Saturday, September 19, 2009

The new talking point: you're a hypocrite if you use the services your taxes paid for

Some of my (Delaware)Liberal friends think that the Kos-generated Teabagger Pledge is sort of the ultimate Gotcha for those who fervently believe in limited government. I'm not a Teabagger, but Libertarians are often attacked with the smug If you don't believe in government services, don't use them (asshole) [implied--unless donviti wrote it, in which case he is man enough to say what he's really thinking]. So cassandra, for example, appears to believe the following list is something like the final word [I have cut in my comments in bold:

I pledge to eliminate all government intervention in my life. I will abstain from the use of and participation in any socialist goods and services including but not limited to the following:

Note that this pledge says nothing of being able to avoid paying the taxes for those services I pledge not to use. So cassandra now wants to take my money AND argue that because I disagree with my money being taken I should deny myself access to these services.

Social Security

I'd love to sign this pledge, and I will on the first day the US government offers the option to stop having money withheld from my paycheck, and gives me back what I have already donated. As far as I am concerned, I will sign the "living will" right now that says the government can let me starve. Until that day, however, participating in the program is the only way to get back any of the money they took from me.

Medicare/Medicaid
State Children’s Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP)

Tough ones for me, as I have never argued against various forms of medical assistance, only disagreed with the forms we have. To date, however, I can say I have never used either of these services, and if the present government plans go through, with the burgeoning deficit, it may become a moot point by the time I would qualify for Medicare, anyway.

Police, Fire, and Emergency Services

I pay for those services, cassandra. I also generously support volunteer fire and emergency medical services.

US Postal Service

Mandated in the US Constitution, you know. And I don't use it to send packages or any form of paperwork that I can email; I use private services instead. Unfortunately, I don't have the ability to impose such usage on my creditors, so I have to be able to get those of my bills they will not send me electronically. I'd love to be able to send first-class letters through a private contractor via my mailbox, but the government made that illegal.

Roads and Highways

Again, I pay for those services, cassandra, every time I pay for a gallon of gas, just like you. The fact that the government decided to subsidize the automobile industry by building major trunk-line highways and forcing private railroads out of the passenger hauling business is not something I have the ability to affect.

Air Travel (regulated by the socialist FAA)

Don't forget the TSA Gestapo here. Ah, here we again have the conundrum: the government has made it illegal for me to fly any other way. As a matter of fact, think about it: the government has made it illegal to travel long distances via ANY mechanical means of conveyance without using tax-subsidized transit. There is no free market remaining in passenger travel because the government ate it.

The US Railway System

Don't use it as a passenger--ever. But I pay for it every time somebody else does. As far as rail freight, I don't have any control over how the businesses I patronize move their products, and I don't ask.

Public Subways and Metro Systems
Public Bus and Lightrail Systems

Last I checked, I have to pay for my ticket every time I ride, and I have to pay taxes to support these institutions even if I don't. So the first part is voluntary, but I pay my own way. On the second part I have no choice.

Rest Areas on Highways

I'd love to frequent privately owned rest areas, but the government has made them illegal.

Sidewalks

The sidewalks in my development were paid for by the people who live here; many sidewalks around shopping centers and the like are often paid for by the developers or the merchant tenants. Again, within cities, they are paid for by the businesses and the users, through involuntary taxation. So I will decide to get off the sidewalks when you figure out a way I can quit paying for them without going to jail.

All Government-Funded Local/State Projects (e.g., see Iowa 2009 federal senate appropriations)

The trick here is for you to imply that these projects fall at my feet like Manna from Heaven, free money and new runways or new beach sand that is delivered to me gratis. Not quite, cassandra. These projects are completed--at least partly using my tax dollars--whether I like them or not. My only recourse is to vote against the people who voted for them. I do: on a regular basis.

Public Water and Sewer Services (goodbye socialist toilet, shower, dishwasher, kitchen sink, outdoor hose!)

Uh, my water company is a privately owned utility. They exist where the government has not made it illegal and imposed a State monopoly. Sewer services? In some places handled by private companies, in some places by the government. In neither place do I as the property owner generally get an option. There is no competition; the government has decided one way or another for me before I purchase the property.

Public and State Universities and Colleges
Public Primary and Secondary Schools

To use private schools K-12 now requires that an individual pay both for the cost of public school and then additionally for the privilege of not using it. As for higher-level education, the State has now made it virtually impossible to borrow the money necessary to attend a school without using the government as the lender or at least the broker for the money. Moreover, government subsidies and regulatory requirements have been the primary drivers that have insured that college costs have risen far faster than inflation over the past three decades.

Sesame Street

Sesame Street is actually self-funding. The millions that toys and other merchandising has brought in over the years have more than covered the cost of the program.

Publicly Funded Anti-Drug Use Education for Children

Most reputable studies have concluded that DARE programs don't work. That point aside, the government regularly uses them to provide outright propaganda [medical marijuana is bad and will lead to drug abuse] to the extent that I am just fine with being responsible for my children's drug-use or non-drug-use education, thanks.

Public Museums

Show me many significant public museums that are not massively [usually in the majority of their funding] by corporate and private donors and we'll talk.

Libraries
Public Parks and Beaches
State and National Parks
Public Zoos

These all exist and I helped pay for them--voluntary or not--just as much as you did. I pay all user fees and often contribute to the organizations I frequent. I don't agree with many of the funding decisions, but I have been provided absolutely no ability to withhold my taxes from any of them.

Unemployment Insurance

I pay for this, just like everyone else who works, because my employer writes off mandatory taxes against my compensation package. I personally agree with the idea, but I'd like to see an individual be able to opt out of the benefit, keep his money, and agree that government owes me nothing if I lose my job.

Municipal Garbage and Recycling Services

My garbage hauler is private; he also subcontracts my recycling. I pay for both: fees for use and taxes. Sometimes I haul my garbage to a private dump and pay for that. I turn as much as possible into compost.

Treatment at Any Hospital or Clinic That Ever Received Funding From Local, State or Federal Government (pretty much all of them)

Ah, the formulation itself admits that the government has pretty much established a regulatory and funding monopoly. I would love to be able to see an RN or PA in a "Wal-Mart clinic" for minor ailments and pay cash. Generally the State won't let me. It's busy protecting me from myself.

Medical Services and Medications That Were Created or Derived From Any Government Grant or Research Funding (again, pretty much all of them)

Curious. If the government controls the creation or derivation of new drugs, then why do the private companies who create them get patents of exclusivity? Just because big corporations and the State are in bed together does not make me a hypocrite for taking modern anti-depressents or beta-blockers. Nor have those government grants or research funding programs exactly reduced my costs, have they?

Socialist Byproducts of Government Investment Such as Duct Tape and Velcro (Nazi-NASA Inventions)

Ironically, there would have probably been far more spin-offs from the space program had it been privatized, instead of being conducted as a crash military program. The State made it virtually illegal for private companies to get into space by denying them access to, or use of, technologies created by other private companies and then declared "Top Secret."

Use of the Internets, email, and networked computers, as the DoD’s ARPANET was the basis for subsequent computer networking

Moronic argument. ARPANET was, as noted, a military development. The use of the military for defending the country has never been in question by those who advocate limited government. But primarily people who make this argument have never studied the role of the free market in taking that very limited protocol system and turning it into a world-wide communications net. If that net were not so completely and wonderfull chaotic, and still remained under government control, President Obama would not currently be pushing legislation to empower the State to take it over in the event of "emergencies."

Foodstuffs, Meats, Produce and Crops That Were Grown With, Fed With, Raised With or That Contain Inputs From Crops Grown With Government Subsidies

Brought to you by the same government that wants me to quit smoking and still subisidies tobacco farms. Brought to you by the same government that places artificial floors on the prices of milk and cheese products, uses protectionist taxation to keep cheap, high-quality foreign foodstuffs out of the country, and has addicted whole generations of Americans to high-fructose corn syrup via sugar tariffs.

Clothing Made from Crops (e.g. cotton) That Were Grown With or That Contain Inputs From Government Subsidies

Interesting question: why are there cotton subsidies in the first place? Because American cotton farms cannot compete effectively with foreign growers. So the State refuses to let me select the cheaper product at a competitive price.

If a veteran of the government-run socialist US military, I will forego my VA benefits and insist on paying for my own medical care.

Veterans paid for those benefits. While you were sleeping, they volunteered to take the low-paying shit job of risking getting their asses shot off to keep you safe. Ironically, more and more services for veterans and their families are being privatized by the Federal government with great success, the point being: just because we have an obligation to pay for veterans' health and medical services doesn't mean that the government had to become a single-payer.


Here's the bottom line: Folks who believe in cradle-to-grave government programs to cover virtually every aspect of life not only demand that everybody else pay for them, but they also demand that we publicly pretend we agree with them.

Then they call us hypocrites when, most of the time, the government has made it either illegal or impossible to avoid using those services, which we have paid for just as well as them.

It makes for cute blogging inside a self-referential community where everybody agrees with everybody else that it is immature, improper, or inappropriate to raise the issue of what the government should or should not be paying for, but it is in fact a cheap, lying talking point on the level with death panels or doctors performing amputations because they will make more money that way that by treating their patients.

In other words, the people promulgating this bullshit know it is bullshit, but they throw it against the wall just to see where it will stick.

5 comments:

pgt said...

What's new about it? Statists have been using that one for at least four decades, and probably longer than that. Of course they have the same mindset as those who demanded that conscientious objection to forced servitude in overseas war had to mean a commitment to total passivity.

Miko said...

Most of this list seems to be nothing but crowing about how the government is unnecessarily giving excessive amounts of lucre to well connected business interests...

Regarding a few of the responses:

Per the Consitution, the government is granted the power to create a post office, but it's not actually mandated to do so.

In most places, fees to ride public transportation only come to about 25% of operating costs, so they aren't really self-financing. Also true for gas-taxes and roads.

Sesame Street's product line could fund the show, but in fact only a small percentage goes towards the show, with public funds as well as corporate sponsorship used for the rest (with the bulk of the product profits going to private hands). Without government funding, Sesame Street would most likely switch to a model where the show was funded by profits from the product lines (as a means of advertising the products).

Government subsidies (usually) don't lower costs. People have a certain amount their willing to pay for a given service/product based on its subjective value to them and the government's choice to invisibly transfer tax money to the producer doesn't change this value calculation; hence, doesn't change the amount they'll pay; hence, doesn't change the amount they do pay. The effect of removing the subsidies would be (in most cases) to lower the cost of the product by the amount of the subsidy.

Bowly said...

Really, you have to make a choice to be as willfully ignorant as that. She's not just winging it. She's made a decision to ignore rationality and reason.

"Give me your money, and shut up, that's why."

Delaware Watch said...

Nice try and all, but I think that a consistent Libertarian would refuse to pay taxes on anything that he or she believes the government doesn't have the moral and/or constitutional authority to levy taxes for. In short, a consistent Libertarian would pay a reduced tax rate approximated to what the Libertarian believes the government has a right to levy taxes for.

Accordingly, a consistent Libertarian would also refuse to accept those services which he or she refused to pay taxes for.

Also, accordingly, a consistent Libertarian would be self-employed so that he or she would not have taxes withheld by an employer (under, say, an IRS order) at a rate higher than is consonant with the Libertarian's conscience.

So, it's not enough to say that Libertarian's can benefit from government services that they find (for whatever reason) objectionable because they pay for them. That is, it's not enough unless begging the question about why a Libertarian is paying taxes for these services in the first place is a proper way to argue the point.

Mike W. said...

think that a consistent Libertarian would refuse to pay taxes on anything that he or she believes the government doesn't have the moral and/or constitutional authority to levy taxes for."

Dana - Did you refuse to pay Federal Taxes during Bush's Presidency because you disagreed with the wars he was engaging in?

If not then why not? Perhaps because not paying taxes is not in your best interest. Whether we agree with taxes or not, we are compelled to pay them under penalty of law.

As for services, we pay for them whether we want to or not, whether we use them or not. If I have no choice but to pay for them I'd be stupid to refuse to use the very services I'm being compelled to pay for.