Friday, 22 July 2011

TAXES and RESPONSIBILITY

What a difficult and thankless task it is to govern this country! It elects an energetic, capable individual with long-range vision of what the country, and the world, needs, then allows the opposition, with vision limited to bringing him down, to place in his path formidable obstacles that have prevented him from enacting many of his promises to the dismay of his supporters who accuse him of compromising too much.
Successful and enduring democracies, especially those linked to a capitalist economic system, require a human population whose majority is responsible, honest, and willing to share in the burdens of contributing to the welfare of the environment it temporarily holds in trust from Nature for future generations. How, then, does the United States rate? By force, theft, and purchase, it has taken over from others a vast stretch of forested, fertile, resource-rich land blessed with a varied climate, most in the best range for humans. It has cemented over much of this land to accommodate a bulging population, but it has kept 50 states united to contribute to the world some of its best scientists, engineers, builders, thinkers, writers, musicians, athletes, and benefactors. Militarily, it has been top dog at least from the Cold War, but the use of this power has produced few benefits for the world while exacting huge costs in lives and resources. Because of its size it ranks #1 in the amount of foreign aid donated, but 11th as a percentage of GDP.
It leads the world in flag waving and heart-clenched emotion over the national anthem, giving the impression of solidarity in love of country, yet . . . . .
105,000 familis, earning from $211,000 to $2 million annually avoid paying any income tax, but efforts to close their loopholes as well as those for major corporations that pay little or no taxes on huge profits are strenuously opposed. There is widespread distrust of government, its taxes and regulations that curtail individual rights to live free and unfettered. This, of course, allows Greed to run rampant. Greed does provide incentive to work, to invent, and to provide services, but it also enhances the exploitation of man by man. We do need regulations, safety nets, and the police to enforce them. We then need police to police the police.
Numerous armed, anti-government militias flourish among far-right extremists who seem to know only frontier individualism while embracing racism and religious bigotry.
Over 5 million citizens, addicted to drugs to the tune of $65 billion annually, create a $40 billion profit for 6 major and many minor Mexican cartels that purchase from US dealers 70% of their weapons that have taken over 50,000 lives including 17 journalists.
While Canada ranks the 8th most peaceful country, the US ranks 82nd. Mexico is #121.
Of the ships that use US ports, 88% fly 'flags of convenience' to avoid US taxes, safety regulations, and pay scales.
The legal use of off-shore tax havens costs the IRS up to $70 billion annually. And then there are 1,485 in 2010 who made their fortunes in the US, only to renounce their citizenship, and take their wealth to a lower-tax country.
Unregulated US financial institutions created a world economic meltdown resulting in the foreclosure of millions of US homes, high unemployment, and increased poverty, but enhanced profits for the already-rich. Jobs have not been lost - they were just moved to low-cost countries for increased profits.
The dangerous, and frightening, distrust of government is understandable as understanding the maze of appendices that have grown in and around 3 branches of government is most confusing. The Judical Branch has 5 agencies, the Legislative 11, and the Executive 17. That is just the beginning. In the Executive Branch, the Agricultural Department has 19 sub agencies, the Department of Defense has 28 plus 8 in Homeland Security which has 27 sub offices. This leads to redundancy, duplication, bureaucracy, lack of transparency, empire building, inefficiency, confusion, delays, and extravagance.
Income tax specialists thrive because so many of us are unable to retain a modicum of sanity when preparing a tax return then mailing the forms to one address and the remittance to another, doubling postage and creating the straw that breaks the camel's sanity.
As a percentage of GDP, the United States, that lives highest on the hog, has the lowest tax burden of industrialized countries. Yes, we can save by streamlining government but refusing to raise taxes, or at least close the loopholes, is irresponsible, unpatriotic, and disastrous.

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