Taxes. They’re the bane of our existence. We all hate paying them, we love to complain about them, and we wonder what we get in return for paying taxes.
Take a look around and you’ll find out!
For a few thousand (ok, tens of thousands) of dollars per year, you get the following things:
- The roads on which you drive. Oh yeah, throw in subways, buses, and passenger trains, since they’re all government subsidized, even if you pay a toll or fee.
- Unemployment benefits. Let’s hope you never need them though.
- Police, fire and EMT protection. What, you think fires put themselves out? Who do you think is protecting us?
- Medicare. My grandmother would be in the poor house if she had to pay for her own medical expenses.
- Social Security Benefits. Many people my age (20s-30s) complain about paying Social Security since we don’t think we’ll ever get to use it. However, my grandmother and most likely my parents will be highly dependent on Social Security as they get older. I’m financing my elders’ retirement, and I’m totally fine with that. Otherwise, I’d have to help them pay the bills somehow.
- Disaster recovery and control. Yeah, FEMA was late getting to areas hit by hurricanes, but they got there. Federal, state and local governments help rebuild communities, clear snow from roads, help prevent New Orleans from flooding (however successful), put out major forest fires threatening our homes, and so much more.
- Public Education. I went to a private elementary and high school, but a state university. With my family’s income, I could never have afforded a private institution without huge grants and scholarships. My grandmother often complains that she has paid school taxes (in PA) for decades, but none of her kids and grandkids used those taxes. However, paying those school taxes helped make the local school system successful, which helped keep her home value increasing.
- Welfare and WIC.. As much as I think the welfare system is corrupt and many recipients are cheating us out of our tax dollars, some of my upstanding friends and relatives couldn’t make it through life without that extra subsidy.
- Small business assistance. The government wants small business owners to succeed. Entrepreneurship is what makes this country going, and the government is glad to help the little guys and gals make their dreams happen.
- Worker protection legislation like minimum wage (clarified based on comments). I got my first job at age 15 working at McDonald’s (technically, I started 3 months prior with a paper route), and have been working ever since. Throughout college, I depended on my part-time income to finance my social and academic life. If there was no minimum wage enforcement, who knows how little I would have been making. Beyond that, millions of Americans depend on minimum wage to pay the bills. Luckily, state governments are passing more legislation to increase the minimum wage.
So, while taxes provide us many benefits, you don’t want to cheat the government out of payments you legally owe. That said I do advocate taking all the deductions which you are legally entitled to, so be sure your taxes are done in a manner that’s both fair to the government and to you.
You’re still allowed to complain though.