April 15, 2007

Tax Day: Looking on the Bright Side

Across America, Republicans, Libertarians, and anarchists are seething with rage over what today represents - the day we must pay taxes. Just because I am not a member of any of the aforementioned groups does not mean that I was excited about paying taxes this year. In fact, I owed more this year than any other year so far, and the final amount was far larger than I had planned on. Still, I think there is a bright side to taxes.

I know all too well that a large portion of my tax dollars is going to fund an unjust war that makes Americans less safe around the world and undoes much of the international reputation our country has built. I'd be lying if I said that I did not find this extremely upsetting. At the same time, I do not blame taxes nearly as much as I blame the administration who has committed so many atrocities against the international community and Americans at home.

Just because the bulk of my taxes go to sustain Bush's war machine does not mean that they do not also support many much-needed governmental programs which I applaud. For example, take the U.S. National Park system. My earliest memories and many of the happiest memories of my life were set in National Parks, National Forests, and other publicly owned land. This was where I learned to appreciate nature and the need to preserve our natural resources. Without my early experiences in these settings, it is doubtful that I would have developed an early love of science that is still with me today.

Similarly, my work in the mental health field has taught me the importance of government-funded social programs. Some mentally ill persons cannot live independently. Long-term hospitalization is far too expensive, so most are sustained in the community through a network of community mental health centers, group homes, and halfway houses. While the system is embarrassingly underfunded at both state and federal levels, this safety net keeps people alive and saves the rest of us money in what we would otherwise have to invest in the criminal justice system.

I view the taxes I pay as an investment in my country, an investment which increases the common wealth of America. There are many governmental programs that I do not support, but there are many more I do support. If I want to have access to these programs and want my fellow citizens to share this access, I recognize that such an investment is required.

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