Aug 10, 2012
By Joel Moskowitz
Much is being made in this presidential campaign about taxes. Nobody likes them but some people find them a necessary evil. During the Civil War both the Confederates and the Union imposed an unpopular income tax to finance their efforts and it has been down hill since then. But let’s face it, there are services that the government provides, must provide, that need to be funded. The revolution was fought so that we no longer have taxation without representation. The only way to cut taxes is to reign in spending, period. The question is where do you cut in an economic downturn such as this one in order to keep taxes low? What taxes need to be reduced so as to put more money in the pockets of consumers?
Here’s a good start. Cut out all the gimmicks that are called every other name under the sun but what they really are, taxes. We can start locally. You get a speeding ticket in New York State and you are given a fine. With the fine comes a mandatory surcharge. Register your car in Nassau County and get a $50 surcharge. Pay a utility bill, surcharges. Bridge and road tolls make sense, until you realize that they go up at a faster pace than wages and the roads and bridges are still falling apart, aren’t taxes supposed to pay for our roads? One of my favorites, a gift from Mario Cuomo to the Great State of New York, the mortgage tax. For the honor of borrowing money at interest from a bank, the State of New York charges you anywhere from .75 percent to 1.75 percent, Cuomo’s Republican successor George Pataki never bothered to rescind that one either. It makes sense that we pay for public transportation; it makes no sense that they can raise fares at will without increasing efficiency and quality of service.
The problem is not with the concept of taxation, abhorrent as it is to some. The problem is with gimmicks. A gimmick is when the government raises revenue but doesn’t call it a tax. Everywhere you turn you are confronted with some sort of government-sponsored gimmick but all we focus on is whether we get to keep an extra $10 in our paycheck. So let’s be real and call it like it is. It’s not taxes per se that we can’t stand, it’s government deception of what is and isn’t a tax. The bottom line is that the federal government can cut out all income tax and we would still be taxed too much. If we cut every government program including defense, by 50 percent, the interest on our debt will still require revenue to pay for it.
Corporate taxes are another deception to us. Tax a corporation and all they do is raise prices on the goods and services they provide. Tax them enough and they move their headquarters elsewhere taking jobs and investment money with them. Taxes are not going away, how they are imposed and under what euphemism needs to be clarified to all of us. Only then can we have a real debate as to what is fair in tax land.
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