Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tax Money and "Those People"

Many times I hear people talking disdainfully about those who are any sort of government assistance, saying that they don't want their tax dollars paying to support these people. Sometimes, they're talking about people in general on assistance, but more often I hear such comments in reference to a particular person or family in the news.

Though I realize that there are some people accepting aid that really don't need it and they should be weeded out, I'm not quick to judge everyone who gets assistance of any kind. Even in particular instances, I realize that I don't know their entire life situation and to jump to the most obvious conclusion (they're lazy and they don't want to work), is rarely helpful and really isn't my place to pass judgment, anyway.

I always roll my eyes when I hear people self-righteously say that they don't want "their tax money" going to help "those people".

For one thing, any one person's particular share of taxes they pay don't go directly to another family. It goes into the general fund, where it may used for numerous various tax-funded purposes, quite a few of which have nothing to do with aiding the less fortunate.

Secondly, even among those who resent paying taxes in general, I never hear them say, "I don't want my tax money going to help build more bombs" or "I don't want my tax money going to build another prison" or "I don't want my tax money going to big corporations". They always reserve their ire for poor people, who may be neighbors and members of their own community.

Many of these conservative people take great pride in being Christians. So much for love thy neighbor and "what you did for the least of these, my brethren, you have done unto me." Such "Christian conservatives" often speak of "family values" and protecting children, particularly the unborn, but are seemingly oblivious to the fact that the people on assistance they seek to prevent their tax money from assisting, more of then than not contain children, who are innocent regardless of their parents' faults, real and imagined.

After asserting that they don't want their tax money going to help others to maintain a minimum stnadard of life, they are quick to add, "It's their own poor choices in life that put them in that situation," leaving unsaid the second part of that sentiment, that if one has made mistakes and not made perfect choices in life with perfect foresight into the future, then they deserve to starve, be homeless, be denied medical care, and so on. Again, how wonderfully Christian of them.

Conceding that in some instances that this is at least partially true, it denies the truth that everyone's situation in life is because of a variety of factors, some chosen, some circumstantial beyond any one person's ability to control. Taking the view that what happens to any person, rich or poor, fortunate or unfortunate is one hundred percent within their ability to control and thus one hundred percent their responsibility is simplistic and naive at best.

Our failing economy is one prime example of circumstances beyond the individual to control. And that includes millions of people who have been in past years included among the fortunate, what these conservative folks call hard-working people, who have followed all the rules. It might even soon include some of these people who don't want their tax dollars going to help "those people". They may soon one day become one of "those people".

Though it would be prophetic justice for those who remain higher on the food chain to in turn look down their noses at such folks and claim that they don't want their tax dollars going to help them because, as they all know, everyone on assistance is "lazy and doesn't want to work" and that they should be left to suffer the consequences of their own "bad choices" in life, it wouldn't be right.

America should be better than that. In a civilized society, we give a helping hand to those who need it, knowing that one day our turn may come to need that helping hand ourselves. While hard work and thrift are most assuredly virtues to value and cultivate, we should never reserve the basic needs of human dignity and survival: food, shelter, medical care, and education to only those we deem as having sufficient character to "deserve" it. Assure the basics for everyone, then teach the value of hard work and thrift so that people may earn the luxuries for themselves.


1 comment:

Roger said...

I don't want my tax money going to "those companies" that shipped jobs overseas, give huge salaries and bonuses to the big shots, lat off workers, participate in no-bid contracts with the government, engage in illegal and unethical behaviors, etc. Those companies can just FAIL.