Viewpoints

Don’t like taxes? Shutdown shows us where we’d be without them

Customer service representative Maria Diaz, bottom center, and tax examiner Kendra Salinas, bottom right, joined a crowd of about 125 IRS employees for a rally against the government shutdown outside the Fresno IRS Processing Center Thursday morning, Jan. 10, 2019.
Customer service representative Maria Diaz, bottom center, and tax examiner Kendra Salinas, bottom right, joined a crowd of about 125 IRS employees for a rally against the government shutdown outside the Fresno IRS Processing Center Thursday morning, Jan. 10, 2019. ezamora@fresnobee.com

Now that freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York has called for a tax increase, I can just hear the old, “There go the Democrats again. Tax and spend. Taking your hard-earned tax dollars and spending them on giving out free stuff to people who don’t deserve it.”

Perhaps now would be a good time to ask just who is being taxed and on whom is it being spent?

In the past, the anti-tax people have been really successful in using people’s unconscious racial bias to lower the tax rate on corporations and really wealthy people by using the tactic of Ronald Reagan and his infamous use of the term “welfare queen and her Cadillac” to get people’s undies in a bunch over taxes. And now we have the unpleasant situation of a monster tax cut for the exceedingly wealthy and corporations.

On whom are these taxes, such as they are these days, being spent?

This current government shutdown has pretty much let us know by shutting down agencies that spend the taxes. There are probably thousands of agencies that provide the services we need, but there is only enough room here to mention a few.

Let’s start at the top.

The speaker of the house has requested that the president change the date of the State of the Union address, in the recent tradition of assembling the House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Supreme Court and the president in one location. A prime target for a terrorist attack, and the speaker rightly is concerned with the shutdown, because the law enforcement agencies that would ordinarily be planning security are part of the shutdown.

Federal meat inspectors are part of the shutdown. So, you like your steak rare? Not a good idea at this time because you won’t know if your steak has been contaminated with e. coli bacteria.

Or you like salads? How about romaine lettuce? Your tax dollars paid the salary of the food inspectors who not only detected the contamination in the lettuce, but also tracked down the source. Now the inspectors are on furlough.

How about if you are a small business, and want a loan from the Small Business Administration? You’re out of luck. They’re closed because of the shutdown.

To be very clear., I am not supporting or opposing a tax increase. Nor am I getting into a discussion of the need to spend those tax dollars very carefully.

My point here is we need to do some critical thinking when we hear anyone, politician or not, who rails against taxes. I don’t like making out that check to the U.S. Treasury or the Franchise Tax Board or the county tax collector.

On the other hand, when the county road crews come up our road to make sure it is in a safe condition, I really like that. Or when the Chimney Fire a couple of years ago came within a couple of miles of our house, I really liked those CalFire trucks and crews, and sheriff’s deputies streaming up our road to keep us safe.

And I really like, when not on furlough because of a drummed-up reason for a government shutdown, the meat and food inspectors that let me know my food is safe to eat.

Government at all levels provides needed services to all of us, regardless of who we are — rich or poor, black, brown, white, green or purple! These are services that we need, not just want. These services do not come free. They are paid for with our taxes.

Cambria resident Shirley Bianchi is a former San Luis Obispo County supervisor. She writes an occasional column for The Tribune.

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