No new taxes? Not a great idea

Published 4:51 pm Tuesday, September 20, 2011

By KIMBERLY BARRETT / Guest Columnist

The recent stalemate in efforts to raise the debt ceiling brought into clear view for the world to see a very irrational but popular sentiment held by many Americans — that the key to prosperity is no new taxes, particularly not for the wealthy.

Have we forgotten that taxes are the way that many of the things we commonly enjoy in our society like free primary and secondary education, infrastructure like roads and bridges, not to mention social security and Medicare are funded?

If we want to not only continue but improve these and other aspects of our lives, including access to health care, we obviously need more tax revenue, not less.

So the question we should be asking is not whether we need new tax revenue, but how to get it in a way that is fair and equitable to all members of society.

This issue of fairness speaks to another fallacy at the core of the debate over the national debt. It is the idea of trickle-down economics and that somehow if we allow wealthy individuals, large corporations or prosperous industries to keep more of their income rather than pay their fair share of taxes it will benefit the rest of society. That has just not been the case during the last few decades of Reaganomics and Bush-era tax breaks.

During this time, the rich have gotten richer, the poor have gotten poorer and the middle class has shrunk. For example, according to census data between 2000 and 2009 during the period in which the Bush tax breaks were implemented, the rate of poverty among individuals in Shelby County rose slightly from 6.3 percent to 6.9 percent.

For the state of Alabama and for the nation, the increase in poverty was much more dramatic. Extensive tax cuts for the wealthy and big businesses simply have not resulted in shared prosperity for all.

In light of all this, I am willing to pay more taxes, whether that be in the form of income tax, property tax, or so called sin and luxury taxes for three straightforward reasons. One is so that we can take steps to reduce the burden on those who are less able to afford the everyday taxes we pay, such as those levied on groceries.

Another is to help ensure that all of us in the United States and Shelby County have the basic services that we need. Finally, I’m willing to pay more taxes to do my part to help reduce our national debt. After all isn’t that what all the arguing is supposed to be about?

Kimberly Barrett is the vice president of student affairs at the University of Montevallo.