“The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy…” Barack Obama
During his recent speech introducing his comprehensive job plan, Barack Obama made a strong case for the importance of government investment as a means for improving the economy. The problem of course, is the rhetoric of cutting the size of government is in direct opposition to any sort of compromise needed to accomplish an undertaking of this magnitude. Which is really at the core of the challenges we face. We advocate cutting spending, when we should be investing. Letting the specter of debt paralyze us, while preserving tax cuts for corporations and individuals in top income brackets is simply irresponsible. Simply put, if we are truly serious about creating jobs and rebuilding the middle class we need to change how we view our government and the role of taxes in our society.
The government is not the problem. So often we hear politicians demonize the very government we elected them to lead. Complaining of wasteful spending and an out of control deficit, while simultaneously supporting wars and tax cuts we simply cannot afford. The reality isour government was created by the people to serve the people and in many ways does. The roads we drive on. The police and fireman who protect us. The education we receive that allows to realize our full potential. All of these are a direct result of government investment. Not to mention, government jobs, so often decried as a part of the problem, allow this nation’s citizens to work for the greater good of the population. Additionally, it is one of the few remaining bastions of the ever shrinking middle class. Can we take steps to make the government run better? Sure. However, creating a mindset where the public sector is always inferior to the private is a dangerous path to walk.
The private sector relies on the government. So often we hear individuals talk about how great the private sector is in comparison to its public counterpart. How state and federal institutions should stay out of the way and let profit driven companies lead the way in everything from healthcare to energy development. Yet many of these companies rely heavily on the government to function. Without the transportation infrastructure provided by our taxes, none of these businesses would be able to function. Furthermore, many of the private sector companies who are supposedly the answer to achieving prosperity rely heavily on government contracts to function. Be it Boeing creating aircraft for the military or the multitude of construction companies who fix our roads, they all receive the money they do from the projects our government invests in.
Taxes are necessary to move our country forward and build a strong economy. There are many individuals who think we pay too much in taxes. There are even some, who do not think we should pay any at all. Sadly this kind of ill-conceived philosophy is detrimental to preparing for the challenges ahead. When one considers all the government does for them, the amount paid in taxes is a pittance. According to the Tax Foundation, American’s on average pay 28 percent of their income in taxes. Obviously this number varies greatly by income, but the simple fact remains that even at this high of a number the services we receive from our government far outweigh the amount we pay in. Not to mention the fact that without the protections afforded by government, there would be nothing standing between us and those less scrupulous characters who would just as soon take 100 percent of what we own. While this is an extreme example, it does not change the fact that taxes do far more good than harm.
Is there a silver bullet to our economic woes? Of course not. However, by looking to our public institutions as entities, given the right resources and direction, able to contribute to rebuilding our economy, we might be able to lessen the extremity of this job scarcity. In order to do this, we must acknowledge the important role our taxes play in society. We must also stop fixating on the excesses of government and start focusing on how we can better invest in the areas needed to move forward. In closing, Obama may have put it best when he said, “…we are all connected; and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation.”