Thinking About Taxes

15 04 2008

Relative to the services that you receive from government, do you think you pay too much in taxes? Explain.

That was our opening question for the new venture at Thinking Homeschoolers.

I don’t feel we pay too much income tax — we don’t make that much! 🙂 — and sometimes we even get a tax refund. I can’t complain about what we pay for taxes other than federal either. We bought our home before the ridiculous boom in housing prices and pay relatively low property taxes. My state, FL, does not have a state income tax. We do have sales tax but at 6-7% it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.

My complaint with taxes is the irrational, short-sighted, ineffective ways we use our pool of tax money. We apparently have no grasp of the long-term or any plan to deal with issues beyond the next headline.

Our state’s voters, for instance, recently decided that the way to solve the housing crisis was to vote themselves a decrease in property taxes. This is criminally short-sighted but never let it be said that the voters here can’t be swayed by greed and pandering.

Now we are faced with cuts in everything from education to mosquito control. We may not need literacy in Florida but, if you’ve ever visited our state built on a swamp, you know we need bug spray!

These are our local concerns and may not compare to the choice to wage war instead of providing healthcare or repairing important infrastructure.

But the galling part of all of this is the complete incompetence of any of these schemes. If cutting property tax rates actually did help the housing market, even though vital community services suffer, that would be something. If spending billions in Iraq really did anything positive in the world, but healthcare and infrastructure had to wait, that would be something. But we flail about and nothing good comes of any of it.

Then we waste more time in the ongoing battle over tax dollars for religious enterprises. Most recently here in FL the state tax commission voted to repeal a long-standing “constitutional ban on direct and indirect state financial aid to churches and religious organizations.”

The funding of church by state is not limited to Florida, of course. Witness the idiocy that Minnesotans are financing: Wall of silence broken at state’s Muslim public school.

The taxes for church schools/religious charters issue pulls me in opposite directions. We homeschool for a reason. We did not find the public school system to be adequate to meet the needs of our son. And now, after 10 years of homeschooling and learning more about learning and about how the public school system works and seeing the damage NCLB and standardized testing have done to our schools, I am confident we made the right decision.

OTOH, not everyone has the option to homeschool and their children are in the same system we found inadequate. Trapped financially, in many cases. I want those children to have the same opportunity to escape as my children did.

OTOH, I feel strongly that government shouldn’t be paying for anything that encourages religion. I’m an atheist and not as concerned if government wants to do something, like offer adequate science classes, that discourages religion. Not that that’s really been a problem as the vast majority of kids make it through public school to adulthood firm in their belief in a god and muddled in their understanding of science.

Now, I could be persuaded to be pragmatic if tearing a hole in the wall of separation actually did any good in this case. If the children fleeing bad public schools were getting into terrific private schools and the public schools were pressured to change. Or if denying them that out meant that the public schools would be converted to something useful; if a wave of true innovation swept through the public school system in recognition of the compulsory nature of the institution.

But none of that happens. Whether or not a few kids get shuffled off to a church school that may or may not be an improvement, public schools are inadequate and remain so.

Again, whichever side wins the tax dollar fight, nothing good comes of it.

It is this constant inability to come up with any new ideas, continuous rehashing of the same old arguments, tediously slow progress balanced by no progress that is making me feel better about voting for Barack Obama. Maybe it’s just more politics as usual but maybe, just maybe, he really does have some insight into the need for dramatic changes and the fatigue many of us feel when contemplating the current waste of everyone’s tax dollars. Whether you think you pay too much or not.

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8 responses

15 04 2008
Crimson Wife

A number of European countries have private school vouchers that can be used at religious schools, and their populations are way more secular than the U.S.’s. Take Sweden, for example. Only 4% of Swedes attend a worship service every week compared to 40-50% in the U.S. depending on the survey. Clearly allowing their tax money to be spent at church schools has done nothing significant to promote religion in that country. And research seems to support the idea that the increased competition has improved Sweden’s government-run schools.

Your man Obama’s come out as much in favor of vouchers as any Democrat can be given the political clout of the NEA.

15 04 2008
JJ

Good stuff, Nance! I always know when I want to read something a second time to be sure I’ve gotten all of it, that it’s good stuff. Meaty, meaningful, worth a second read and some real thought. You should cut loose more often! 🙂

16 04 2008
Nance Confer

Thanks, JJ. I should have an extra day in the week. 🙂

I just read through all the posts at the Thinking Homeschooler and that was really worthwhile. http://www.odonnellweb.com/wiki/pmwiki.php?n=Main.ThinkingHomeschoolers

Applause for Chris (http://www.odonnellweb.com/wiki/pmwiki.php?n=Main.ChrisODonnell) for this new space for thinking!

Nance

16 04 2008
Nance Confer

CW: Your man Obama’s come out as much in favor of vouchers as any Democrat can be given the political clout of the NEA.

Me: Good for him. For what good it will do. We ain’t Sweden. Here, the only place a kid could take his voucher is a church school. The one Montessori school fills up fast and only goes through 6th or 8th grade anyway. But there’s a church on every corner.

The good news, schoolwise, that I read this morning was that one part of the FCAT may no longer count as a graduation requirement. Because the test is a stupid waste of everyone’s time you ask hopefully? No. Because the state can’t afford to deal with the consequences of having so many kids flunk. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/state/orl-fcat1608apr16,0,5242968.story

Nance

16 04 2008
JJ

Dunno whether to laugh or cry at that . . .maybe blow a raspberry?

18 04 2008
Deanne

Great post, Nance! I agree with how short-sighted our spending plans are. It’s been bugging me the last few days that the Florida Road Ranger program was eliminated at the same time the “Take your gun to work” law was just passed. Now that scares me! (BTW, as I was typing this I just got a call requesting a donation to the police for their “10, 20, Life” program. 😛 )

18 04 2008
NanceConfer

Lovely. Not.

I hope you will be able to tie into the next topic we are covering too, Deanne. I know it’s one near and dear to your heart — http://learningalwaysandallways.blogspot.com/2008/04/why.html

Nance

18 01 2009
Rick Warren vs. the IRS — Talk About the “Bully Pulpit!” « Cocking A Snook!

[…] IRS 15 January 2009 Just how powerful is Rick Warren? Ask the IRS. When they tried to collect back taxes from the pastor, Warren used his mega-clout to campaign against them — and won. With the help […]

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