Fox: Taxes can offer solution to our mess

Friday, April 15, 2011

Yeah, today is Tax Day. Actually, it's this weekend -- thanks to a quirk in the calendar, we have until Monday to pay them. Many of the people I know already paid them, then got a refund.

So it's not that big a deal.

In fact, April 15 only seems to be a big deal with the anti-tax crowd.

I'll let you in on a little secret: taxes are good. As Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization."

* I like paved roads, public schools, libraries, parks, police, firefighters and EMTs.

* I like knowing that this nation has a military (provided we don't overuse it) that keeps me and my family safe.

* I like knowing that there are people who can turn to the government to help them when they've lost a job.

Government isn't the answer to all our problems, but government isn't the problem, either. It's a tool to promote justice and economic security.

While that tool has been misued and abused too often in this century, Tea Party elites -- those who proclaim a divine economic wisdom despite evidence to the contrary -- want to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

They've done a good job at telling you taxes are evil, and we pay far too much. Of course, the tax rate our parents paid was much higher, which explains why we're $14 trillion in debt.

To put that in perspective, we could reduce the debt by a dollar every second and not pay it off for almost 450,000 years.

Simply put, we're going to need to raise taxes and cut spending, including defense (can we make the Pentagon the Square? Or the Triangle?). We might even need to scale back entitlements, although it's amazing what could be done with a gradual tax increase on the wealthiest of Americans.

For instance, it actually wouldn't take a major tax increase to "fix" Social Security. Raise the ceiling on income subject to the Social Security tax to $180,000 -- it's now $106,800 -- and the problem is solved.

Sound unfair to the wealthy? Well, consider the top 1 percent of Americans takes in more than one-fifth of all income.

Somehow, I don't think Donald Trump's dining on Ramen tonight.

I hate to break it to the "deficit hawks," but PBS, NPR, teachers and Planned Parenthood aren't the problem. Until tax hikes for the wealthiest of us are on the table, we aren't really serious about cleaning up our mess.

These views are the author's and not necessarily reflective of the Tribune's views. E-mail Fox at