the benefits those taxes are supposed to provide? Why do you and your rich buddies think the rest of us should have to pay more and more and then expect nothing in return? We are not your servants. We have to live here too, and we deserve a decent standard of living in a country with a government that provides good public services and a robust safety net for everyone. That takes a lot of money, something Mrs. Garvin doesn't seem to understand. Our public infrastructure is falling apart, and the majority of Americans don't have the funds to repair all of it. The greedy superrich and corporations, on the other hand, do. They took most of our country's wealth - wealth that we all worked to create - for themselves. They are largely responsible for the country's neglect, so they gotta pay up.