Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Be a patriot, pay your taxes

By Frank Moraes

I just did my taxes. Well, I did a rough calculation and then filled out an extension. And as usual, I amamazed at how much I pay. It isn't in absolute terms that I'm amazed however. It is in relative terms—relative to how much the super rich are paying. Despite the fact that I made almost nothing last year, I am still paying roughly the same rate that Mitt Romney is paying. Actually, I'm probably paying a substantially higher rate because I assume he went out of his way to pay more when people were looking.

It still amazes me that the American political party that most wraps itself in the flag is also the party that most complains about taxes. To them, apparently, tax avoidance is the most patriotic thing you can do. Mitt Romney said as much during the 2012 campaign. And sadly, Romney is one of the more reasonable Republicans. It gets much worse.

I do not believe in nationalism. It is generally a pox on the world. But I have a great fondness for my own country and for us as a people. I very much believe in our ideals. And as much as we screw up all the time, we try to do good. The government, on the other hand, has distinctly evil aspects to it. That doesn't especially distinguish it from other governments. But there is a wider gap between its rhetoric and its actions than I like.

In this regard, I am doubtless like most Americans. But there is a dysfunction among conservatives where many believe that if they don't like what the government does, it is patriotic to be treasonous. The basis of this is the black & white mentality that claims that when a Democratic is in the White House, he is a tyrant and a socialist. Thus it is right and proper to threaten government officials with guns.

I'm not really talking about Cliven Bundy, though. He is more along the lines of a crank. He should have been arrested long ago and that would be that. But the reason he has power is of great concern. Fox News and other right wing media outlets have made him into a hero when he is anything but. He's just a man who doesn't want to pay his taxes.

I'm sure that I can find more things in the federal budget that I don't like than Bundy can. One of the things I don't like is how the BLM allows ranchers to graze their cattle at below market prices. Of course, in Bundy's case, even that is too much. So it just steals it. And it isn't the government that he's stealing from; it's the people; it's America. The million dollars that he owes the government is a million dollars that doesn't go to sick children. It's a million dollars that doesn't go for infrastructure improvements. It's a million dollars that doesn't go for security.

The people who protest this day are unpatriotic. And that's fine. That's the great thing about America: you are allowed to hate it. But don't go around claiming to be patriotic while you dump all over the nation just because the government isn't doing exactly what you think it should be doing. That's being patriotic to some myth that you've constructed. America is a real place with a real government. And if you hate it, then at least admit that you aren't a patriot.

Otherwise, smile as you sign that check to pay for the functioning of the American government and all of the important things that it does for all of us. Because that's what patriots do.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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