Wednesday, January 2, 2013


The 112th Congress ends on a sour note-- just the way it began two years ago.
photo: Ove Overmyer

Rochester, N.Y. -- There is a lot not to like about what just happened at the end of the 112th Congressional session-- plenty of unfinished business and dysfunction to last a lifetime. 

However, knowing that my modest increase in payroll tax will help stabilize Social Security makes it easier to swallow and this is probably a good thing. And, at the same time high wage earners and CEO's will be paying more of their fair share too. Furthermore, your income tax will basically remain the same as well-- unless you earn close to half a million dollars a year.

Still, we have a long way to go to get a true progressive, fair tax structure for individuals and corporations doing business in the good 'ol USA. What is missing from this picture is any sense of a larger meaning in the act of paying taxes. 

Most other things that require effort and sacrifice-- family, service, charity, and volunteerism-- have virtuous, or at least redeeming, meaning associated with them. That meaning helps us face life’s challenges with a sense of a larger purpose that makes these acts worth the investment.

The conservative argument some tell about paying taxes reflect a chronic disconnection from our role as citizens; they are devoid of any civic meaning. The real meaning of taxes pays for the things that underpin our public life and connect us to one another through our communities, our states and our country. Let's not forget that.

When we lose sight of this, taxes are seen as merely depriving us of our individual property. If, on the other hand, we see ourselves as stewards of a common good, as citizen managers of public systems and structures that secure the city, state and country we live in, then taxes are our contribution to something greater than our individual selves.

We all need to be telling a new and meaningful story about paying taxes that celebrates the concrete opportunity it offers “we the people.”  The problem is, without the public systems and structures that taxes pay for, the America we know and love would cease to exist.

No matter what kind of place we call home-- rural, city, suburb-- our aspirations and expectations are inextricably linked with the public systems that provide for our quality of life. The basics of what we need to raise our families and to run successful businesses are now so ingrained in our daily lives that we take their existence for granted.

And, thank god unemployment benefits will continue for America's 2 million working households. With that being said, who's ready to start fighting over the debt ceiling? The 113th Session of Congress convenes in just two days-- heaven help us in 2013.

-Ove Overmyer
The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinion of CSEA as an organization.

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