Martha Carr’s column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at Martha@caglecartoons.com.
It’s time to pay the IRS a nice chunk of our earnings again. It’s the annual April reminder that we turn over part of our hard-earned money in a nod to the ideals of democracy.
A lot of Americans may not see that connection right away, so maybe adjusting the view of federal taxes will help take out some of the sting. Collecting funds that a fairly-elected group of representatives then gets to decide how to spend is the heart and soul of democracy. It’s the truest form of the Golden Rule.
Normally, those who have the money rule and everyone else is out of luck. But when everyone decides to share the cost, suddenly, a free society emerges.
It really ranks right up there with our willingness to peacefully live with the outcome of elections, despite grinding our teeth every time we see who won appear on TV.
Taxes make it possible for children who come from nothing to get a basic education and dream of bigger things, or for most of us to feel safe walking down their street on the way to work. They even make sure there is a paved street or for that matter, safe drinking water or food that’s been properly handled, and to know that will be the case whether we’re in Montana or Alabama.
Sure, parts of the system sometimes fail us, but take a good look at other countries that don’t use our system and see how much further away from a decent life we could be right now, all the time. It’s also true that the founding fathers didn’t institute a national tax system, and it wasn’t even until 1913 that the 16th Amendment was added to the Constitution, making federal taxes a more permanent institution. But earlier in our history it was close to impossible to offer services beyond the borders of a day’s horse ride. Local municipalities had to take care of citizens’ needs.
Besides, it was hard enough to get the newly formed country to accept just one currency, much less ask for some of it back every year. The U.S. is older now and our numbers have grown exponentially while our problems, along with our opportunities, have grown more complex. It’s becomes necessary to pay for basic services and to somehow create a system that’s as fair as possible.
It speaks to our determination to not only preserve the ideals of democracy, but allow it to grow that we do peacefully pay into a large pool every year, even though most everyone doesn’t agree about the details. It’s like we’re family.
The spread of media into every nook and cranny of our lives has helped by knitting us all together in more ways than we ever were before in our history. I care about news stories in small towns I would have never heard of before the 24-hour news cycle started with the birth of CNN in 1990 during the first Gulf War. It’s become easier to see America as a blended family that likes to squabble a lot over the differences.
The constant bickering may occasionally wear us out, but the ties are that much stronger and make most of us more willing to look for common solutions. More of us know the early signs of some common fatal illnesses like heart disease or skin cancer and have altered our lifestyles. In the past, it took having a neighbor drop dead or the doctor telling you that the symptoms were already appearing before someone got the necessary information.
I’m also a little too up to date on what’s happening to any given Kardashian, despite never watching the basic cable show. The addition of internet sites that number into the millions and an ever-evolving list of social media outlets like Pinterest or Google+, along with the old standbys of Facebook or Twitter only blur the lines more.
I still think about what I could be doing with all of that money and shake my head over the loopholes or some of the federally funded projects,but in the end, I’m mostly grateful that my basic needs are taken care of so I can get back to dreaming of better things and just hanging out with friends. Happy Tax Day everyone. More adventures to follow.
Tweet me @MarthaRandolph with what you’re going to do with your refund. Mine is paying bills. www.MarthaCarr.com. E-mail Martha at Martha@caglecartoons.com.