People have always hated paying taxes. Even in The Bible, the tax collector was hated and despised, and when Jesus took one for a disciple, eyebrows were raised. These days, the mantra of the right wing politician, and increasingly of the left wing too, is 'No more taxes', 'No new taxes', 'Lower the taxes we already have'. You don't need a degree in maths to realise that sooner or later irresistable force (ever-lower taxes) is going to meet immovable object (in the shape of demands for government funded services), and there's going to be one hell of a collision. This is already happening in many US states, where the demand for services has so far outstripped the cash available that these states are now effectively bankrupt, and essential services are being cut to the bone and beyond. The same kind of thing happened in Britain during the 1980s, when the Tory government of Mrs Thatcher drastically cut many welfare services in order to give people lower taxes. So why do I (and I'm not alone) want to pay more taxes?
A few years ago President Bush ordered the US Treasury to send out a $300 cheque to each and every American worker who qualified - in other words, those who had paid a full year's tax the previous year. The President's rationalisation for this largesse was (and continues to be) that people should be free to spend their own money how they want, and that it will inject some life into the economy. Both of those are good and arguable points. Let's look at it another way though.
I want to live in a country where there is a good healthcare service. I want to live in a country where the weakest members of society are cared for and given the best possible quality of life. I want a good public transport system and a good education system. I realise that life is not all about the mundane things, so I'd like to be able to indulge my passion for things like classical music and art. These things all cost a great deal of money. A new school, a new hospital, a new railway, a new university, a new concert hall - these are projects which run into millions of pounds or dollars-worth of investment. How on earth is my little $300 cheque going to help that?
No. I'd much rather the government kept my $300 and everyone else's, and used it to make a better world for its citizens. But that's the trouble with governments - they only think in the short term. My plans are for the long term. Ten, twenty, thirty years from now, a better funded education system is going to produce better educated citizens who will pay back the investment put into them many times over by getting better jobs and paying more tax themselves, and by being less likely to need government assistance in the way of welfare or social security payments. Those same people are going to be less of a burden on the healthcare system if they are better looked after in their early years, and encouraged to practice a healthier lifestyle.
Lowering taxes beyond what is reasonable, and giving people tax refunds for no good reason is little more than a bribe. It appeals to the greed and the narrow-mindedness in people and suggests to them that the government is someone worth voting for. In the long run it simply perpetuates the system of greed and iniquity.
Investing public money now will pay back enormous dividends in the future. The capitalists will argue that private, not public money should be invested. Well, I don't want corporations running the schools my children go to or the hospitals we all may have to go to. I don't want them to be run be unaccountable, unelected businessmen. If there's any money to be made in the future I want my government - and therefore the people - to be the benefactor.
And do you know what this will all do in the long term? It will result in lower taxes. How's that for irony!