If we valued government like the iPhone, we would be lining up to pay taxes
The mania around Apple might seem extreme, but we make choices with our dollars all the time. Whether it is the house where we live, the food we eat, the clothes we wear or even the phones we buy, we financially reward those who respond to what we actually want.
Why? We value the goods or services they provide more than the dollars in our pocket.
Yet when it comes to our federal tax bill, one of our largest single expenditures every year, most of us are not sure that we are getting our money’s worth. Civil and criminal penalties ensure that the tax revenues keep flowing, but many Americans hold our federal government in especially low regard.
According to a recent Gallup poll, “Americans’ trust in each of the three branches of the federal government is at or near the lows in Gallup’s trends, dating back to the early 1970s.”
Apply the same standard to the federal government that we do to our personal discretionary spending. Who among us would line up to voluntarily pay our current taxes because of how much we value the services our government provides?
The federal government has a vital role in regulating interstate commerce, it provides for the common defense, it administers patents and copyrights, it provides for a common currency and those are just a few important responsibilities. Most Americans see the need for those functions and would probably be willing to financially support them.
The problem is that our current federal government operates well outside of its designed role. Do the majority of Americans really value the likes of the Administration on Aging, Radio Free Asia, or even the Japan-United States Friendship Commission enough to fund them without compulsion?
The federal government’s structure is not designed to be accountable for results except on the highest of levels. We might hold politicians responsible for our perception of their handling of major issues that make headlines, but how many of us hold anyone answerable for the performance of the Inter-American Foundation? How many of us even know that it exists and our tax dollars pay for it?
If the federal government’s current command of our resources is the best way to spend our money, we should get in line ready to hand more of it over.
On the other hand, if we find the cost to be excessive for the returned value, we need to change the way our federal government operates rather than simply accepting what we no longer trust. Our politicians are public servants rather than our masters. The have the power to collect our taxes, but we have every right to expect a return on that investment for our families, our communities and our country.