Taxes: a term of disgrace or an expression of hope?
For the Nevada Appeal
N o one wants to pay
taxes. In Nevada, talk of
taxes is always prefaced with “no.” No new taxes. No, we will not support a tax increase for anything. No, let someone else pay taxes, not me.
If a politician thinks about a tax increase, he or she is labeled a “tax-and-spend liberal,” or worse. Elected public policymakers must have political courage, steel backbones and clear visions of civic responsibility and public service to even enter the arena of new tax policy. But perhaps it’s time.
In the past, taxes were used to support royalty, dynasties and empires, usually to enable wars that allowed the royalty, dynasties and empires to expand their lands and tax base. Paying taxes was not optional. Not paying taxes could result in dismemberment or death, usually both.
As governments matured, more structured and less fatal tax penalties evolved. Both governments and their tax structures become complex.
Today, in the U.S. we have 67,000-plus pages of tax code, much of which is incomprehensible. Taxes are universally disliked but almost always paid because modern governments provide needed and demanded public services to citizens. If the demand for services goes up, taxes will as well. The key is for policymakers to determine what the majority of citizens require and how to pay for it.
There are those in our community who claim there should be no new taxes, that we should reduce expenditures to match revenues regardless of the impact on services ( yes, I know about the Constitutional requirement for a balanced budget, but the “balance” may have to be changed), that government be smaller and get out of the business of providing all but the most “basic” of human services (usually defined as public safety and filling pot holes).
They claim that individual citizens should assume more responsibility for taking care of themselves and, if anything’s left over, care for a needy neighbor. It’s a myopic and mean-spirited view of government but a point of view, nevertheless.
There are others who believe that government has a responsibility to serve its citizens, to provide support people cannot provide for themselves. They believe when citizens are experiencing pain, hunger and the loss of homes and jobs through no fault of their own, democratic government has a responsibility to help.
In our society that means government provides necessary education, health and human services, infrastructure requirements, arts and culture with enough assistance for citizens to live productive lives with dignity. It’s a more humane role for government. It certainly may require more taxes and some sacrifice. There are many who believe in this more expansive, humane view. I certainly do.
Let’s encourage our political leaders to support reasonable and necessary taxes. Some Nevada industries may have to pay more taxes, as we ourselves may. We won’t be happy. But if that sacrifice will help those currently in pain, and if it will allow our state to grow and prosper, it is our civic responsibility to make certain our public institutions survive and flourish.
We must support a Nevada government that works for all its people; not a dysfunctional, limited government that satisfies the few.
– Dr. Eugene T. Paslov, former Nevada superintendent of schools, is a board member for Silver State Charter High School.