More Taxes, More Prosperity

The conservative lobby is trying to shrink government at all levels to reduce taxes and shrink deficits. There is often some budgetary waste that can be cut, but state and local government budgets have been stripped to the bone by falling tax receipts. The drop in real property values and the curtailment of consumer spending have already strangled governments at all levels causing layoffs of essential civil servants like police officers, fire fighters, licensing and regulation field workers, department of motor vehicle clerks, teachers, and others. Despite current austerity, there is a hard-core cadre of small-government fanatics who continue to press for further tax reductions and civil service layoffs. There is no government function they would not cut and no government position they would not eliminate. Small-government zealots are under the misperception that business was unregulated and the civil service was an insignificant part of the work force back in the “good old days.”

Contrary to anti-government TEA Party claims, until the 21st Century, one of the driving forces of the burgeoning economy and rising middle class was the civil service. Reasonable pay, job security and liberal fringe benefits made civil service an avenue for poor and under-privileged workers to move up the economic ladder. From the Byzantine Empire to the industrial revolution – up to the latter part of the 20th Century – government employment was considered an essential component of the economy.

Patronage, the awarding of civil service jobs, was a major force in local politics prior to the development of the “merit system” in the 19th Century. Poor, uneducated Irish, Italians and other minorities could parley their votes and service to the party for employment in the police, fire and sanitation departments, and other government jobs. However, the rising political influence of these immigrant populations prompted the established upper and middle class to institute the “merit system,” which excluded those who lacked adequate education. Just as tests of “scholastic aptitude” designed by the dominant culture have been used to screen out minorities with different cultural norms and experiences, civil service examinations were created as a bar to Irish, German, Polish, Black and other job candidates who lacked English facility and cultural literacy. The merit system, in short, was a way to prevent the under class from gaining advantage from their one political asset: the vote.

Now the wealthy – referred to as “job creators” by the Right Wing – are once again eliminating civil service jobs to forestall upward economic mobility. Federal deficits have never dampened economic growth in the manner claimed by TEA Partiers and conservative pundits. A vigorous civil service and spending on infrastructure bring down unemployment and strengthen the nation. Taxpayers, particularly the wealthy, must be prepared to shoulder the cost of adequate government, a proposition that voters endorsed heartily on November 6, 2012.

On Sunday, November 4, 2012, in a New York Times opinion, “America’s Leftward Tilt?,” Drew Westen stated the following:

Indeed, one of the most powerful messages the Democrats chose not to use in the 2010 midterm elections — which would have supported a policy that was extremely popular then and remains as popular now — was a simple message on taxes I tested nationally, which won in every region and with every demographic, including TEA Partyers: “In tough times like these, millionaires ought to be giving to charity, not getting it.” Once that position (and other populist appeals) became central to Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign, the election looked like it would be a rout.

In today’s message on the economy, President Obama reiterated his determination to raise taxes on the top 2% – those with more than $250K annual income. He must not back down. It would be a mistake to kowtow to Grover Norquist, John Boehner and the Anti-Government Wrecking Crew.

Taxes are not a burden, they are an opportunity. We should listen to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. He said, “I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization.” They also buy prosperity for the civil servant and economic security for the nation.


John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
©2012 John B. Payne, Attorney

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