To the Editor:
Government and taxes are common complaints among conservatives, even though they benefit from both. Opinions in our local papers complain property taxes are too high, but our small western counties are among the lowest rates in North Carolina; at commissioners’ meetings, citizens demand the committee “prune” its budget for serious cuts to our public services. Mention taxes in most of the United States, and you will get a negative response; and people often vote for whoever will assure tax cuts, a frequent conservative agenda. Since before our revolution, taxes have incited resistance; yet much in our quality of life depends upon those terrible taxes.
Aside from the everyday costs of government, taxes have afforded us public schools (also Head Start, Pre-K, GEDs, job training, etc.), postal service, public libraries, public community parks and recreation programs, national parks and preserves; government subsidies for agriculture ( a lifeline for small farmers), public elections, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; our transportation systems like highways, bridges, transport hubs like airports, subways, railways, buses, ferries; they supply and support our utilities, our police forces, our military, our national defense programs; social support systems, like unemployment and disability, public health clinics, hospitals and so much more; the quality of these services and the necessary maintenance are assured by the taxes we pay: the more we pay, the better our lives.
Sure, bad governance wastes our taxes but that should be handled in fair elections for all; public officials, unlike private companies, can be held accountable: taxes are our lifeline to a better future, and when they are continually cut, maintenance and infrastructure become degraded and unsafe.
In the 1930s under the New Deal, the CCC put hundreds of thousands to work in national parks and forests, all supported by taxes; the Federal Emergency Work Act: again, taxes; Tennessee Valley Authority: taxes; Rural Electrification: taxes; Social Security: taxes.
The top wealth tax rate at that time was 79 percent, rising to 90 perxcent during and after the wars. New dealers believed that heavy taxes on the wealthiest were a moral imperative. Eisenhower continued these New Deal programs to insure a good life for all. Under Eisenhower, the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 was paid for by taxes. Our space programs, NASA: taxes; Refugee Relief Act: taxes. Taxes gave access to healthcare for older Americans: Medicare was the flagship of a highly concentrated, three-statute endeavor.
The GI Bill transformed the college student body by removing the major hurdle to higher education for returning veterans: again, paid for with taxes. As a result, lower socioeconomic groups were finally represented on campus. The number of college students nearly doubled in the 1940s, from 1.5 million in 1940 to 2.7 million in 1950, as veterans swelled the ranks. Veterans’ benefits: again, taxes; Workman’s Compensation: taxes. However, the tax rate dropped seriously in the 1980s and is currently at 39 percent for the wealthiest, before deductions.
I have missed many, under-stated more, but my intent is to call attention to the multitude of public services that income taxes, at the national, state, and local levels, provide; and to remind you that these many programs are being continually diminished by our foolish reluctance to increase taxes on the wealthiest. With increased taxes, restoring existing programs and infrastructure would create jobs and restore quality to these valuable American assets, especially in small towns and rural areas where taxes subsidize local farmers and businesses, fund public social services like our schools, our library and post office, our senior center, recreational facilities, infrastructure, and other county government services we have come to depend on: we all enjoy a better life when the quality of life is better for all.