The library on campus, courtesy KU University Relations
So every year around Tax Day, the ‘chatter’ tends to fall into a few categories, primarily how to reduce the taxes you owe or general bemoaning of the entire institution (one of the slogans of the Libertarian Party, which advocates drastically reduced government intervention, is “Make April 15th just another day”).
I’ve got no advice on the former; I do prepare our taxes every year, but I certainly have no tax strategy, besides doing the whole worksheet in pencil before doing it online, because I just have to see things written out; and you probably know that I’m completely opposed to the philosophy of the latter. So, instead, here’s my take on Tax Day: ideas for how to celebrate those services and institutions which our income, property, sales, and special use taxes, collectively make possible.
Having filed our taxes weeks ago, I’ll spend some time today being glad I live in a country with high tax compliance and the relatively strong infrastructure those taxes provide.
1. Go to a public library. I go every week, because I have 3 kids and need free places to go, and because my oldest son needs a constant supply of Boxcar Children mysteries. This is our library home, but find the one closest to you, or one that you’ve been wanting to try. Browse the stacks and see what a public commons can do for you; ask the usually very helpful librarians for some assistance; use free computers; and observe the broad swath of humanity that still gathers at our public libraries. They are wonderful places, and the majority of their revenue comes from taxes (and my family’s library fines!).
2. Get into a car accident. Okay, not really, but at least celebrate the fact that, in the United States, when you need the police, they usually come and they rarely demand bribes in order to resolve your problem. I’m not downplaying the existence of racial profiling and police brutality, which certainly exist here, but, having lived in places where the police ARE the problem, and where justice is quite elusive, I’m glad that our law enforcement and public safety officers make living wages, paid for by our tax system.
3. Volunteer at a public elementary school, or go to a high school track meet, or watch a junior high play. Our public schools are pretty phenomenal accomplishments, really, and one of the last places where the ideal of common commitment to the future good is still in evidence. Again, I’m certainly not arguing that our public education system is perfect, but the fact that we have one is, in itself, fairly remarkable. And there are some pretty amazing things happening in public schools all around our country every school day.
4. Eat your lunch at a public park. Again, I’m at the park every day; anywhere my kids can eat that I don’t have to scrub the floor afterwards is my favorite place! But, also, they’re wonderful places to observe the beauty of something shared; at our local park, there are even sandbox toys that kids can play with when they come, and the ball diamond and playground and walking trail attract everyone from young families to latchkey teenagers to older adults on motor scooters getting some fresh air. The subdivision play areas just can’t substitute. So, go, and I’ll promise not to gaze too enviously as you read a book or otherwise enjoy your solitude while I push my daughter “one more time” on the swings!
5. Visit the FDR Memorial in Washington, DC. Okay, so, in part, this IS just an excuse for me to tell you to go to the FDR Memorial. I love it, and it is my absolute favorite place to be in the District (except maybe at this one awesome Indian restaurant, but we’re talking politics, here). But the New Deal is significant not just for the expansion in the social safety net but also for considerable changes to the corporate and individual income tax systems, in order to finance them. I can think of no better way to celebrate Tax Day than by rededicating ourselves to the principles of progressive taxation in order to provide for the common welfare, and no better place to draw inspiration for that fight than at Eleanor’s feet.
*Not all of these ideas are necessarily good ones!