Law in Contemporary Society

There was no need to maintain the prior draft of your essay on this page, because it is stored in its original form as versions 1 and 2 of this document. I removed it.

Pay Your Taxes

-- By AlexanderUballez - 17 April 2009

The TEA Party

On Tax Day protesters in hundreds of cities around the United States gathered to express their general frustration with a confusing mix of policies. They want to pay down the debt, but they don’t want to provide the tax dollars to do it. The President’s tax break would lesson the tax burden on 95% of working families, but who is willing to forgo the tax break and instead dedicate that money to paying down the debt? How can you complain about domestic spending on the health of American citizens when the federal government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on ruining someone else’s country?

The protesters want to cut pork barrel spending but have not considered exactly what projects will be cut. Pork is, by definition, a representative simply taking care of his constituency. What happens when you are that constituency? What if government sponsored loans for higher education got the axe? What about federal agencies like FEMA? Can’t we just rely on states to deal with their own disasters? That is, after all, the answer to the problem of Big Government. Why don’t we support state tax hikes so that they can take the reigns from a federal government so clearly incapable of handling our money? Given the President’s tax break, it is nonsensical to be protesting federal rate hikes. Why aren’t these protesters on the steps of the state capitals protesting state spending policies?

Taxation with Representation

Because we don’t want to pay any taxes. We are convinced that we do not need to pay for the services we receive, that we are born with universally recognized human rights that do not require any maintenance on our part. Sadly, this is not true. What happens when states cut the ‘pork’ of municipal and school aid? Localities increase property taxes. What happens if they don’t? Our roads deteriorate and our schools flounder.

We can’t have our bacon and our pet pig too. This severance of civic obligation from the services that we expect reaches beyond taxes. In terms of activities that benefit the public, we have abandoned free-market logic by disregarding the connection between the fundamental rights we demand and the contributions we owe in order to secure those rights. In theory, we elect representatives that translate our values into policy. We pay for these policies through taxes, and we receive social and individual benefits in return. When we are convinced that we do not need to pay for these services we create a market deficit where there is a demand for public services, but a feeling of entitlement constricts the free-market value.

Public Debt

From this artificial price cap arises the current deficit in public service. Taxation alone is not sufficient to maintain the rights and liberties that make our nation special. Public servants ensure continuity of the democratic state, yet recent college graduates overwhelmingly opt for a career in the private sector. In 1979, 73 percent of graduates from Columbia University’s School for Public Affairs went to work in government; in 2007 only 36 percent chose the public sector.[1] In 2005, people under 30 years old constituted 30 percent of private sector employees but only 15 percent of federal government employees.[2] This suggests a fundamental disconnect between a generation’s eagerness to serve and their lifetime career ambitions.

Market forces often dissuade young adults from pursuing altruistic goals upon graduation. College and graduate school debt pushes students interested in the public sector towards private companies with higher wages and more upward mobility than seniority-based government work. Through public service grants and loan forgiveness programs we can remove some financial obstructions that discourage one from entering the public sector. Still, the benefits offered by becoming a civil servant, coupled with the unpleasant title of ‘bureaucrat,’ are not typically competitive with those of large companies and firms, the purported entrepreneurs of our nation.

Aggressive scholarship and loan repayment programs create incentive for graduates to consider service. However, these incentives have a disparate impact on all but the wealthy, simultaneously forcing lower class youths to serve while providing no incentive for the wealthy, who arguably have the most resources to give, to consider their civic obligations. It also compels unwilling ‘volunteers’ into jobs in which they may have no investment, but even worse it belittles public service as an industry that is so unrewarding in itself that it needs a government subsidy to make it appealing.

Paying down the Debt

It is time for a return to traditional values. Basic liberties are a fundamental human right, but this country is based on a collective dedication to defending those liberties. It is not sufficient for us to retain the benefits of living in this society without defending those who were shorted. It is time for us to renew our commitment to paying taxes, to serving in our community, and to being involved in our national politics. It is time we recognize the many benefits we received at extreme discount, and insist on paying in full so that others may have the same chance.

[1] Citing Rebecca Knight, “Concern Grows Over Brain Drain Threat to US Public Sector,” Financial Times, February 5, 2007.

[2] Citing Partnership for Public Service, Where the Jobs Are: Mission Critical Opportunities for America, 2nd edition, July 3, 2007, p. 4

  • Why use these silly footnotes instead of straight web links?

  • So what is this paper really about? You want to talk people into wanting to pay taxes? "Pull up your socks, go back to basics," is the chosen message, apparently. Consider the relationship between this theme and the one in the first draft you replaced. In both cases, the wind-up is big and the pitch is little. The problem I was pressing you to solve in the first draft you recreated in a second draft on a different theme.

  • Where you wanted to present a new idea, connected with the supposed decline in interest in public service careers, you spotted two points and drew a line through each, with great confidence, though one point never defines a line and your two chosen lines through your chosen points don't intersect. If you wanted to prove the proposition that interest in public sector work is declining you had more to do to show it; and for all the talk about student debt, you never really addressed the effective subject, which was student motivation. So the whole analysis contributed in the end only to another cliche: Serve Country.


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r6 - 08 Jan 2010 - 21:34:49 - IanSullivan
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