I Paid for this Walk.
I occasionally walk our neighborhood with a couple other gentleman and today was one of those mornings. As I walked, I couldn’t help but notice the things around me. I walked on nice sidewalks, past parks recently mowed, with basketball and pickleball courts (the latest craze, but more on that in a different blog), playgrounds, and sports fields. I saw bike trails, clean tree lined streets, and crews treating the ash trees to save them from the ash bore beetle. If it had been Monday, I would have seen street crews picking up my rubbish.
So who pays for all of this? We do of course. We do that through are real estate taxes and our state and federal income taxes. We live in a great country, because for the most part, we are willing to pay into the cost of providing the services and protections we want, need, and all too often, demand. The problem is determining our “fair” share of that cost.
We are living in an era I dub the War on Taxes. The battlefield is the citizens’ definition of fair. We believe that taxes should be fair but in the same breath state that what my neighbor pays is fair, but that what I pay isn’t. It is a perception war. One political party stands against taxes altogether in a belief that if the wealthiest people were given the chance to pay less in taxes, they would spread the wealth down to the lower classes making their life better through the businesses and jobs they would create. The problem is businesses with the capability of doing this are owned by the shareholders who expect a return on their investment. This often traps the wealth at the top and the trickle down is exactly that, a trickle. Meanwhile, the other party proposes that the lower class needs the services and protections that will help them improve their lot, while the middle class needs a break on taxes so that they can fuel the economy by buying the goods and services the businesses provide. The issue here is that someone else must pay higher taxes to support that system by making up the difference. And the battle rages on. In the last decade or so, that war has begun to divide the country, and, in that divide, other ideologies are given fertile soil to grow and fester.
You and I alone cannot end the war, but we don’t have to continue to fight it. When I was still plying my trade as a tax planner, I would help my clients understand the necessity of the taxes they paid and the good those taxes could do in the hands of leaders who adhere to the practice of making common sense decisions. Decisions that benefit the country not just their position. I do not spend my time calculating the percentage of my income that goes to taxes, nor do I spend my time comparing what I pay to what my neighbor pays. I just pay them knowing that if I vote to elect leaders who will spend those taxes dollars wisely and oppose those leaders that would devote their time to cutting taxes and the programs that go with them, I just might continue to enjoy my morning walks through the streets, trails, and parks that my taxes helped to provide.
Next time you put your garbage and recyclables out to the curb, the next time you play pickleball in the park, or the next time you watch your children and grandchildren play soccer or T-ball on the neighborhood ball fields, ask yourself if it is worth paying your share of the cost? I answered the question for myself long ago. No matter the share I paid, in my mind, it was fair.
I have to go for another walk now, after all I paid for the views and they are worth it. I leave you with a picture of a state park treasure I recently visited, and they didn’t even charge an entry fee. I guess someone else paid for it with their fair share.