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Gary Horton: Oh, the places our tax money goes

Posted: June 11, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 11, 2014 2:00 a.m.
 

Dr. Seuss is among the most beloved in the pantheon of American writers. Ostensibly written for children, most of his stories also carry deeply meaningful lessons for those adults reading along with their kids.

“Oh, The Places You’ll Go” is a great Seuss tale, brimming with sound advice for grads from high school and grads from many of life’s milestones on the ups and downs and over and outs ahead — all in a highly motivational way.

Oh, all the places we can go!

If you’re not one of those conspiracy types viewing Dr. Seuss as a pink commie reactionary hellbent on brainwashing our kids with socialist do-gooder propaganda, do go get a copy and read it for a lift.

Then pass it along to a friend or relative who just made the grand leap from high school or college to real life. It will motivate and reawaken you to all the great opportunities and challenges out there as we engage the world before us.

Now allow me to pivot after that unpaid ad benefiting the fortunate Trust Babies of the Seuss Estate.

Let’s pirouette from graduations to death and taxes — because that’s essentially what comes next, although not in that order.

As clueless high schoolers, most American kids haven’t thought of paying for their ever-decreasing life, yet after high school it does seem that both taxes and death approach increasingly rapidly.

Ironically, the closer we get to death’s door, generally the higher our earnings, and thus the higher our taxes.

There’s no way out of this discouraging loop and we wryly note that Dr. Seuss failed this disclosure in his otherwise excellent tale.

Taxes, our kids will learn, are not a trifling thing.

Decades ago, top personal and corporate income tax rates exceeded 80 percent. Estate taxes were over 50 percent.

Then came Reagan, then Bush, and then came deficits like tsunamis crashing into our budgets as these Masters of the Magical Math dreamt up Trickle Down and pilloried the public coffers in favor of A Thousand Private Purses.

Grown ups eventually took back the books, and with budgets edging closer to balanced, we find top combined income tax rates climbing over 53 percent to make the math add up and the books even close to balanced.

As a sop to the right wing, I admit this seems high, especially knowing there’s solid chunks of our dear tax dollars that are righteously blown, wasted, trashed, connived, swindled, stolen, abused and otherwise put to far worse use than had we ourselves determined how they were spent.

A fuller disclosure of taxes might be what we need — an open discussion of public spending, indeed.

For good or bad uses, for waste or for wise, what would we see, seeing tax with our eyes?

We’d see EBT cards to families in need, crowded ‘round tables, quite hungry indeed.

These cards make a difference ‘tween health and despair, and it’s great we can help them, it’s great that we care.

But in so many places these cards go astray, diverted for drugs or for liquor or play.

Folks grow dependent on cheap handouts for living, and their lives end up cheapened — just because we are giving.

Some taxes fly farther, far father from home.

Some spent on peace, and others on war.

The difference between these is most often lost, while soldiers and innocents bear most of this cost.

But spend more we do on continuous war, and after each action ask, “Now, just what was that for?”

Some taxes build roads and bridges and schools, and pay for teachers promoting good rules.

These are the things all want taxes for, but Congress negates us and shows us the door.

Oh, all the good places our taxes could go, if voters, not lobbyists, were running the show.

Graduation time gives a sense of new beginnings for so many. Oh, the places our kids can go!

Elections, too, also give hope, and big ones are coming our way.

With recession behind and high taxes ahead, it’s now time for a serious, not children’s tale, discussion on public tax policy and efficiency.

Can we break the pattern and shatter the mold, to get what we want instead of just getting sold?

I hope so. Thirty, 40, 50 percent-plus tax rates, plus 9 percent sales tax, surely argues for an adult discussion for all the places our taxes go.

Happy graduation to all. Now let’s all work together to make life for everyone, from new grads to old seniors, better, cheaper and happier.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.

 

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