Republican Dogma: “No Taxes”

The GOP is well known as the party of lowering taxes. Case in point, from a WaPo article about the recent bridge collapse in Minnesota:

Gov. Tim Pawlenty also said he was willing to reverse his long-standing opposition to a state gas tax increase to pay for infrastructure improvements in the state.

President Bush on Thursday dismissed raising the federal gasoline tax to repair the nation’s bridges, though _ as proposed Wednesday by House Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar, D-Minn. _ at least until Congress changes the way it spends highway money.

I can see the wisdom in lowering taxes sometimes, when they’re prove more of a hindrance than a help. And besides, no one likes paying taxes, so it’s an obvious vote-winner. But the Republicans seem to have raised “lower taxes!” from a slogan to a religious tenet.

Case in point, again from the WaPo, same day as above:

President Bush said yesterday that he is considering a fresh plan to cut tax rates for U.S. corporations to make them more competitive around the world, an initiative that could further inflame a battle with the Democratic Congress over spending and taxes and help define the remainder of his tenure.

Nice going, Dubya! We may be seeing the country’s infrastructure literally crumbling before our eyes, and you want to lower taxes some more.

(HT for pointing me at this.)

Some rather obvious observations about taxes after the jump.

Taxes are not evil in and of themselves. As with any expenditure, it’s important to ask, “What am I getting for this?” and “Is it a good deal?”

What we get in return for taxes is quite a lot: defense is a big chunk of it, obviously. And road construction and bridge inspection, as mentioned above. But the taxes that I grumble about every year also pay the salary of the USDA inspector who makes sure that I can pick up some pork chops at the supermarket with the confident expectation that I won’t get trichinosis. And the municipal water treatment plant that sends me water that’s safe to drink (to say nothing of accepting the shit I flush down my toilet, so I don’t have to deal with it). And police, firefighters, EMTs, and judges. And the municipal pool down the road.

Then there’s satellites, which provide weather data that I use to decide whether to bring an umbrella or not. And the ones that provide data that’s turned into maps that help me drive to other places. And the GPS satellites that allow me to tell where I am at any given moment.

Is it a good deal? To be sure, government agencies are often slow and inefficient. On the other hand, they’re not trying to make a profit, as private companies are. Just as a data point, the library system in my county has a budget of $25 million. In a county of about 841,000 people, that comes out to a little under $30 per person per year, or less than $2.50 per month. For that money, I can just waltz right in and borrow a pile of books, tapes, CDs, and DVDs. No matter how you look at it, it’s a better deal than Blockbuster or Neflix (and those don’t even provide free Internet access).

So please, before you go blindly voting for the candidate who’ll lower your taxes the most, think about what you’re getting for those taxes. Whether you like that stuff (I don’t know about you, but I like GPS and USDA inspectors), and how, if taxes go down, that stuff’s going to be paid for.

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4 Responses to Republican Dogma: “No Taxes”

  1. Nanne says:

    Thank you. that was good.


  2. vic says:

    The less the government taxes the better free people are. If you want better infrastructure allow private business to do it.


  3. arensb says:

    I don’t suppose you’d care to back up your assertion with, like, you know, facts? Like maybe a comparison of tax rate vs. quality of life in various countries.
    Just as a specific example: TTBOM, no country that nationalized health service has ever voted to re-privatize it. Why do you suppose that is?
    Taken to its logical conclusion, it would follow that the best society is one where there are no taxes. In such a society, how would you pay for things like defense, roads, unemployment insurance, GPS satellites, and food inspectors?

    Or maybe it’s just that you don’t like paying taxes, so you’ve adopted an extreme libertarian position without thinking it through?


  4. Fez says:


    In a perfect world where everyone and everything is governed by enlightened self-interest I would agree. Unfortunately we don’t live in such a world. The mandatory profit motivations of an unregulated, privately-owned infrastructure would result in an infrastructure permanently crippled by an environment of near-anarchy. Fleshing out the strawman, the necessary regulation to preclude this result has to be paid for in some fashion and enforcement powers vested in a body which is nominally removed from profit motivations. This is probably as good a summarization of the purpose of “government” as any.


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