Tomorrow is the day the IRS invented — the deadline for filing income tax returns that provokes anxiety in most of us. Just feel the stress in your chest, stomach and shoulders.
No wonder Americans hate paying taxes. Our tax code is so horrendously complicated that we have to pay accountants to examine our income, expenses and recordkeeping. Then along comes the government to take away a chunk of our hard earned money.
Before you rush off to a Tea Party protest, stop and relax. Take a minute to release some of the negative emotions taxes stir up. Instead, think about the benefits you enjoy that are paid for by your taxes.
My tax day anxiety was swept away by thoughts of things I’m truly grateful for.
I started my day with a warm shower. That reminded me how thankful I am for clean water and indoor plumbing. For much of the world, that’s a luxury. But not here, where we pay taxes.
I enjoy driving on smooth highways. The lines and lights keep me and other drivers safe. I sometimes like to leave the car in the garage and ride the train to a ballgame. I love the sense of community that comes with riding public transit.
I’m grateful for the teacher who taught my sons to read “Where the Wild Things Are” and for the bus drivers who got them to school safely each day. I appreciate the lunch lady who filled their tummies with broccoli and the coach who boosted their confidence.
I love the librarians who help minds soar. They open the doors to a world of information that helps us learn, prosper and have fun. Where else can you get free and equal access to knowledge?
I treasure our state parks for affordable family vacations. Nothing beats a campfire along the North Shore or a hike on a well-groomed nature trail. Rent a canoe, and if you’re lucky, you might even catch a walleye stocked in a lake with the help of your tax dollars.
Whatever you think about Syria, I’m grateful for our soldiers and a strong military that can fight for peace. I also deeply appreciate the caregivers who heal the veterans who risked everything to serve our country.
I’m grateful that our society provides a safety net, however imperfect, for those less fortunate than I. The elderly and disabled deserve dignity and crucial services like Meals on Wheels. Their health is more important than anyone’s wealth.
Finally, I’m blessed with a good job that I enjoy. Without work, there are no taxes. This year, there are 120,000 unemployed Minnesotans who cannot pay taxes. Those of us who can pay should consider ourselves lucky.
It’s okay to recognize that our tax system isn’t fair. It’s even better to work to change what we see wrong. We need fair, progressive taxes based on a person’s income and ability to pay. Profitable corporations and the wealthiest earners should pay their fair share, too. If they do, our state and nation can invest in a better future for everyone. That means protecting the essential public services we need most during these uncertain times.
As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes observed, “Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.” This April 18, don’t just pay taxes. See the abundance all around you and say thanks to the soldiers, firefighters, teachers, librarians, nurses, mail carriers, garbage collectors, bus drivers, pothole repairers, and all the other public workers who make this a better Minnesota.
Eliot Seide is executive director of AFSCME Council 5.