At the end of the last school year, I attended a Merced 8th-grade graduation as well as the graduation at Merced College. In both events school, community leaders passed out awards and congratulated students, parents and teachers for all their hard work.
This is as it should be.
However, it dawned on me that it is unusual for anyone at these or other civic events to share a word of gratitude for the people who finance the entire operation. Taxpayers.
One reason so many Americans have nothing but negative associations about taxes is because they obsess about the cost when the money comes out of our paychecks or is added to our purchases and give little thought to the good they’re doing.
This tax-phobia has become a longstanding feature of the Republican Party. Taxes are often referred to as a “burden” from which we all need relief.
Recently, a student shared with me his anger over the taxes taken from his paycheck. As it turned out, his annual taxes were much less than the nearly $6,000 that California all taxpayers are spending annually on his community college education – not counting any grants and other assistance he is receiving.
Turns out, he’s making out quite nicely on this deal. But no one told him. If you, or any members of your family, benefitted from our public schools and universities, then be grateful for taxes.
That is just the start. We are grateful for those who respond to our emergencies – police, fire and medical – whenever we call. We should thank them. But we also need to thank taxpayers who fund the bulk of the cost of those services.
All of our military operations, including pay and benefits to retired military and disabled veterans, are financed by our taxes. Thank you, taxpayers!
The list goes on, including roads, environmental safety, legal systems and, yes, welfare benefits for our most impoverished. None of us likes to pay for everything on the list, but it is silly to think we are going to fund only the things you or I want in a state the size of California or a nation the size of the USA.
Yes, there is also government fraud and negligence and sloth, as there is in all human institutions. Where there are humans, there will be bad ones. For this we need to support freedom of information that allows media and watchdog groups like Public Citizen to keep pressure on institutions.
Taxpayers work hard for the money that they turn over to run necessary government services. We would not want to live in a world where these services were not provided, so we should feel grateful and good about the part each of us plays as a taxpayer.
It would be nice to hear that mentioned more often. Especially at functions paid for by our tax dollars.
Keith Law is an instructor of philosophy at Merced College. He wrote this for the Merced Sun-Star.