I wish those fortunate enough to be able to pay taxes would reflect on public services that are often taken for granted but make for a civilized society: police and fire protection; sewage treatment and water treatment facilities; public schools and teachers; family services for lives that have run off the rails.
Tens of millions of Americans lost jobs because of globalization. Millions more watched their retirement dreams shattered in the 2008 crash resulting from greedy gambling with other people’s money by Wall Street and banking financiers. Emergency government bailouts beginning under President Bush probably prevented a depression.
So, the national debt is huge, but much of it resulted from waging two wars while cutting taxes, and the crash was caused by unregulated Ponzi schemes. The debt and the crash were not caused by beneficiaries of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, public schools or aid to families with dependent children. If you live well, be grateful that your taxes are repairing a ruptured economy.
Taxes fund streets, bridges and working traffic signals. Taxes once funded mental hospitals for the indigent now warehoused in jails. Taxes once funded alcohol and drug treatment facilities that kept families together and reduced our prison burdens. Every tax cut eliminates services needed by people struggling to survive in a severe and heartless economy.
Oklahoma City’s economic “miracle” resulted from investments in infrastructure that have inspired private rehabbing of old buildings, launching new restaurants, protecting real estate values, injecting wages and inspiring hope in our city.
Oklahoma’s prospects could be as bright as Oklahoma City’s, with similar public investment in infrastructure and programs serving the common good. If you have a home and a job, rejoice in the favor that has rewarded your efforts. Celebrate the opportunity your success can provide to extend education, opportunity and the blessings of society to others. Acts of charity do not build the economic justice that, in turn, creates ladders of opportunity for others to rise and prosper. Government created the conditions resulting in the debt and crash. Only government can regulate our economy in a way that prevents such abuses.
Let’s not cut taxes in fear, but build boldly, knowing that economic recovery floats all boats and supports a society worthy of us. In the 1950s, as America paid the debts from World War II, depression recovery and the Marshall Plan, the tax rate on the highest bracket was an astonishing 90 percent. It was a matter of principle that those who could pay more should contribute more, as Americans shouldered the load together. We used to be proud of our large middle class.
Am I my brother’s keeper? No, Cain, we are all our brother’s brother, brother’s sister, sister’s sister or sister’s brother. Let us ask everyone to contribute to the common good as members of the family that we are. Let us not permit America to turn its back on the least of these, but rise together as one state and nation.
Batchelder is director of the Peace House in Oklahoma City.