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Taxation a necessity to preserve our society of comfort

By Cody Shilling     4/7/11 7:00pm

There is so much discussion and numerous viewpoints today about the size of government, the amount of money the government should borrow, how big a deal the debt currently is, and whether or not we can responsibly raise taxes while still in a recession. But one of the major misconceptions present in a large number of debates deals with people's perceptions of taxes. Especially with the last midterm elections which so many people view as a clear message for smaller less intrusive government, the word "taxes" got thrown around so often, used pejoratively by the right, while being a taboo word for the left.

It seems like neither major political party is willing to sit down and truly discuss what is necessary to shrink our growing deficit and enormous public debt. A poll in December showed that one-quarter of Americans feel the deficit and federal spending is the largest problem facing America right now. It is a bigger issue than the wars, immigration, health care, or the economy. Yet, so many people oppose raising taxes on anyone but the most wealthy in this country. As citizens, we seem to have the mindset of, "I believe we need to be more financially conservative, but I don't support raising taxes to pay for it."

We view taxes as a penalty for working hard, for earning more, for being successful. But the reality is that taxes are not a burden placed on the population in order to pay for programs that have little benefit to the tax payer. Taxes are the cost of living in society. They are how we pay for our roads, ensure the safety of our food, the testing of new drugs, the protection of our electrical grid, our national defense, our sewer system, our trash disposal and our schools, just to name a few of the benefits.

We seem to view taxes as this abstract evil that we can somehow get rid of, while at the same time have a balanced federal budget. But no one is in real support of cutting the federal budget. When asked if we should cut spending in general, there is widespread support; but when asked what we should cut, the mind set is "anything that doesn't affect me." So earmarks, as the most localized spending, are the first thing to go. But earmarks make up less that 2 percent of our federal budget, obviously not enough to make any substantial difference. After that, no one can agree on what to cut, because the fact of the matter is that we all receive benefits from the services our government gives.

We all would rather have the FDA testing out new drugs before companies sell them to the public. We would rather have the USDA inspecting food processing plants to ensure they are clean and sanitary. We want our military to be top notch and a step above the rest. We want more money for teachers and schools. We want police there keeping our cities safe. We want the U.S. Border Patrol to keep the drug cartels and violence out of America. We want the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to keep us safe from terrorist attacks. As a society, we want all of these services but don't want to pay for them.

Without Social Security, over 40 percent of seniors would live in poverty; with it, only 16.1 percent  do. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid may be the largest contributors to our national debt, but the fact of the matter is that they benefit so many and provide a life-line to those in the most need; we shouldn't get rid of them. The fact that these programs need to be reformed does not diminish the incredible amount of good they do in so many lives. Certainly, people should not view Social Security as their main source of income after retirement, but that does not negate the good it does for the 13 million seniors who would otherwise live below the poverty line.

We must take a good hard look at ourselves as a society and ask whether we want these services and aids or whether we want a society in which our food and our medicine is unregulated, our borders are not well protected or where we no longer help those at the bottom. I would rather have the FDA, would rather our government give assistance to those in need  and would rather have well staffed and funded schools for future generations.

Cody Shilling is a Will Rice College sophomore.

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