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Sun Nov 17, 2019, 04:30 PM

Paying for Civilization

The other day I was walking the dogs along a favorite trail, turned a corner, and realized there’d been a significant re-routing. They’d closed a section of the old trail, which was rocky and treacherous and steep in winter, and rerouted a new, evenly graded trail to the side. A few yards down, they’d planted a new row of saplings, protecting them from the hungry deer with chicken wire. A bit farther down the trail, they’d opened up a once-fenced and densely wooded section of the trail to create a small sitting area overlooking a small, usually hidden reservoir. I actually gasped when I saw it. I was so surprised, happy, grateful. What a gift!

I use the word ‘they’ as if it were people, and of course people did the work. But in a way, I gave that gift to myself. Or everyone in Missoula gave that gift to me. A whole host of trail maintenance programs are funded by the Missoula Open Space Bond, which funds the conservation and maintenance of trails, rivers, and open spaces in the county. It helps restore busted habitats, and continues work on a project making it so that there’s a trailhead within ten minutes of everyone in the county — not just people who live in the more desirable areas. It’s regrading hills to make trails more accessible. It’s making civilization better, more livable. And I fucking love paying for it. That’s what I say every time I pay my taxes: I love paying for civilization.

I don’t know where the American attitude towards taxes came from. I do know that growing up, through some combination of pop culture and adult figures, I somehow internalized the idea that taxes are bad, and smart people spend a lot of money figuring out how not to pay them. It’s not tax evasion, it’s good business sense. Or something like that. Weirdly, that began to change when I actually started working. I didn’t make enough in my 20s to pay hardly any taxes. In fact, I was making so little for much of my grad school career that I became accustomed to large refunds at the end of every year, which felt like bonanzas, but made me feel sheepish: you don’t even make enough for us to really tax you.

After grad school, those refunds began to disappear. I moved to New York, where everyone bitches about the city taxes. But I also looked around me and saw marvels of the city everywhere. Every time I walked along the Brooklyn piers, or used a public drinking fountain, or watched the streets being cleaned of New York filth, or even riding the broken subway. Did I want the subway to be fixed? Of course! Was I nonetheless grateful for a marvel that transports 4.3 million people in the city every damn day? Yes. Again: I love paying for civilization.

I had to find a financial advisor earlier this year, mostly because I had a book advance and needed to come up with a strategy to pay down my still massive student loans. He’s a nice guy, very smart, but when we sat down, he immediately started telling me about the complex ways I could shelter my earnings from taxes. When I told him I was down with paying taxes, it was difficult to tell if he was just surprised or just thought I was stupid — which presupposes the idea that smart people pay less taxes. I’m not dumb, and I take deductions like everyone else. But I’ve also made a conscious decision to think of paying taxes not as a burden to get out of, but as a willingly performed obligation, a way of being a citizen in my community.

https://annehelen.substack.com/p/paying-for-civilization?utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=email&utm_source=twitter

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Reply Paying for Civilization (Original post)
4now Nov 17 OP
SterlingPound Nov 17 #1
Karadeniz Nov 17 #2
handmade34 Nov 17 #3
Collimator Nov 17 #4

Response to 4now (Original post)

Sun Nov 17, 2019, 04:36 PM

1. Every time I get a new download from my ocean explorer account

I get that same feeling

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Response to 4now (Original post)

Sun Nov 17, 2019, 05:43 PM

2. I agree with you, although I admit to a twinge of resentment that we pay a hefty percentage

That I could well use and the obscenely wealthy pay zip.

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Response to 4now (Original post)

Sun Nov 17, 2019, 05:54 PM

3. "We the People...

...do establish this Constitution..." IRS first established to help fund the Civil War


I don't complain about taxes because we benefit so much... I am especially grateful when I visit a National Park, drive on good roads, drink clean water, etc., etc...

just need to work to make it equitable

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Response to 4now (Original post)

Sun Nov 17, 2019, 06:08 PM

4. As a childless person . . .

I have no problem paying taxes for the education of other people's children. Why? Because I realize that I paying for the education of my future fellow citizens. The person who fixes your car, studies the traffic patterns and the person in the car next to you should learn not only the skills for their professions but also the requirements for being a good citizen in a democratic society.

The reason that the rich don't care about paying for "civilization" is that they can buy protection from the masses whom they view as uncivilized and unworthy of the effort to be so. They can buy most of what they want and live in a removed bubble. The uneducated state of the child hand-knotting their expensive rugs doesn't compute for them.

Oh, and the reason that they might be willing to pay taxes to support the military isn't just to keep their country safe; it's because they probably derive at least a portion of their wealth from the military/industrial complex. If you want to invest in a commodity that will never go bust or become obsolete, invest in weaponry.

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