Taxes and the Common Good

It is getting time to file federal income taxes in the United States. The deadline is April 15th on most years but the deadline for employers to send out tax documents needed for filing is January 31st. So many of us start thinking of taxes in a bigger way just now. I am hoping that in the coming years Clara and I will be filing jointly most of the time because we will be married. But I am aware that this year is a case of me hoping for a sizable and speedy refund and trying to calculate whether that is a reasonable expectation. In my life money is not a thing I never have but it is not something I have in abundance and it is useful for me to reflect on how it works in my life.

I am very aware of the nuances of the taxation system even though I do not make much money. One of my employers this past year did not deduct FICA but did pay Medicare taxes. That employer does pay into a special qualified retirement fund. Another employer not only pays into FICA for Social Security but also takes out additional withholding at my request. Clara and I are discussing the money each of us has paid into Social Security and how things have worked out since then and how our anticipated marriage will change things yet again. I am not sure what the future of the federal tax system will be or even how I will earn enough money to be taxed but I most admit that for me tax season is usually a time more good than bad. I have at least gotten a refund and more often than not the earned income tax credits. So paying taxes is something I do in lots of ways throughout the year but I rarely owe more taxes at the end of the year. One is aware that many taxpayers really saw Trump’s America as better than Biden’s and the two as very different. Likewise otherd feel that Biden has saved America from Trumps corrupting influence and the destruction of the system that gives our form of governance meaning.

We are a diverse country with diverse historical references. There are a lot of differences in the ways each of us experience family obligations, needs and celebrations. But this is a time when the government in all its facets defines family very specifically with consequence. If you take care of your nephew or granddaughter life is likely to be more complicated than if you take care of your son or daughter. But that is only the start of a much bigger subject. Some people think expenses are hard to find at work and other people spend a lot of money to keep any job they have going. Some think the Church they tithe to keeps their community afloat. Others cannot see that any nonprofit does much that helps society as a whole. But we all have to navigate the tax system as Americans.

Presidential Elections

But beyond filling out forms and finding the way through life as a taxpayer there are other concerns that relate to tax season and paying taxes. Those concerns relate largely to the question of what we pay taxes for and what sort of society our taxes are helping to create. Environmental and climate concerns have to be balanced with economic concerns and also some see that America makes cleaner energy than its competitors and see it as a major mistake to have the American economy pull out of the fossil fuel sector even as other Americans see the extreme importance of America leading the way in Green Energy. Spending on social programs means shaping society in the ways approved by those Americans who design the social programs and their views may be very different from those of many of taxpayers who fund the programs. Bioethics makes all spending on healthcare and all refraining from spending offensive to many Americans. Any administration that even attempts to address healthcare is like to be caught up in areas of deep discord in the USA.

In addition fighting the pandemic has become an expensive and weary process. The tax dollars go to support efforts that are not approved by many whatever those efforts are. The world view of the pandemic and energy issues almost blur into other geopolitical questions. Nobody really can forget that the United States and Russia have large nuclear arsenals even as they use every other piece of equipment in the current quarrel. Again not all taxpayers like the emerging world order.

For my tax season and voting are simply part of my civic duties. But i wish I was making the future brighter than I am. Like everyone else I wish I could pay less for results I admired and respected more than the current outcomes.

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