EDITORIAL

Taxes and fees are the unfortunate price of society

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The late former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said that, “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.” A complex historical figure, Holmes earned a reputation as “the great dissenter” due to several high-profile cases in which he went against the grain and presented a contradictory argument to the majority opinion of the nation’s highest court.

On the subject of taxes, Holmes certainly lives up to his nickname, since it seems the only thing that anybody can agree on anymore is that taxes are bad. However, to actually think about his statement reveals what we would consider to be an inconvenient truth – that taxes are indeed the price of the modern, convenient and beautiful world we enjoy.

Taxes contribute towards many of the essential services we need to survive, from the clean water we can obtain by simply turning on a faucet to the roads we utilize to get to and from our places of work. While we would not make the argument that our tax money is perfectly utilized by governments, it is important to be wary of what could happen if these crucially important services were no longer held accountable under the public’s eye.

One aspect of what our taxes pay for that we often do not think about is to create regulations. Some argue that too much regulation constricts the free market, but others may contend that without regulations, corporations would be free to conduct business however they saw fit without exercising any concern for the potential damages of their operations. Without regulations, what incentive would a private entity have to ensure that, for example, our drinking water doesn’t contain dangerous levels of lead? Or that every road doesn’t all of the sudden become a toll road?

Those who may believe that privatization of the many basics we now pay for through taxes would result in a better deal for the average citizen should be wary of things like the increasing popularity of “convenience fees” for things like online ticket purchases, or the 25 percent upcharge for concessions at a sporting event, which exist simply because the entities selling these services know you have no other choice than to pay it, and that it will result in more profit.

While some may argue that privatization in a free market will ensure the best performing entities and service providers will rise to the top, others raise concerns about what corners they will cut while not under the microscope of public scrutiny in order to achieve that level of performance. Public scrutiny is non-negotiable when a publicly funded agency is responsible for providing a service – and that is a valuable tradeoff for your tax dollar.

More than simply preventing corporate financial abuse, taxes ensure that every citizen bears responsibility for our society, because it is their collective money that finances it. If you disagree with a public agency over a decision they make, it’s your right to dispute it and be heard. If you think an administrator is being wasteful, you have a legal right to see documents outlining their expenses, and bring those to the attention of other public oversight committees.

As much as they may seem like an implementation of government-sponsored thievery, taxes are an investment into enabling us to live in a society where we don’t have to worry about a giant sinkhole erasing the one access road into and out of town off the map – a society where we know there will be a functioning fire truck within a short driving distance from your house, and where your lights turn on when you flip the switch because an infinitely complicated network of pipelines and electrical wiring is maintained without your knowledge or understanding, simply because you contribute towards it begrudgingly.

This same philosophy goes for our public spaces. As much as we may want to believe that public spaces should be free and accessible to the public at all times, this utopian view is wholly unrealistic. Human beings take things for granted, and we must always account for the least considerate among us. Even if 90 percent of people who visit a public beach or park take great care to leave it in better condition than when they arrived, that other 10 percent can, and will, ruin it for the rest of us.

It may seem pessimistic, but who among us has not seen the state of trash at our public spaces? Save the Bay engages in dozens of beach cleanups every year, and yet the trash replenishes every season. You can find hundreds of cigarette butts in any public space if you simply open your eyes during a long walk.

It is unfortunate, but enjoying these spaces must be seen as a great privilege – one that requires significant investment to maintain. This is why, although many will grumble and complain once the Department of Environmental Management likely begins the process to raise various fees at state-owned facilities this spring, we agree with the move in theory.

Rhode Island’s most marketable and important attribute is its open spaces, and to not invest more money into these resources will only result in more money lost over time. If we as citizens have to pay a little more in order to maintain and protect these resources – and ultimately enjoy them – that is the price we have to pay.

Comments

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igor1113

Instead of providing a firewall between the public and the private, this newspaper endorses the continued growth of the public sector by means of taxation, permits, fees and licenses and dismisses all criticism with that’s “the unfortunate price of society”. Our homes and businesses will continue to be an ATM for every department in city government and the redistribution of wealth will continue from private to public persons until we are forced out of our property. For example, according to your paper, the cowards in the School Committee will hire an “arbiter” from the State to decide how much will be taken from us, but never in those terms, rather how much the School Committee can spend on their department. There is no line, no wall keeping their hands out of our pockets, so they keep taking more and more.

A while back, this newspaper rose up in righteous indignation to demand that the press be respected and not coerced by government after being accused by some as Fake News. How dare anyone suggest that this newspaper and others are in collusion with the Liberal, Leftist elements in our political body! How thrilling to read these stirring editorials from across the country advocating freedom of the press! We demand that we be respected as defenders of the 1st Amendment!

It appears that the defense of freedom only applies to the righteous editors, while the taxpayers are mere sheep to be fleeced. SO SAD!

Tuesday, February 19
igor1113

To all comrades of the Deep State whether local, state or federal, use this editorial to justify your new taxation, fees, regulations, permits, gantries, licenses and increases thereof. There will be some in your communities who will catch on to our doings, but they must be marginalized and even criminalized with charges of homophobia and racism. These voices must never be given any respect for their myopic views. Remember, it is we who plow their roads, pick up their children and train them to take their place in our society. It is we who maintain their bridges, parks and schools and it is we who provide for their defense when they are assaulted by criminal elements and foreign powers. It is we who give them permits to build their homes on our land. In spite of their protests of usurpation of powers, it is we who maintain order and allow them to pursue their happiness. This editorial will become especially useful when calls for privatization are heard as an alternate system. Our workforce must never be threatened by such calls as they will cause emotional anxiety and stress at all levels of service. This year we can rejoice as there are calls for increased services from many candidates to higher office as they have proposed new programs, such as universal child care, college education and Medicare and these programs will require funding and that is why this editorial is so useful. Isn’t it wonderful that when they sign their IRS forms that is done so “voluntarily” and says so right on the form! So, comrades, there is no reason to feel anxious about the future of our jobs. Remember to always promote the idea of public service and benefits and never, never entertain thoughts that lead to private anything, especially private property, private schools, privatization etc. The private life is a thing of the past and that word must be expunged from our vocabulary as it makes allowance for the racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, Islamaphobia -- you name it. Comrades, we will build our brave new world step by step and this editorial paves the way!

Wednesday, February 20
Al

The author states:

Those who may believe that privatization of the many basics we now pay for through taxes would result in a better deal for the average citizen should be wary of things like the increasing popularity of “convenience fees” for things like online ticket purchases, or the 25 percent upcharge for concessions at a sporting event, which exist simply because the entities selling these services know you have no other choice than to pay it, and that it will result in more profit.

In almost all cases, I believe that privatization of the numerous services now provided by government will result in a better deal. Growing up in Rhode Island in the 1970's and 1980's, I recall some of my first experiences with the inefficiency of government when visiting the Department of Motor Vehicles to register my first car. I waited for hours in a line. When I finally got to the teller, she gave me a form and told me to fill it out and get back in line, at the end. The "unfortunate price of society" or poorly managed resources?

I have witnessed in my life many examples of inefficiency in government. To be fair, private enterprises aren't perfectly efficient either. But, a private business differs from its government counterparts in that its only option to succeed, and thus stay in business, is to persuade its customers to voluntarily part with their money. The customers' ability to choose in voluntary business transactions separates those businesses which succeed from those which fail. It is this very choice that is the hallmark of a free economy, and which ultimately improves our quality of life.

The author warns us of the increasing popularity of 25 percent upcharges at a sporting event, an example of greedy businessmen seeking even more profit. However, the author ignores the important fact that a customer can choose whether or not to go to the sporting event in the first place. With government services, there is no such choice. He pays the taxes or loses the few liberties that remain.

| Wednesday, February 20
Cat

The taxes we pay continue to go into one gigantic black hole. We are taxed to death and told we should be happy because it allows us all to be able to enjoy this beautiful state we live in. RI has proven that whenever it earmarks certain funds for a specific cause it magically disappears and no one quite knows where the money went. Gas tax for roads, phone tax for 911 system, lottery for education. Now we are supposed to believe that the fee increase will go to the upkeep of the beaches? You expect us to believe you on blind faith because solid evidence proves the leadership has no intention of keeping their word. Not bloody likely. I call this a scam and a con. We will all be volunteering at Save the Bay over the next few months to clean up the beaches because the state has failed to do so even though they were given the money to make it happen.

Thursday, February 21
Frugal Fanny

"Civility" has ceased to exist as has the proper use of tax dollars, alongside a lifetime of political corruption.

"A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged; it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in colour and content according to the circumstances and time in which it is used." -Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Thursday, February 21
Patient Man

I wouldn't mind high taxes if the level of services I receive were aligned. Our schools suck and our parks are often neglected. Our roads are badly neglected. Our fire department is good but they have been proven to have colluded with the last administration to illegally rip off the taxpayers they're supposed to be protecting.

Rhode Island: Minnesota taxes, Mississippi services

Wednesday, February 27