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You work 104 days and what do you get?

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POSTED April 16, 2010 2:00 a.m.
This past Wednesday - April 14 - was the day a typical Californian started working for their self instead of Sacramento and Uncle Sam.

The first 104 days of your labor went to paying taxes based on data gleaned by the Tax Foundation.  That reflects direct taxes such as local sales and property tax, state income tax, and federal income. In reality, you are still not free of the tax burden due to “hidden taxes” in products that you buy.

Purchase toilet paper and you’re paying for business taxes including property taxes slapped on the manufacturer, you’re paying taxes imposed on the trucker that moves the raw materials to the factory and transported toilet paper to market, and you’re also paying toward taxes that all those concerned  in the manufacturing and distribution of the toilet paper must pay as well.

Buy a car and it is even worse. Taxes wrapped into that vehicle includes mining taxes, railroad taxes, trucking taxes, property taxes, corporate taxes and - if the vehicle isn’t made here in America - there is a good chance there are tariff taxes.

It is important to keep this in mind since there is now a move afoot in Washington, D.C., for a value added tax - a federal consumption tax if you will - as well as efforts in Sacramento to up the tax bite.

The problem with most taxes is that they don’t hurt. What is meant by that is we don’t realize we are paying them so we aren’t as attuned to holding the people accountable who are spending them on our behalf.

Ronald Reagan when he was governor of California refused to succumb to pressure from then Assembly Speaker Jesse Unruh to increase the state withholding on income tax after the California Legislature adopted a fairly big jump in the income tax.

When queried about it at his weekly press conference, Reagan made an off-the-cuff remark that was sweet and to the point saying he wouldn’t support such a move because “taxes should hurt.”

That, of course, was misconstrued by his detractors. Reagan’s point was simple. If we had to send money to the state instead of having it withheld from our paychecks we are all going to be much more aware of what the true cost of government is in the price we pay when we want the government to take care of more and more of our needs and wants.

If you doubt that, look at how many people react to income tax refunds from the state and federal governments. They gleefully act like it is “bonus” money when in fact it was taken from them and done so without even benefit of interest.

Consider how they’d treat April 15 if they had to send in thousands upon thousands of dollars to the state and federal governments. Of course, Uncle Sam and Sacramento are doing us a favor because we’re not responsible enough to set aside money to pay our taxes. It is funny how responsibility is a one-way street when it comes to taxes. Neither the federal government nor state can stay within a budget.

Taxes aren’t inherently bad. Without them we would not have a transportation system, national defense, national parks, schools, public safety, and such.

There is, however, a line that needs to be drawn in terms of how far should government go in spending our money. There is no universal agreement which is why we have a healthy public discourse - that could stand to be a bit more civil - about the role of government.

You can bet the last penny of your tax refund check, if you’re getting one, that if the actual price of government as we know it today was more transparent in the bite that it takes out of everyone that you’d have a lot more people demanding government either be restrained or rethink how it goes about doing the public’s business.
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