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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.

 

Comments

tech: Posted: June 11, 2014 9:51 a.m.

"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."

This too, is wishful thinking. Adults aren't in charge of the books. Suggesting that Federal deficit spending was a recent phenomena starting with Reagan is risible.

http://www.usgovernmentdebt.us/spending_chart_1900_2016USp_XXs1li011mcn_G0f_Annual_Federal_Deficit

I concur it's time for an adult discussion. That starts with a Constitutional review of how the Federal government is operating beyond its charter. --edited.


AlwaysRight: Posted: June 11, 2014 10:48 a.m.

While not agreeing with Gary's sentiments, one must applaud Gary's Seussian approach to writing this week. BINGO!


Lotus8: Posted: June 11, 2014 11:18 a.m.

Well done Gary. I love the playful nature of the column. While there are minor points of disagreement, I will refrain and simply allow you your moment in the sun!

Estate taxes have never made any sense to me, however, on a related note. So I earn a paycheck this month and the government takes half. Then when I die, they get to take half again? Why? What did my death do besides save them the expense of paying my social security any longer? Seems the government is already ahead when older folks pass on.

If I work my whole life to pay off my house so that my disabled child can have a safe place to live when I die, why does the government have the right to force the sale of that house when it taxed the earnings I made to pay for the house? Why?


philellis: Posted: June 11, 2014 11:25 a.m.

Lotus, the answer is easy - because it can.


Indy: Posted: June 11, 2014 2:26 p.m.

Lotus8 wrote: Estate taxes have never made any sense to me, however, on a related note. So I earn a paycheck this month and the government takes half. Then when I die, they get to take half again? Why? What did my death do besides save them the expense of paying my social security any longer? Seems the government is already ahead when older folks pass on.

Indy: You make it seem like the taxes you pay do nothing . . . yet, they support the largest military in the world, channel retirees contributions through social security and medicare, besides managing the basic premise of the Founding Fathers to ‘provide for the general welfare’ including safety nets that address the shortcomings of capitalism.

So what government expenditures are you willing to cut and why?

Lotus8 wrote: If I work my whole life to pay off my house so that my disabled child can have a safe place to live when I die, why does the government have the right to force the sale of that house when it taxed the earnings I made to pay for the house? Why?

Indy: Do you actually know what the limits are for the inherence tax?


Indy: Posted: June 11, 2014 2:46 p.m.

Gary wrote: 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.

Question: With the US having the best schools of management on the planet, from Harvard School of Business to the Sloan School of Management at MIT, why do you support the ‘management’ of the government is as poor as you suggest?

There’s no excuse for mismanagement yet politicians run on that for decades . . .

Why won’t they take the responsibility for government that they are sworn to do each election?

Just for your edification, any organization, public for private, can be run for results ‘provided’ the will to do so is present.

Sadly, what we got now is a group of self-serving clowns masquerading as ‘leaders’ in both parties that see their ‘job’ to ‘blame each other’.

But the real culprit here is the ‘for profit’ media that refuses to ‘educate’ the public and sees the reciting of ‘focus group tested’ slogans as ‘news’ as they recite ‘press releases’ that lack context, back story and facts.

When you walk into ‘your’ business in the morning, do you manage it using excuses as you noted above? Of course not . . . yet you throw that out as the premise of today’s government expenditures.

Is ‘throwing in the towel’ the ‘New America’ experience you wish to give your children?

Until we get writers that can actually address the problem of government management, we’ll continue to get these ‘entertaining’ Op-eds that simply recite the same nonsense I’ve read for my entire adult life.

Finally, a big question for the academians that inhibit our colleges and universities. What are they waiting for? They teach management, accounting, economics, and basic business and they’re not even in the debate!!!!!!

And why doesn’t the media ‘access’ this ‘knowledge’ to contrast the ‘comments’ from partisan politicians that seemingly are economic and management illiterates?

There are solutions right in front of us . . . let’s stop making the excuses and hold people accountable beyond ‘their party affiliation’.


Indy: Posted: June 11, 2014 2:52 p.m.

Tech wrote: I concur it's time for an adult discussion. That starts with a Constitutional review of how the Federal government is operating beyond its charter. --edited.

Indy: Yes, I agree but in this discussion, we’re not going to permit you to ‘IGNORE’ the parts of the Constitution you don’t like or doesn’t map to your libertarian market fundamentalist ideology.


hopeful: Posted: June 11, 2014 3:14 p.m.

Indy wrote: "Finally, a big question for the academians that inhibit our colleges and universities. What are they waiting for? They teach management, accounting, economics, and basic business and they’re not even in the debate!!!!!!"

I agree with you 100%, Indy, and thankfully, there is just this type of person running for a House seat from Virginia.

David Brat, according to Wikipedia: "Originally from Alma, Michigan,[6] [7] Brat moved to Virginia in 1996 with his wife, Laura.[8] Brat attended Hope College in Michigan and received a B.A. in Business Administration in 1986; he also graduated with a Master's degree in Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1990 and earned a Ph.D in economics from American University in 1995.[1]

After working for Arthur Andersen and as a consultant for the World Bank, he became a professor at Randolph–Macon College (RMC) in 1996.[1]"

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/dave-brat-meet-candidate-beat-eric-cantor/story?id=24081628


CaptGene: Posted: June 11, 2014 4:59 p.m.

The Black Knight: "...a big question for the academians [sic] that inhibit [sic} our colleges and universities."

What the hell are "academians", and what are they doing to "inhibit" our colleges and universities?

We must put a stop to this!


ricketzz: Posted: June 12, 2014 6:19 a.m.

I hear Professor Brat was hand picked by the Kochs. He is a completely mad "free market" fundamentalist with dangerous delusions that God hand picked him.


tech: Posted: June 12, 2014 10:18 a.m.

Indy: Yes, I agree but in this discussion, we’re not going to permit you to ‘IGNORE’ the parts of the Constitution you don’t like or doesn’t map to your libertarian market fundamentalist ideology.

The royal plural again? The opinion is your own and I don't "ignore" any part of the Constitution.


hopeful: Posted: June 12, 2014 10:29 a.m.

ricketzz wrote: "I hear Professor Brat was hand picked by the Kochs. He is a completely mad "free market" fundamentalist with dangerous delusions that God hand picked him."

Truthfully, I haven't really had a chance to do much research about Professor Brat. I was merely pointing out that Indy's request for an academic, and one who has his Phd in Economics of all things, join in the "debate." Indy got what he wanted, but I have NO doubt that Indy will discount anything Professor Brat believes, just like he discounts everything Thomas Sowell, another Phd in Economics says because Indy's MBA from CSUN is far superior, and Indy knows far more about economics than these two men, who have PHds in Economics.


Indy: Posted: June 12, 2014 2:05 p.m.

Ricketzz wrote: I hear Professor Brat was hand picked by the Kochs. He is a completely mad "free market" fundamentalist with dangerous delusions that God hand picked him.

Indy: Yes, it appears so . . . he was very glad to inform his audience at this victory party that ‘God chose him . . . ‘ . . .

Not surprising that many religious conservatives would flock to somebody like this especially when most Americans of both parties don’t grasp the changing global economic picture.

Further, as you note, libertarian market fundamentalism preaches ‘no limits’, one reason that Americans will sacrifice their future for the short term.

In any event, recommend highly to have global discussion on ‘sustainable growth’ that accepts resource constraints and stops ignoring the ‘human footprint’ if you will that is degrading the environment.

Suggest:

http://steadystate.org/
http://www.worldwatch.org/
http://www.peakprosperity.com/


Indy: Posted: June 12, 2014 2:21 p.m.

hopeful wrote: Truthfully, I haven't really had a chance to do much research about Professor Brat. I was merely pointing out that Indy's request for an academic, and one who has his Phd in Economics of all things, join in the "debate." Indy got what he wanted, but I have NO doubt that Indy will discount anything Professor Brat believes, just like he discounts everything Thomas Sowell, another Phd in Economics says because Indy's MBA from CSUN is far superior, and Indy knows far more about economics than these two men, who have PHds in Economics.

Indy: Sadly, you got some of my point but missed the greater context.

We definitely need the input from economist of all bents but likewise that allows us in the debating world to discuss and decide if the issues brought forth are realizable.

As you know, neoclassical economists like Sowell and Brat, failed to ‘predict’ the deep recession in 2007.

In fact, these folks were predicting ‘growth’.

This is the sad reality that too many of the neoclassical models rely on ‘historical’ trajectories but ignore many of the underlying factors including ‘private debt’ and resource depletion.

In any event, I’m hopeful that as Brat starts talking nationally, I can address his viewpoints. And that was my point . . .

Finally, one thing I have noticed after studying and reading economics the past 30 years from my MBA, is that many economist don’t have any ‘real world’ business experience thus their proclamations miss out on that . . . where their entire economic belief is based on ‘book learning’ and models that have shown not to work.

I’d like to suggest you read:

Steady-State Economics: Second Edition With New Essays by Herman E. Daly

Debunking Economics - Revised and Expanded Edition: The Naked Emperor Dethroned? by Steve Keen

Sustainable Capitalism: A Matter of Common Sense Paperback by John Ikerd


Indy: Posted: June 12, 2014 2:23 p.m.

tech wrote: Indy: Yes, I agree but in this discussion, we’re not going to permit you to ‘IGNORE’ the parts of the Constitution you don’t like or doesn’t map to your libertarian market fundamentalist ideology.

The royal plural again? The opinion is your own and I don't "ignore" any part of the Constitution.

Indy: Again, you won’t be allowed to ‘cherry pick’ the Constitution and leave out stuff you don’t like . . .

Likewise, libertarian ideology perspective on the Constitution is narrowly focused and doesn’t represent ‘mainstream’ thoughts on same.


tech: Posted: June 12, 2014 4:27 p.m.

You're projecting again, Indy. "Allowed"? Do you imagine you control my posts as well? Hilarious!

Do you "like" the Tenth Amendment? How about the Second? The Ninth? Or are you going to repeat your "We the People" and "…welfare" schtick ad nauseum? Or quote yet again Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Congregation that isn't part of the Constitution?

Commence muttering, Black Knight!


Indy: Posted: June 12, 2014 5:11 p.m.

Tech wrote: You're projecting again, Indy. "Allowed"? Do you imagine you control my posts as well? Hilarious!

Indy: Again, I’m just here to help you . . . knowing your educational background would help me help you better but to date, you refuse to disclose . . .

Tech wrote: Do you "like" the Tenth Amendment? How about the Second? The Ninth? Or are you going to repeat your "We the People" and "…welfare" schtick ad nauseum? Or quote yet again Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Congregation that isn't part of the Constitution?

Indy: Yes, rejecting the preamble to the Constitution is quite high brow for somebody like you that professes to understand the Constitution . . . but again, I don’t mind reminding you of it.

And your rejection of Thomas Jefferson is sad . . . but it does show the hypocrisy of libertarians that want to recite the 'Federalist Papers' that aren't in the Constitution either . . . now are they . . .


tech: Posted: June 13, 2014 9:24 p.m.

LOL! I noted the hypocrisy of your rejection of the Federalist Papers while quoting Jefferson's letter in an earlier thread.

I'm not rejecting anything. I review in toto, a marked contrast to your repetitive excepts.

More projection, Indy! :-D


tech: Posted: June 13, 2014 9:26 p.m.

By the way, I noted you failed to respond to my inquiry on the 2nd, 9th and 10th Amendments.


Lotus8: Posted: June 13, 2014 9:13 a.m.

Indy - I'm willing to strip pensions from all government employees immediately and put those people on 401k plans. Then I will eliminate the ability of public workers to unionize, as they are going up against politicians who are easily bought vs. a normal workplace where the other side is actually properly organized. Those two actions would cut our tax burden tremendously. No loss of service whatsoever. I love how we always think inside the box on these issues, as is there is no way to challenge a bunch of cubicle dwelling government charges. We far outnumber them. I bet none of them would even quit if we made these changes except for the few motivated ones who truly have options elsewhere. They already make salaries equivalent to the private sector before consideration of the retirement and health benefits. Why should the public be the biggest group of suckers?


ricketzz: Posted: June 13, 2014 9:37 a.m.

Jefferson's and Madison's letters regarding "the wall" speak to Original Intent, which fundies claim to worship. This adherence vanishes when "well regulated (means "trained") militia" come up.

The Tenth Amendment states an obvious truth, has no force of law.


Indy: Posted: June 13, 2014 1:17 p.m.

Tech wrote: LOL! I noted the hypocrisy of your rejection of the Federalist Papers while quoting Jefferson's letter in an earlier thread.

Indy: Indeed, you and the other conservatives like to tell the public that the ‘Federalist Papers’ as interpreted by conservatives is ‘WHAT THE FOUNDING FATHERS REALLY MEANT’!

Versus just reading the Constitution ‘as is’ since it has no references to other documents.

But since you were asserting otherwise, I thought Jefferson’s comments in that letter that specifically addressed the ‘separation and church state’, well, religious conservatives ‘REJECT’ that . . .

So please, take a moment, think, and ‘connect the dots’ . . . you’ll feel better for doing it.

Tech wrote: I'm not rejecting anything. I review in toto, a marked contrast to your repetitive excepts. More projection, Indy! :-D

Indy: I might have to start the ‘pat yourself on the back’ award since you ‘agree with yourself’ as a basis to win debate here . . . LOL!

But hey, whatever floats your libertarian market fundamentalist boat!

I’m just here trying to help you understand that your boat is sinking . . .


Indy: Posted: June 13, 2014 5:54 p.m.

Lotus8 wrote: Indy - I'm willing to strip pensions from all government employees immediately and put those people on 401k plans. Then I will eliminate the ability of public workers to unionize, as they are going up against politicians who are easily bought vs. a normal workplace where the other side is actually properly organized. Those two actions would cut our tax burden tremendously. No loss of service whatsoever. I love how we always think inside the box on these issues, as is there is no way to challenge a bunch of cubicle dwelling government charges. We far outnumber them. I bet none of them would even quit if we made these changes except for the few motivated ones who truly have options elsewhere. They already make salaries equivalent to the private sector before consideration of the retirement and health benefits. Why should the public be the biggest group of suckers?

Indy: I believe there’s good reason to reevaluate the pensions at any level.

I agree that government workers can’t outpace their private sector counterparts that must pay for their wages and benefits.

Buy why do you suppose that government workers are ‘of cubicle dwelling government charges’?

I’ve worked in both public and private companies and have seen the same ‘clowns’ in both types of organizations.

In any event, unions to an extent tend to mitigate the wealthy’s ability to garner tax advantages that today allow them, the 1%, to take more than 20% of all yearly income in the US.

In any event, the global economy is changing through globalization that will reduce wages due to the oversupply of global labor that results from the unsustainable global population growth . . . an issue that the media here completely ignores.

This also is creating more wealth concentration since ‘owners of wealth’ (think stockholders that make up about 20% of the US population) will capture all productivity increases while workers compete against themselves for the limited jobs. In other words, basic economics same more of something looking at less of something will get less . . .

So yes, Americans regardless of who employs them will see their incomes going down . . . especially now that ‘energy per capita’ globally is flat or falling . . . government workers should not be isolated from this but likewise, wealthy should see also be held accountable through the tax base to account for the ‘income advantages’ they have from prior capital accumulation.

As an aside, much of the global unrest is based on economic factors that the media ignores.


ricketzz: Posted: June 17, 2014 6:33 a.m.

The Syria war was preceded by a food shortage. Global Warming will unite Sunni and Shia, just like the USA attacking Iraq in 2003 did. The only thing they hate more than each other is the USA/Israel invaders.


ricketzz: Posted: June 18, 2014 6:49 a.m.

The influx of children in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas is made much more easy when drought conditions make Rio Bravo look like the Santa Clara. They just walk across wherever.


projalice11: Posted: June 26, 2014 9:55 p.m.

"Oh, the places our tax money goes"



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