What do you owe the world? (why taxation isn’t theft)

What do you owe the world? (why taxation isn’t theft)

What do you owe your fellow citizens? What do they owe you? Why should you care about suffering and misery? Why should those in misery think they deserve help? Why are so many so rich and so many so poor?

The answers to these questions largely don’t need to be answered to determine what is in our self interest. Even if you have “fuck you money” most folks don’t. Even those in the upper middle class benefit when more people have a chance to do great things rather than suffer in poverty.

Civilization is the result of people becoming increasingly able to specialize and become increasingly productive by not worrying about immediate material needs. If you can make enough food to feed everyone with a small portion of the population, people can do things other than farm. If many people suddenly don’t have to spend hours and hours in taking ingredients and making meals, they can do other things. If you can make more cars, tools or what have you in a factory with less people, that leaves more people able to do other things.

People that can write books. People that can sing songs. People that can make you much better sushi than you’d make at home. People that can write software that can do things that used to take armies of administrative and sales staff. As we become better we all benefit and all become richer in the process.

When you leave millions in unemployment you prevent them from making anyone’s life better. They are losing skills, contacts, emotional health, while producing little other than painful posts to tumblr. When you force millions into underemployment doing tasks that are far less productive than their previous jobs you make all of us poorer.

You don’t need to love other people. You just need to recognize that we’re all in this together. That even if .01% of the country will be fantastically well off whatever happens, that everyone else is made better off by giving more opportunities to everyone so everyone can do more.

This means better teachers and early childhood education. This means more rewards for working your way out of poverty and less penalties for doing so. This means stronger environmental regulations that keep people healthy. This means tackling the high costs of healthcare and making sure everyone gets access to it. This means publicly financed campaigns so that everyone has a voice in our elections, not just those that are rich enough to hire lobbyists. This means changing our tax code to redistribute money from those that benefit from it less to those that benefit from it more.

You don’t have a responsibility to care for your fellow citizens, even if I think I do. I also care about myself. Nevertheless at a certain point when you have so many people acting like sociopaths and weighting the system away from benefiting those that are productive to those that merely manipulate it everyone else loses. At that point, at the point we’re at today we must stand up and say: if your wealth is from fraud you’ll go to jail. But if it’s simply unearned or unneeded you’ll be taxed.

Taxation isn’t theft. It’s the way we pay for things we can’t afford individually or in groups, but must have. We must education everyone, we must have transportation networks, we must have police and fire protection, we must have a military, we must not be bankrupted by sickness. We let people read books and access the Internet in libraries because it is those most unable to afford them that need the knowledge the most.

We. Us. The citizens. The voters. The people. We don’t take this as a free lunch. Our freedom and liberty is paid for with blood and treasure. We can’t sustain a democracy without people that can be informed citizens and we have let so much of the legitimacy of our republic be syphoned off by those only interested in themselves.

I promise you: If you are rich, I want you to get richer. This is America, we love people with money. However, your wealth was made possible by the people of this great nation and I won’t stand by and let you drink up all the potential needed for future generations to get to the top, or the middle, or have good lives doing honest work.

Today as always we have “A republic, if you can keep it”. We face several challenges to our republic, including:

– The delegitimization of our democracy by the appearance of influence.

– A poorly educated underclass that is both unaware of how our “meritocracy” and democracy function.

– Millions permanently left unable to vote, get decent jobs or live normal lives due to our war on drugs.

– Police that seem more than willing to cause distress to the communities that should cry out for their protection the most.

– Speculators that benefit from government largess without providing value to the country.

– A climate vulnerable to those that profit in the near term from those that will suffer in this century.

– Healthcare, transportation and housing that is increasingly expensive and unaffordable for millions.

Although we have many different and complicated problems, solving them isn’t the hard part. The hard part is deciding that we can do something. We can, just as we have in the past when faced with seemingly impossible challenges. We have inflicted harm on ourselves, our children, our planet, but we have not gone past the point of no return. Together, we are all human, and are all networked together better than any generation before us. We can see the problems and we can make things better, even if we don’t have perfect solutions to solve all the problems at this moment.