Taxes, Value, Democracy, & Dead Animals

People complain about taxes because they have little individual control over high they will be and they don’t feel they are receiving a good return on their investment.  The current presidential campaign is developing into a series of sound bites that boil down to whether people should be attracted by a pledge of no new taxes or taxing the wealthy to distribute to the rest of us.

My response to political leaders is that I’m less concerned about taxes than I am about the value I receive for my investments.  Some of my limited wealth has been going into retirement plans for a number of years which means I’ve lost a fair amount of money in the past few months.  I have never complained about the amount of money going into my retirement funds or how that money was invested, probably because I’ve had a lot to do with how the funds were spent.

A fair amount of what I earn is invested in taxes that support a huge array of purposes.  Some of it is invested in national security, and some of it gets spent to pick up dead animals on Albany’s streets.  I occasionally grouse about spending priorities at the national, state, and local level, although I generally recognize that living in Albany, Oregon, USA, is a pretty rare privilege, where the benefits greatly exceed the liabilities.  I also know that when I am dissatisfied with the apportionment of my tax dollars, there are things I can do to make changes.  My ballot arrived last weekend, and I’ve already made most of my selections based on my beliefs about who and what will deliver the greatest value to my family, my community, and my country.  Our form of representative democracy is far from perfect, but it is one of the few things that distinguishes the United States from any other place on the planet.

I would rather hear more discussion from candidates this year about increasing the value of my tax investments and less about lowering my tax expenses.  A prosperous life in a good community with real opportunities for growth and satisfaction is worth a lot to me.  I chose to work in local government because I believed it was a place where you could have a direct effect on making people’s lives better and still make a living.  My belief has not changed over the past 20+ years; and, in fact, it has only grown stronger.  My opinion is reinforced almost every day when I visit a library filled with patrons of all ages or see a professional ambulance crew respond to a medical emergency.  I also know I can call someone at the City to pick up a dead nutria on a given day; and, thanks in part to my tax investment, it will be done.

We are now in the midst of an important election at all levels of government.  I am grateful for this chance to mark my ballot and contribute to a process that has, thus far, delivered great value to my family and me.  With so much at stake, it is the least I can do.