April 15 seems to be the perfect day to think about the why's and wherefore's of taxes. In case you haven't noticed, an entire movement has risen in opposition to the expansion of government programs and the taxes needed to pay for them. As a conservative, my sentiments lie with the Tea Partiers. Yet, one of my frustrations with the conservative movement in America is our inability to explain why we are the party of No to those who don't buy into our point of view.
So, let me take a shot at explaining why we are opposed to increasing taxes. First, conservatives are as compassionate and as concerned about helping those in need as anyone. Our opposition to the present condition of our government is not based on a selfish desire to keep more of our hard earned money. It has much more to do with the way our taxes are being spent, and with the ever increasing deficits and debts that will dramatically reduce our capacity for economic growth. We are concerned about the impact this deficit spending will have on the economic conditions our children and grandchildren will inherit. We cannot attack the engine of our economy, which is the profit and income from the private sector, by designating an ever increasing portion of Gross National Product to government programs and entitlements without severely weakening our capacity to provide full employment and a decent middle class income.
Secondly, we are not opposed to paying taxes. We understand the proper role of government, and it's not just providing defense and infrastructure. Public education, social security, medicare, medicaid, and many forms of public assistance are important parts of a modern civilized society. My problem is not that we are spending money on these things, but that we are spending so very much with so little real results. It's really about efficiency and effectiveness. So many of our policies and programs are driven by ideology rather than pragmatism. Only government can mindlessly continue to spend countless billions on an educational system that has failed to adequately prepare so many of our young people for the demands of today's global economy. And no part of the public sector is more ideologically driven than public education. When we face the disastrous test scores and frighteningly low graduation rates of many of our inner city schools, we have every right to question how our taxes are being spent. When more emphasis is placed upon political correctness than upon mastering the basics of reading and writing, of science and math, of history and literature, and of critical thinking, we have every right to be concerned about our approach to K-12 education in this country.
What has made it worse is that non-ideological, proven solutions exist but cannot be applied because of the political power of special interest groups. The scandal that was the elimination of the school voucher program in Washington D.C. is a perfect example of politics and ideology trumping what is best for our children and what actually works in solving the serious problems we face as a society.
In addition, taxation is involuntary. We are forced to pay them under penalty of law. Yet, when we see our taxes used for programs and policies that offend our personal beliefs and values, our only recourse is political opposition. The Tea Parties are American conservatives declaring loudly, "No mas!" One of the great dangers of modern liberalism is its capacity to justify the imposing of its values and policies on others because it is being done in the name of "justice" or "equality" or "rights." The recently enacted health care bill is full of progressive attempts to make America "fair." The problem will be, as it always is, all the unanticipated consequences and expenses that end up making the policies un-fair.
As tax payers, it is our right and even our responsibility to question how our taxes are being spent. And with the massive bailouts of the financial industry, the ineffective and politically driven stimulus plan, and now, with the passage of mandated health insurance we have reached a tipping point. I fully expect this November to be a tax revolt via the ballot box.