Donald Trump and the Real Meaning of Taxes
Rochester, NY-- Like many Americans, I physically recoiled when learning Donald Trump claimed almost a billion dollars in failed business dealings in 1995 and then bragged about the fact not paying taxes makes him “smart.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Not paying your fair share of taxes makes you a criminal in the eyes of most—just ask Wesley Snipes and Martha Stewart.
Despite all the spin from the political extremes, what gets overlooked every time we debate taxes is the real meaning behind why we pay them in the first place.
I reject the conservative arguments they tell about paying taxes. I abhor Donald Trump’s behavior and his view of the world. It reflects a chronic disconnection from our role as citizens; it is 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.
Most 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 larger sense of purpose that makes these acts worth the investment.
Donald Trump believes taxes are seen as merely depriving him of his individual property. If, on the other hand, we see ourselves as stewards of 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. This is a concept Donald Trump will never understand— and makes him disqualified and unfit to be President of the United States.
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. Public services pay for the collective basics of what we need to raise our families and to run successful businesses. The act of paying taxes gets a bad rap and we need to flip that notion on its head. Thank god for taxes-- it enables us to do things collectively we could never do on our own.
I would argue 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. The real meaning of taxes is what connects us all—a concept Donald Trump will never ever be able to comprehend.
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