Government Provides Incentive to Quit

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“Needs Coffee”
by Tattau

NORTH LITTLE ROCK — As we get older and look at our meager earnings/savings compared to the time investments in our careers, government and taxes provide easy targets to those looking to blame someone for their fate (myself included).

“If only they’d let me get paid an honest day’s wages for all of the work I’m doing!” the familiar cry rings. “How can they keep taking things from me when I don’t have anything to give? If the government would just get out of my business, everything would be better.”

Yet when complaints against government annually pop up, I often wonder what folks would do without the government providing roads for commerce, public safety personnel and a judicial process rather than mob rule. In some ways it reminds me of the Albert King tune with the verse, “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.”

I grew up in a middle-class family and was taught if I wanted something, I had to work for it. No one owed me anything; privilege favored the rich. The Arkansas State Police and the U.S. Federal Court of Hearings and Appeals, i.e. the government, clothed and fed our family, even if it was Corn Flakes for breakfast, bologna and cheese sandwiches for lunch, nearly every day for most of my mid-childhood and teenage years.

Living tight then taught me to live tight most of my life. I worked multiple jobs going while obtaining my undergraduate and first graduate degree without owing anyone a dime. I only took out school loans for the doctorate; now they’re more than my house. I went to college to get off the government teat; now I work for a state university.

Our taxes provide my salary, which granted isn’t the largest considering I work at one of the smaller universities in a small Southern state. Business-minded friends often chided me while I worked on my degrees: “Go into business. You don’t want to teach — you’ll starve!” But a lack of quality education ensures an under-educated workforce, which leads to a depressed job market.

So when it comes to government and taxes, I’m in a Catch-22 of sorts, i.e. if I rail against them, I more or less rail against my existence. Therefore, I had to reassess my position on taxes. After careful deliberation these many years, I’m starting to think of any and all taxes as incentives to quit. Framing it this way provides black and white alternatives for everyone. For example:

— The government taxes cigarettes and alcohol as incentives to quit taking harmful substances in our bodies. It wasn’t enough to warn us against the health dangers to do any good. If we don’t want to pay $8 a pack, quit smoking!

— The government taxes fossil fuels because the autos we drive spew out crap into the air and leak toxic substances on the ground that run off into our groundwater, thereby degrading the environment. In order to drive, we need roads to travel and upkeep after having 80,000 lb. rigs moving over it. Taxing fuel provides an incentive to carpool, buy an economical car, keep the foot out of the accelerator, keep the vehicle maintained, etc. If we don’t want to pay $3 a gallon for gas and better roads, quit driving!

— Sooner or later, the government will most likely tax industry for emissions that contribute to global climate change. Now this really pisses off friends of mine on both sides of the political spectrum. But I’m trying to look at it from a practical standpoint. Taxing carbon emissions provides real value to the degradation caused by our dependence on a lifestyle that contributes to mountaintop removal, habitat destruction and elimination of some ecosystems. In short, if we don’t want to see the oil spills, hear about the species extinction, etc., quit contributing to that lifestyle.

“That’s too radical, Sitton!”

Is it? The bicycle provides the most aerodynamic and fuel-efficient mode of transportation known to man, but how many of us use it regularly? A downtown area with neighborhood grocery stores and nearby businesses allows residents to walk more, which leads to healthier lifestyles. But how many of us want to give up our McMansions in suburbia or our new shiny autos? How many of us want to live next door to someone when we can have wide open spaces between us (regardless of the drive into town)? And shouldn’t we be allowed to spend whatever we want, whenever we want on whatever we want and damn the environmental consequences required to get it to us?

I’m not a fan of big government, but it seems to be the only rein on businesses and corporations determined to make the biggest buck regardless of what happens to the air we breathe, the water we drink or the food we eat. The only way to pay the salaries of those working the jobs that keep us safe and secure comes through taxes. The only way to pay the educators that provide a workforce that attracts better-paying jobs comes through taxes. If the only way to keep the air clean, the water pure and the food edible depends on taxes, should we be surprised?

Of course, easy alternatives stare us in the face. Give up the schools, libraries, paved roads, public safety, judicial system and who needs taxes? Give up the auto for bikes, horses or walking and who needs gasoline? Quit leaving the lights on, insulate the house, buy better windows or — God forbid — swear off all electronic media and modern conveniences … who would need (much) electricity?

In short, the government keeps giving us incentives to quit. Isn’t it rather pathetic that we’re as addicted as the alcoholic who wants just one more drink, or the smoker who’ll skip eating for one more cancer stick?

7 thoughts on “Government Provides Incentive to Quit

  1. Almost forgot to add: whenever government gets to be much too big and too obtrusive, there’s always the incentive to quit and start over again, i.e. Jefferson was said to once observe, “Every generation needs a new revolution.” Need it be bloody? Not if the vote actually works. But that relies on individual frames of reference …

    Considering a “revolution” is probably overrated at this time since more people identify with their ISPs than their country, there’s also the incentive to just give up membership in the country of the taxes you don’t like and get membership in a different country. Of course, membership has it privileges …

  2. There’s a lot in what you are saying. The downside is that big Government taxes way too much, often wastes that money without providing enough incentive to become self-sufficient and unreliant.

    1. And that’s where Corporations and Big Business can learn from the Communication field, i.e. if you don’t want the government involved, you take care of the problem before it becomes a problem.

      Witness violent movies back in the day; they came out with a rating system to inform people rather than catching them unawares. Tipper Gore gets up in arms about lyrical content? The music industry slaps a sticker on the front warning parents to beware. Cries that video games may be too violent? An industry-wide rating system pops up.

      Innovation leads great businesses to become self-sufficient as they typically get ahead of the rest of the field. Giving the public what it wants before it knows it wants it just means someone was paying attention before it gets to a crisis condition.

  3. Industries are already taxed. Our plant gets a fee based on the amount of pollutants we emit each year. Problem is, these taxes drive industry (and all the jobs associated with them) offshore, where these taxes don’t exist. Doing business in China is already cheaper, because of the labor and lack of regulations. If we keep regulating here, we might as well become non-industrialized. Taxes for “environmental contribution” don’t work unless they are assessed globally. If you want to continue to rely on imported items, keep promoting more taxes on American industry. :)

    1. Industry already passes the taxes along, always has. Outside of the pervasive influence of business over media we receive, I typically don’t mind corporations until they mess with my food, air and water.

      Do I like regulation? Not really. But can we trust industry to regulate itself? Not historically.

      Can I vote against someone polluting the water I drink or the air I breathe? Can I vote against one company owning more than 3/4 of the food I eat? Will someone, anyone, please send me directions to the nearest precinct just so I can cast my vote? Give me that option and I’m typically satisfied or at least let me know what can I not buy? I’ve run out of gas rather than buy gas from Exxon. Crazy? Sure. Impact? Minimal. But at least I have a say.

      Funny how Bush Sr. started the enviro stuff prior to losing to Clinton, but business (primarily auto industry) got in front of Kyoto to frame the issue as jobs. What jobs are worth poisoned water? And when did America decide it needed to wait on everybody else to lead?

      Investing in environmentally sound business means a corporation intends to stick around awhile and not treat its workers like slaves, not treat the land like a dump and not act like today’s actions produce no consequences tomorrow.

  4. You’re thinking inside the box, Ron — exactly the way the managers of the corporate state want you to think. Relative to the rest of the world, taxes in the United States are moderate and regulations, light handed. Yet other countries provide far better social services, education systems, and health care. How can that be? Are people in other countries smarter than we are? Do they have more natural resources? NO! to both questions. What we need to do is return to systems that brought us growth and prosperity and the 50s and 60s — systems that other countries borrowed from us and still use — although we abandoned them. Elements include steeply graduated income taxes, vibrant labor unions, a carefully regulated financial sector.These things that worked for us in the past and work for the rest of the world now, could turn the prosperity engine back on. (We could also borrow Eur0pean ideas for a more efficient health care system.)

    1. Those other countries typically have less land mass, which accounts for a smaller military and less infrastructure necessary for communication, transportation, etc. When you don’t have as much space to fill, you typically have no choice but to reinvest in what you have, i.e. if there’s not as much room, it’s also not as easy to just build another school when you don’t like the fact that Lil’ Johnny may be attending with someone who doesn’t look/think/act like him.

      Are other countries better, smarter, luckier? Hell no, but America quit thinking about being the best a long time ago. It costs too much to be the best; it’s much cheaper to use second-rate materials and practice planned obsolescence, thereby guaranteeing an income instead of guaranteeing a product. We abandoned a commitment to quality about the same time we abandoned those systems you extol from a half century ago. It would make a good start to bring those back, but that’s only a start.

      A commitment to quality means quality all the way around, doing a job once with the intent of it lasting a long, long, long time. It means corporations realize working employees in undesirable/unsafe conditions will probably lead to increased stress/accidents, which will likely drive up health-care costs. It means the best jobs will go to communities providing the most educated employees; those unwilling to invest in their future will be doomed to someone else’s past, whether individual, state or nation. It means those wanting the best of the best will also provide services to keep their employees content. A content employee doesn’t spend time searching for something else, and typically works harder because she or he knows it’s hard to find a good job (especially in this economy).

      Then maybe it means corporations understand poisoning/destroying the land around them affects everything from the health of their workers/neighbors/church members to the community’s pride, i.e. when it all goes to pot, people piss all over it, which drives down property values that keep an educated work force from wanting to live and work there. Rather than destroy, build smart, build environmentally friendly, build with the idea that you want your great-great-great grandchild to benefit from living in the same spot. Giving folks a reason to be proud of what they do and what they contribute to the community positively affects us all. America thrives when it innovates, when it leads. Innovation leads to prosperity.

      I don’t believe in the box anymore; it’s made of cardboard instead of wood and it’s wet. I do believe communication gives us a key by showing an interconnected web with consequences for every severed strand. If business and government considered this while determining the “costs of doing business,” perhaps they wouldn’t be so quick to blindly punch this way and that, destroying the integrity of the whole damn thing.