Tax day is here again.
Like most average Americans, around 29 percent of my paycheck goes to income taxes. As a teacher, in such a costly city — San Francisco is rated the world’s second-most expensive city – ahead of New York and Tokyo — I should probably be upset.
But you know what? I’m not.
I may not have a lot of extra money, but I don’t mind paying for things I use every day. And I see my tax dollars at work all day long. From clean water to make my morning coffee, paved roads I drive, buses I take, health department food inspectors making sure my lunch is prepared hygienically, to police officers keeping my city safe while I sleep. And in my professional life as a public school teacher, every day I see the life-changing power of education, free to everybody, thanks to tax dollars.
Whenever I hear someone complaining about taxes, I wonder: Don’t you drive across bridges, maintained by taxes? Do you fly in airplanes, guided by tax-funded air traffic control? Have you visited a national park or beach, funded by us, the taxpayers? And if your house were on fire, would you call the fire department, paid for by, yes, your tax dollars.
I’m pleased my doctor must meet government safety standards, as does my auto mechanic, and barber, enforced by tax-funded licensing agencies. I’m glad intersections have stoplights. I’m glad streets have street lights. I’m pleased I can flush, courtesy of the sanitation department. In fact, I’m OK with contributing to a functioning society – and I’m not alone. According to a Pew research study, about a third of Americans like paying their taxes.
Not to say I’m totally thrilled. I don’t always agree with how our money is spent, and, like 57% of Americans in that study, I think the wealthy should pay their fair share, despite our current president who announced not paying taxes makes him smart.
What’s smart is each of us, reasonably pitching in to making a country that’s livable for all of us, not just billionaires. So, on Tuesday, maybe it will lessen the pain to consider the many benefits your taxes provide for you, for me, and for everyone who lives our country, even if you live in the White House.
With a Perspective, I’m Richard Swerdlow.
Richard Swerdlow works for the San Francisco Unified School District.