I just sat at my computer for a good ten minutes re-writing this first sentence, not knowing how to start or where exactly I wanted to go with this. Too often, I find myself reading the political opinions of a friend or random stranger or famous person and wondering where the line between being pragmatic and healthily self-serving crosses into being an asshole. Whereas I have little patience for (what I view as) ignorance with regards to social issues, I have a number of friends who profess fiscal conservatism to be at the root of their (Republican) political inclinations. Some of these friends have also wondered why I vote the way I do (to the left, to the left), given a strong belief in individual liberties and responsibility that I hope comes across in my writing.
That is how much money I paid in Federal, State,
Social Security, and Medicare taxes this past month. It's a lot of
money (Over $25K in a year). But I would always prefer to be in the
position where I make enough money to complain about the taxes I pay,
rather than making so little that I don't owe any taxes (in addition to
payroll taxes that most people already pay). I know that compound
interest is powerful, and that if my taxes were cut in half and the
other half invested, that would be a big deal financially. So the issue
of tax rates, government size, and cost of social programs is not a
minor dollar amount, even on an individual level. On the other hand, I
happen to think that all humans deserve not to die
of hunger or due to poor medical care. So I'm not intrinsically opposed
to social welfare programs or taxes.
I benefit greatly from life
circumstances I cannot control -- that I have a family
that values education, that I grew up in a wealthy country, that I'm
white, and that my height/weight/looks are socially acceptable, to name a
few. Still, it's worth noting that from this advantaged position, there is a lot I
can utilize,and that is very powerful for wealth accumulation -- my
intelligence, and appetite for learning. Because life is not a zero-sum
game, I don't inherently find anything wrong with paying $2,100 a month
to improve public welfare. Do I think the government is handling
everything in an optimal way? Well, does anyone?
Does it seem silly that I think more about purchasing decisions that
have fewer financial repercussions than higher tax rates? I feel that
it's wiser to focus my efforts on what I can change, rather than what I
likely can't, and would take money away from those who need it more than
me. At the root of it, I truly think there are a number of racist,
misogynist, and elitist conservatives: why do you feel OK visiting a
free Smithsonian, going to public parks, eating that yummy subsidized
corn, or taking advantage of non-taxable retirement accounts but decry
social security? Is it worse when someone else makes use of the
government's services if they happen to be black or poor? In the end,
if I happen to pay more into the 'system' than I get back, that's fine
by me. I'm lucky to not have been in dire straits with a need for
extensive government support.
Would love to hear your thoughts -- where do you fall on the voting/fiscal policy spectrum? How do you feel about paying taxes?