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OP-ED | A Day Everyone Loves To Hate

by Wade Gibson | Apr 15, 2014 5:30am
(6) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Analysis, Opinion, Nonprofits, Taxes

Everyone loves to hate taxes. Too high. Too low. Too complicated. The reason for this is simple: our tendency to focus only on what we pay, not how we benefit. What if you considered the cost of your home without considering all the benefits a home brings? Shelter, security, comfort, memories, and more. You might end up hating your home, too. But we love our homes, accepting the costs of homeownership knowing that the benefits far outweigh them.

Connecticut is also our home. Our parents and grandparents — and their parents and grandparents — worked hard to build, secure, and maintain this home. Earlier generations laid the foundation; successive generations framed the structure, finished the rooms, and performed essential maintenance. Each generation builds upon the work of the former, ensuring our state home stands the test of time. Taxes make this all possible. Think for a moment about how taxes maintain and improve our home for today, and for generations to come:

  • Education. Connecticut’s public schools educate 550,000 students, while public colleges and universities enroll 120,000 more. State supports for preschool help educate more than 40,000 young children. Federally funded financial aid supports the higher education of 70,000 students at private colleges and universities. Altogether, more than one in five Connecticut residents currently attends a school supported by public funds.
  • Transportation. Connecticut residents travel an average of 8,700 highway miles per year. Taxes maintain 21,000 miles of road in our state, including over 3,700 miles of state highway and 440 miles of interstate. Taxes also support Connecticut’s rail system, including the New Haven-to-New York rail line, the busiest line in the United States.
  • Healthcare. The two main public health insurance programs, Medicaid and Medicare, cover 1.1 million Connecticut residents — nearly a third of our total state population. Additional public funding supports much of the health coverage for the remaining residents through the deduction for employer-provided health insurance.
  • Security. State and local taxes pay the salaries of 8,000 police officers and 4,100 firefighters in Connecticut. Federal taxes, meanwhile, support thousands of sailors at the sub base in Groton and cadets at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, as well as Connecticut National Guardsmen who help our communities recover from natural disasters like Super Storm Sandy.
  • All of this barely scratches the surface; taxes support countless other services and programs. Few people in Connecticut would choose to shutter our public schools and colleges, close our highways and railroads, or disband our police and fire departments. These services are utterly necessary to modern life.

    Any discussion of the taxes we pay must consider the benefits we receive: we drive our children to public school on public roads secured by state and local police in automobiles rendered safe by federal regulation. Along the way we drink coffee ensured safe by public health agencies and burn gas ensured pure by public inspectors. This is all before 9 a.m. in the morning. Each of these services is not free. Today we must remember that civilization is not free, although the cost of losing it is incalculable.

    Wade Gibson is the director of the Fiscal Policy Center at Connecticut Voices for Children

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    (6) Comments

    posted by: Lawrence | April 15, 2014  7:37am

    Good op-ed.

    Wait for the Teabaggers to cry about the right-wing’s made-up ‘Tax Freedom Day’—and ignore the fact that CT has the highest incomes, property values and quality of life in the country.

    posted by: NoNonsense2014 | April 15, 2014  12:49pm

    Excellent op-ed. Thanks for the perspective.

    posted by: ASTANVET | April 15, 2014  3:50pm

    Wade - who ever states that taxes are too low?  Only people who are trying to get more money out of someone else, because their taxes are too high.  Too complicated, yes, I’ll totally agree.  But one simple question.  Do we have equal protection under the law?  Why are some citizens taxed heavier than others?  The progressive income tax (to me) violates equal protection.  Those that advocate for it advocate for special protection under the law, not equal.  With a straight face you will infer in your article that there is not waste fraud and abuse in our state budget? That there are no regulations, there are no employees that can be cut?  That all the state priorities execute funds in the most judicious manner?  Come on man…

    posted by: Matt from CT | April 15, 2014  9:55pm

    > Additional public
    >funding supports much of
    >the health coverage for
    >the remaining residents
    >through the deduction for
    >employer-provided health
    >insurance.

    Good grief—that seems to belie that the author has the opinion that all money belongs to the government, except that which you’re allowed to keep.

    We may refer to them as “tax expenditures” which is already a stretch of the language, but it is gymnastics that exceed even the flexibility of the English language to claim a tax deduction is actually public funding.

    >The progressive income
    >tax (to me) violates
    >equal protection.

    And from the other end of the denial of reality spectrum we have that response—which fails to recognize the reality that we have a wide range of taxes which impact different people differently.

    Taxes like sales, gas, property, car registrations, license fees from drivers to fishing to professional to pistols all impact folks more who tend to earn less.

    Locally owned businesses are disadvantaged vs large corporations that can afford staffs of accountants and lawyers to play games like shifting earnings around on paper to other states.

    A progressive income tax, however imperfect it may be, helps to equalize treatment of all citizens.

    For that matter, if “equal protection” truly applies to income taxes than the preferential treatment of capital gains would need to be abolished.

    At any rate, as long as we remain a nation of unthoughtful extremes like these two positions indicate you won’t see much cooperation to move us forward.

    posted by: ASTANVET | April 16, 2014  6:23am

    Matt - just because the progressive income tax has been with us for 100 years does not make it right.  It is not equally applied to all citizens, i.e. it is left to the whims of whomever is in power… that is not a constitutional republican principle.  Equal protection may stoke the fires of “income inequality” that the left likes to bring up these days, but you cannot argue that it is not an equal application of the law.

    posted by: Dave391973 | April 17, 2014  8:12am

    Public schools and colleges are not “utterly necessary” to modern life. If we privatized education and gave citizens back the tax money they spend on education in each town, they would have thousands of dollars each year to choose the right school for their children.
    You say “any discussion of Taxes must consider the benefits we receive”. Well I say any discussion of taxes must include the waste and fraud in the system, and any discussion of income tax must exclude those who don’t pay any.