I have a proposition for you. My business provides education for your children, pays for your medical needs and retirement, provides your community with security, and makes sure people respect your rights as a human; oh, and some other things, but don’t worry they are for your benefit. All I am asking in return is 18.4% of your paycheck each year. (Using the average American income of $46,326 for a single person household this comes to ~$8,523).
Does this sound like a good deal to you? If so, would you want to at least research my company before you fork over that 18.4% payment?
You may have figured out my business is an analogy for our federal government. Sadly, if government were treated as a business, ours would most likely be bankrupt or at the very least trimmed down dramatically. I personally wouldn’t trust a company that tries to do so much for so many, and on top of that it seems extremely expensive for the services provided since they have so much control over customer sales (taxes). I mean what if I believe in being responsible and independent and don’t want a large government presence in my life – why would I want to pay for those services? I don’t.
Big Government Depends On You to Survive
We have become a society accustomed to letting the government spend how it likes, trusting its judgment in full, and then graciously paying taxes as our American “duty”. Every time a worker receives a paycheck, they will see 3 things dropping out of their paycheck: federal income, Medicare, and Social Security taxes. The average person just accepts those taxes bleeding their paycheck as something that is required of us or else our country will fall into oblivion.
That is not the case, and you need only look at the start of our country to see that. Did you know the federal income tax wasn’t introduced to the US until the Civil War, was eliminated afterwards and deemed unconstitutional, then reenacted again in 1913? The US thrived for almost a century before the federal income tax was introduced and its cause for existence was war. Keep that in mind.
The most troubling part is most people paying it don’t even know what that chunk of their paycheck is paying for. In any private market transaction, customers are very wary about the money they spend, especially if their budget is tight. When it comes to government though, why aren’t people more analytical of that 18% they pay every month to the federal government forcibly? This “ignore and accept” mentality is the reason we pay these taxes. We allow it and don’t hold our elected leaders accountable.
People are also generally apathetic because they feel they can’t stand against the federal government, they feel it is beyond their reach to make a change. Plus, life may not be too bad. Maybe you have no problem surviving, and accepting the status quo of taxation is easier than fighting against the tax demon. However, this is the very definition of being apathetic, and if you wish to dispel apathy in your life, you must be willing to stand up and challenge norms. Besides, don’t you feel you could do a better job of taking care of you and your family if YOU were choosing where to send your kids to school and how you want to plan for retirement?
Challenge yourself to know your government and what they are doing with your hard-earned dollars. Thomas Jefferson said, “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” If we don’t at least take the time to understand what our government is doing with our money, society as a whole is destined to live the life of indentured servants rather than a free and liberated people. Today, we live in a nation where the people fear its government, and not the other way around – similar circumstances that gave rise to the Revolutionary War.
The Burden is Piling on Your Shoulders
Before the US was formed and up until the 20th century, most of the federal government’s revenue came from excise taxes or tariffs. In other words, it was predominantly businesses and foreign entities that paid taxes, and individuals kept most, if not all, of their earnings. Because of their tax burden, businesses had a vested interest in making sure that they weren’t being unfairly taxed and did what was in their power to keep the government in check, so that government couldn’t make additional policies that would create demands for higher revenue (ie: more taxes).
Nowadays, that is far from the case. As of 2008, according to the taxpolicycenter.org, federal government revenue sources have corporate tax income at 12%, excise taxes at 3% and individual income tax and payroll at a whopping combined 81%. Let’s recap. When America was founded, individuals didn’t pay out of their earnings, but now over 4/5 of the federal government’s tax revenue comes from the common peoples’ wallets. Who is the biggest danger to the working class? In these times, it is the federal government.
It is important to ask why it would be the case that individuals now have the tax burden instead of businesses. Is it more proper to tax an individual rather than a business? No, that is a ridiculous notion especially if you believe it is consumer spending that ignites an economy. The reason for the shift is because the people have lost their will to fight. How many people do you know are organizing against federal income tax? Probably not many, if any. Big business, on the other hand, is a powerful government player because they have organization, a focused plan, and are very adamant in understanding what the federal government means for their operations. The general public is both uninformed and accepting. Voters continue to elect politicians who consider only their own self-interest and would rather enact policy that would earn them political favor over doing what’s right or adhering to the Constitution. This alone is the reason the government gets away with it… they burn us and then we vote for them again!
But Federal Government Provides Essential Services… Right?
The primary assumption I run into when I discuss issues like this is that it is an American duty to pay taxes. That is fair, and it is a citizen’s responsibility to pay their fair share to support this nation. However, it is also a crucial American tradition to question those taxes you are paying. Protests like the Boston Tea Party and outrage over the Stamp Act are major reasons we freed ourselves from Britain: an overbearing government that unfairly taxes. The message here isn’t to try to stop paying taxes outright, but rather to stay informed on what federal government is doing with our money, so we can force them into prudence and oust those leaders who would have us pay for failed policies.
Let’s take a look at the 2012 federal budget which has about $2.6T in spending. How much of that budget is an absolutely vital service for the citizens of America? I would say a relatively small fraction of it, but I will outline the biggest offender, federal government’s desire for a world empire.
I’m referring specifically to our military spending. We currently have a foreign policy that has our dedicated soldiers policing all the corners of the world. Those soldiers are being pulled away from their friends and families -- many perishing in the process -- and for what? How many Americans today support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Worse yet, how many people can give a legitimate reason to being there especially now that Bin Laden has been killed? Yet, we continue to stay and while American soldiers are dying for a causeless conflict, the citizenry at home are racking up an enormous bill. To be specific, military spending is currently around $700B annually. The next closest country is about 16% of that at $114B (China).
If our grossly disproportionate spending isn’t enough to make you question the level of our spending, consider the toll it has on every tax-paying citizen. Military spending works out to about $4,500 owed by every citizen in the labor force to support the conflicts were involved in. Would you rather have $4,500 in your pocket every year or have US troops suffering by fighting unwinnable wars in foreign countries across the globe? I will take money in hand over brave US soldiers falling in combat any day.
Apathy Has Great Costs, Emotionally and Financially
The primary goal of Cure for Apathy is to shed light on the substantial damage living an apathetic life can inflict. A lot of material is concerned with personal development and enriching your life through mindful thought and goal setting. The same holds true for understanding government, looking the other way is not only going to lead to loss of liberty but will come at a great financial cost as well.
Solutions exist though, and my optimism grows with the emergence of social media and the ease at which people can organize through the Internet. It is a phenomenon that truly empowers individuals to connect and create powerful citizen alliances. Now, you and anyone else have the power to spread your message and have it be heard by like-minded individuals. I encourage anyone looking for personal development to keep a watchful eye on their government and do what they can to inform others as well that the status quo is unsustainable and government continues to reach ever deeper into the pockets of its citizens. At the very least, when you strive for knowledge, your vote will become a confident and informed one, and there is no greater power in democracy.
Editor’s note: I fully support Ron Paul as a candidate who champions personal liberties, freedom, and protects the Constitution as the Founding fathers intended.