Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Teabaggers complain about taxes, but they don’t know about how they work

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If you are one of those fortunate people who get a check every two weeks or twice a month, do you ever really look at the check stub?

People can tell you how much they make, which is the gross amount of the check. And they might be able to tell you how much their take home pay is. But if you have direct deposit, you might not even remember that.

And for what your money goes to — taxes and stuff — chances are you don’t pay much attention. That would make you a typical American.

Ask any American and they will tell you that they pay too much in taxes. Every April 15 brings cries of being “robbed” by the tax man.

But do we really have a sense of what we pay, relative to others, and what we get for our money?

For such a “liberal” paper, The Washington Post allows just about any out-there right-winger onto its site an opportunity to speak (not always given to the equivalent on the left), and this online chat from Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation, is a classic example.

Teabaggers are angry, and they really angry about “losing their country.” Imagine if every MSM outlet bent over backwards to get your side of the story, and you thought you were “losing your country.” Imagine if they were ignored by the MSM.

Phillips and the other teabaggers are concerned with government spending and getting the debt and deficit down. Yet, they love Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, the two biggest pilers to the deficit and debt. They don’t love Bill Clinton, who did more for the deficit than any other president in the modern era.

And they don’t like Barack Obama because he’s a socialist (Phillips’ word) and he is spending too much money.

What do the teabaggers want to cut? Several people asked Phillips during the chat. Waste. Wow! Let’s cut waste.

Yes, we should cut waste, but not Medicare, Social Security, defense. The Pentagon has more waste than any other department (based on the fact that the defense spending is so huge), but we can’t touch that because of Osama bin Laden (again, Phillips said this).

We could get out of Afghanistan, leave behind a small but strong fighting force to get Osama, and save a ton of dough. But that wouldn’t satisfy the teabaggers.

We could leave Iraq, and save lots of money. But the teabaggers would hate that. We could have single-payer insurance and save lots of money, but the teabaggers would hate that. “Socialist.” Never mind that thriving capitalist economies have single-payer — we have an example just to our north in Canada.

The teabaggers and the liberals have one honest theme in common: they want to spend government money on what it perceives to be best for the country and not on what the other side wants. And they both agree that we are too far in debt and our deficit is too high.

But liberals are offering solutions and teabaggers are offering anger. And our country is beyond the point of arguing over the problems: we need to start instituting solutions.

Paying off interest on the debt is one of the largest categories of the federal budget — where your tax dollars goes to. Like our check stubs, we don’t always know where our tax money is going.

And there is regressive state sales tax. Not in your paycheck or a source of frustration on April 15. In Illinois, Governor Pat Quinn talked about a sales tax holiday for later this summer. In Chicago, the largest city in Illinois, residents pay the highest sales tax in the nation.

In Chicago, they pay 10.25% sales tax. Statewide, it’s 5% though there is an additional 1% for the city and 0.25% for the county. So in Chicago, even if there was a state sales tax holiday, you would pay 5.25% sales tax.

Taxes are complicated, and come in many forms. The teabaggers don’t have to know as much as Jefferson, Madison, or any of the other Founding Fathers about taxation, but their woeful ignorance isn’t good for democracy or discourse.

Being mad is fine, being upset with your government is democratic, but trying being knowledgeable. Imagine how much further you could get if you knew what you were so angry about in your teabagging rallies.

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