Tax Day: What Are You Willing to Pay?

The dreaded April 15th Tax Day is upon us, a day it’s safe to say no one likes. But this year, perhaps more than any other in recent times, a basic question confronts us: What will we pay to help the nation, our communities, families and individuals get through this tough time and create a better future? As you race to meet the April 15th deadline, would you pay more? Make no mistake there is a growing battle within the nation over government spending and taxation. For instance, the “Tea Bag Protest” is urging Americans to mail a tea bag to the White House to protest current tax policies and President Obama’s budget. I’m not sure placing a 42 cent stamp on an envelope demands the same bravery as those involved in the Boston Tea Party, but the protest is noted.

Few of us will send a tea bag to the president, but there are plenty of people of all political persuasions concerned about government spending – from the bailouts of financial institutions, auto companies and housing foreclosures, to pending health care reform, education investments, and other major initiatives, each and all of which will require new spending, at least in the short run.

And all this activity raises some penetrating questions. For instance, one individual who commented on a recent blog of mine asked, should communities like Detroit receive special assistance when their own community is struggling? Just who does deserve public aid, and under what conditions? What kinds of investments are worthy of public support? Nothing is for free; even if your own taxes don’t go up this year, we’ll be borrowing so much money that you or someone’s kid eventually will have to pay it off.

I don’t intend for these to be abstract questions. Nor do I wish to get into the decades long debate about “deficit spending” that so many groups, like the Concord Coalition, took on. God bless them for their efforts.

For me, as we near Tax Day, this is a more immediate concern, and a more personal one, and one that goes to the very heart of how we want to move ahead – and now!

My question is, if signing on the dotted line tomorrow meant that you were committing yourself to pay more in taxes because you thought we needed to spend more to get ourselves out of this economic ditch, and to lay the foundation for the future, would you do it? How much more would you be willing to pay? What, if any, conditions would you set? What level of confidence would you have that these funds would ultimately make a difference – and how would that color your thinking?

I ask these questions because I believe we must be clear on the level of commitment we’re willing to make for moving ahead – and under what conditions. Indeed, Tax Day is not simply about what each of us “owes,” it is about what each of us believes must be done, and what we’re willing to ante up.

On this Tax Day, what are you willing to do?