October 31, 2006
The Last Scare Tactic
By Mary Lyon
Question - what's a scarier boogeyman than Osama bin Laden? In the waning days of the midterm election campaign, increasingly desperate republi-CONS have found one last nightmare scenario. It's not Iraq, not terrorism in general, not gays, not Democrats asleep at the switch while that congressional page pedophilia raged away (because naturally THAT one was the Democrats' fault, too), and not only that we're all gonna die if Democrats take the House. Nope. None of the above. It's that old favorite GOP fallback that's ALWAYS worse than bin Laden: the IRS. "Be afraid! Be VERY afraid! The Democrats are gonna raise yer TAXES!!!"
It's ironic that the republi-CONS who claim they can keep everybody safer, and insist that tax cuts are the salvation of the Western world, have made us less safe in a large part BECAUSE of tax cuts. The historical trend before George Junior was for taxes to increase with the onslaught of war. After all, that war always had to be paid for, and it was typically a last-resort "extra" as opposed to the standard equipment war has become by now. We were more secure, overall, because we could afford stuff that taxes funded, whether it was guns for the soldiers or butter for the hungry. That was, of course, before the dawn of the Bush-Two Era, when our much-vaunted "MBA President" and his greedy, cheapskate cronies mismanaged us into a combined international AND fiduciary catastrophe.
Don't get me wrong. I'm no fan of the tax man. Certainly I'd rather pay less in taxes than more. I'd rather pay less for anything than more. Anybody would. But there are obligations to face when you share an interest in a greater whole ("greater," supposedly, in every sense of the word) like this nation and its present and future well-being. And as the "Democrats are gonna raise yer taxes!" scary stories are shouted at us from every conservative politician in the realm, that's the one issue the Democrats have yet to hit back against. They're finally showing backbone about the war, terrorism and national security, and even the moral issues that have been GOP bread-and-butter matters for ages. They're fighting back on the "stay the course" flip flop, and against many of the dirtiest campaign commercials in memory. But they haven't tackled the tax issue yet.
Just once, I'd like to see one of our guys stand up and explain exactly WHY it is that we have those annoying taxes to face, to begin with. Maybe they're a necessary evil, but the word "necessary" comes before the word "evil" in this cliché for a reason. As Ronald Reagan came to power, fiendish thinkers like Newt Gingrich were already working it. He was the guy behind the "Wisdom of Chairman Newt" - a nefarious little black book of catch phrases, slogans, and buzzwords to use as cheat-sheets for a kind of political "Mad-Lib" game. There was a list of good and positive words and phrases to be used whenever one spoke of anything conservative, reactionary, or Republican. There was a corresponding list of negatives for use to describe all things liberal, progressive, or Democratic. Taxes, as expected, got lumped into the bad group - as in the term "tax RELIEF" - implying that taxes were something you needed RELIEF from - ie: something bad. And because nobody's ever tried to attack this general strategy head-on, that misrepresentation has been allowed to stand, unassailed, for almost three decades. Americans need some help connecting the dots, because taxes do not exist in a vacuum. Our Dems need to get specific and explain WHAT we pay those taxes FOR:
If you don't want to pay taxes, FINE. Just don't get all hot and bothered by all those bodies floating down the flooded streets of New Orleans , or the people from there who still have no homes and no food, and then wonder why nothing's done to help them.
If you don't want to pay taxes, FINE. Don't come crying to me when the potholes that never get fixed in your neighborhood streets mess up the front-end alignment on your Mercedes.
If you don't want to pay taxes, FINE. But don't complain about the increased numbers of airplane crashes and grounded fleets, because the government isn't hiring safety inspectors, or regulating the airline industry so it's forced not to cut corners on aircraft maintenance.
If you don't want to pay taxes, FINE. But then don't get outraged about the fact that while Camp Pendleton (among other installations) has sent its guys to Iraq, their families back home have so little to live on from combat pay and VA benefits that they're forced to turn to standing in line at local soup kitchens.
If you don't want to pay taxes, FINE. And don't get yourself worked up because there's no money to properly arm and protect our troops, or house and feed them decently, when YOU voted for the people who were so damned anxious to send them into harm's way.
If you don't want to pay taxes, FINE. And make sure you don't mind all those increases in news stories about child abductions, abuse, molestation, neglect, and murder - because the government can't afford to hire or pay case workers and enforcers anymore.
If you don't want to pay taxes, FINE. Just find a way to be okay with the fact that the widows and orphans of the firefighters who died trying to save people in the World Trade Center don't have enough pension money to live on.
If you don't want to pay taxes, FINE. Perhaps you won't mind eating spinach contaminated with e-coli, since the government won't have enough money to pay food-safety inspectors anymore.
If you don't want to pay taxes, FINE. Just don't bother to schedule a vacation at any of our beautiful national parks, since the government can't afford to keep them anymore, OR protect them from polluters, loggers, strip-miners, real-estate developers and others who'd desecrate those national treasures for short-term profit - because we can't afford the regulators anymore.
If you don't want to pay taxes, FINE. Then make sure you're content that our schools remain under-funded, so their graduates can't manage much more than minimum-wage jobs, which do little to help keep Social Security funded for the future. A poorly-educated work force isn't likely to help our country excel in scientific research, development, or innovation that would generate new jobs and new businesses, and new ways for our country to remain the leader of the world.
If you don't want to pay taxes, FINE. Don't moan and groan about how awful it is to have to trip over so many homeless people huddled in doorways and against the sides of buildings, and always hitting you up for handouts - because there's no help or shelter for them anymore. And the icky messes they leave on the curbs? Try to put up with it, because street cleaners and sanitation trucks cost too much money.
If you don't want to pay taxes, FINE. Make sure you can handle every emergency and any home intrusion, because we won't be able to afford paramedics or sufficient police protection anymore. And if your house catches fire, make sure you have a lot of buckets and a good garden hose on hand already. That's because we can no longer keep firefighters on the payroll, either.
If you don't want to pay taxes, FINE. Just don't come whining to us when your garbage is no longer picked up on schedule, and public sanitation goes straight to Hell. Even Grover Norquist expects his trash to be picked up on time every week, and he'd howl like a stuck pig if it wasn't.
If you don't want to pay taxes, FINE. You're on your own then. Deal with it. You wanted the government out of your life, and you didn't want to have to help pay for the privilege of living in a country like ours. And don't come crying to me, telling me "there OUGHT to be a LAW!"
AHA! The word "privilege" has been brought up. Many of those still unconvinced by the above undoubtedly belong to some fancy country club, tennis club, golf club, or social club. Outfits like those ALWAYS charge dues. The better and more desirable the group, the higher the dues demanded for membership privileges. Those same outfits are desirable because they offer all kinds of perks, benefits, fine dining, great services (and great service), clean and elegant facilities, gorgeously manicured grounds, plus tennis courts, pools, nine or 18 holes, complimentary executive privileges, game rooms, a bar stocked with world-class liquors, and probably restrooms stocked with courteous liveried attendants. It costs big bucks to be able to offer such superb and highly-desirable privileges, none of which are freebies. THEY NEVER COME CHEAP. There ALWAYS are price tags attached, and if all those nice goodies are worth it, they're worth paying for. Especially for those who'd aspire to be members - who, by their very membership indicate that they accept these price tags and consider those benefits well worth paying for, indeed. Furthermore, I'll bet the members don't complain much about these dues.
OUR COUNTRY IS THE SAME KIND OF THING. Don't we ALL consider it the best country in the world (or at least it used to be so, before frat-boy broke in - and broke nearly everything of value)? Don't we love it for all the marvelous benefits and advantages it offers - that you can't find in most/all other countries? Isn't it a country EVERYONE wants to belong to (why else would we have such a big illegal immigration problem)? Well, THAT, TOO, COSTS BIG BUCKS. IT NEVER COMES CHEAP. If it's good, wonderful, enviable, and worth having, it's gonna cost something, and it WILL be deemed well worth paying for. Otherwise, the complainers should simply move to Darfur or some such place where there is nothing to provide anyone any sort of decent life or living conditions, but the price is "right." You wouldn't have to pay those damned, dumb ol' taxes you hate so much, but then again, don't expect anything in return. Ever hear the phrase "you get what you pay for"?
What we pay in taxes constitutes DUES for membership in the greatest, coolest, most wonderful "country club" on earth: The United States of America. Yes, even a United States of America thoroughly blighted by the Bush regime. If these stingey Scrooges want to throw around that purported anti-tax slogan about an "ownership society," then so be it. THAT'S why we pay taxes. That IS the very nature of the "ownership society." We collectively own this country and as owners we are responsible for its care, support, and continued maintenance - and THAT'S what taxes are for. WE are the owners, patrons, shareholders, benefactors and underwriters of America . Indeed, the key word here is "WE," not "ME."
Our fellow citizens desperately need to be reminded of this. Unfortunately, we'll have to counter-act YEARS of pre-programming that relentlessly beat it into our heads that taxes are just bad, period. However, at some point, we have to grow up as a nation, accept the mantle of true maturity, and face the REAL costs of freedom, instead of trying to get something for nothing. The adults really do have to be back in charge, because we're in a serious mess and we need an extreme (and increasingly expensive) makeover to start fixing things. If it's truly worth having, there's always some price to be paid. The republi-CONS love to tell you that "freedom isn't free." Well, it isn't. But not in the way they think. And to them, before, during, and after this or any other campaign season, that's the scariest prospect of all.
And then go DO something about it.