Thinking about taxes

Tomorrow, the Association of Portsmouth Taxpayers will be meeting to decide whether to pursue a spending and tax cap in Portsmouth. It may be a difficult sell; everyone is aware that the economy stinks right now, including the local powers that be. Since the local government is not completely out of control, it is difficult to muster emotional energy to oppose government growth; I’ve personally had little luck getting concrete support from the few folks I know who actually live within the city. It is worth a try, though.

At the state level, there are rumblings about an income tax. A brilliant move, while people are getting laid off and homes are being foreclosed upon; clearly, we should be taking more money away from people who still have jobs. There is also a state-level proposal to give a property tax exemption to historic homes—owned disproportionately by better-off people—which would completely screw over Portsmouth’s non-wealthy homeowners.

And nationally, Tom Daschle just withdrew from his nomination as Secretary of Health and Human Services after it was revealed that he “forgot” to pay $128,000 in taxes. This is after Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner forgot $35,000 in taxes, and at a lower level, Nancy Killefer, nominated for Chief Performance Officer, didn’t pay payroll taxes for her household help. All of these prominent scofflaws express regret and correct their oversights—once they get caught, and they don’t get caught until they become prominent. How many more national political figures are dodging their taxes, while meanwhile excoriating citizens who “don’t do their part”? Why should any of us take taxation seriously when the people writing the tax laws ignore them, or can’t figure out how to comply with them, or “forget” to do so?

And yet there are still members of the public who think that the government will fix our problems if they just have enough resources. Let Tim Geithner donate $35,000 to a soup kitchen, and Tom Daschle give $128,000 to inner-city health clinics. I’ll keep spending my time and money on local charities that I think are worthwhile, and if the state and fed can just stop making things worse, we might actually get somewhere.

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