April 9th, 2007

The Good Discrimination

« April 2007 »

Memo to Tax Whiners: YOU ARE DUMB.

Ah, tax time. That most hated time of the year, when every radio host on the planet thinks that Beatles song is a clever intro and our collective bitchfest about being members of a society reaches fever pitch. Locally, we're in the midst of a Double Whiny Whammy, because the state's working on its budget, and the Democrats are raising taxes on the wealthy. As the kids these days say, OH NOES.

Yes, there's whining everywhere. But most of it plays itself out in one of my favorite, and of late somewhat neglected, venues for public stupidity - the letters to the editor of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Take, for example, Perry Nouis' clumsy attempt to frame the debate:

"Here's a quiz: If Taxpayer A pays $1,000 in state income tax, and Taxpayer B pays $20,000 in state income tax, which taxpayer isn't doing his or her share in funding state government? Liberals answer, 'It depends.' Conservatives say that Taxpayer B is paying 20 times more than Taxpayer A. Is that fair? Using liberal math is the only way one can conclude Taxpayer B should pay more. Why is it that the Star Tribune and columnist Nick Coleman don't see the discrimination in our current tax system? Or is it they see the discrimination, accept it and make a conscious decision to mount a campaign to make it worse?"

Now, I'm not sure what the altitude is in Little Falls, Minnesota, but even assuming the air is Everest-thin there, I'm not sure I can believe what I'm seeing here. Is this man actually suggesting that everyone should pay the exact same DOLLAR AMOUNT in taxes, regardless of income? And doing otherwise is discrimination? That's the kind of flat tax that would give Grover Norquist a wet dream.

It's not liberal math that says Taxpayer B should pay more. It's sanity. Common sense. Assuming, of course, that Taxpayer B makes considerably more money than Taxpayer A, of course he should pay more in taxes. Because even if we hike up his tax rate so that he's paying twenty percentage points more than Average Joe, once the taxes have been taken away, he's STILL GOT MORE. I don't see wealthy people clamoring to reduce their tax burden by taking pay cuts.

Is that discrimination? Yes, in the sense that the word "discrimination" essentially means to treat people differently. But it's not unfair. It's not unfair to treat people differently when they're actually different. There may be valid, reasonable arguments to be made on various aspects of tax policy, but "Hey, I'm paying more than that guy who works at Burger King! I'm being discriminated against by evil liberals!" is so far away from any of those arguments that light takes hours to get there.

I'm going to say something nice about Joe Folio. Joe Folio is not as insane as Perry Nouis. Sure, it's a pretty low bar to clear, as compliments go, but credit where credit is due. Even so, his relative sanity doesn't stop him from embracing one of the most obnoxious misconceptions I see from whining bastards who talk about taxation:

"Why should a resident of International Falls have to pay more taxes for something he would never use?"

Because society is not a zero-sum game, dumbass. It's not like going to Target, where you hand over five dollars and in return, receive five dollars worth of gum. The whole point of government is that we all pay in, and then the government pays out for things that government needs to do. So you pay for buses (the specific topic Folio was bitching about). Jesus freaks pay for contraceptives. I pay for cluster bombs. We pay for things we don't use, things we don't like, and things we don't need.

And we do this because the people we've elected have decided that we need contraceptives, and we need buses, and we need to bomb brown people, and we need to build bridges to towns of 5,000 people in Alaska. And every couple of years, if we don't like it, we go vote for someone we hope will piss other people off more and us less. And it's ugly and it's messy and it's imperfect as hell and it's been corrupted and twisted and broken by the abuse of power over the years. But it's still fundamentally a good idea.

We take some from everyone. We take more from those who have more. And we use it for things most of us agree we need. That's America, and no matter how much crazy people like Nouis, Folio, and their ilk like to yell about it, the fact is that when it's not being fucked with by selfish Reaganite bastards and latter-day robber barons, it actually works pretty damn well. And if you don't like it, well, I guess you can follow Halliburton to Dubai.