Paying what we owe

By Joe Rector

In Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience,” he says that he meets the U.S. government once a year in the form of the tax collector. He refused to pay those taxes as a means of protesting the Mexican War, which he said enlarged the Southern lands that promoted slavery. I’ve always admired his resolve and acts of nonviolence protest. Things are different nowadays.

Television commercials tell us that help is available for those who have troubles with tax and credit card debts. Companies invite potential customers to contact them to discuss their problems and to discover whether or not solutions are available. One such ad has a woman lamenting the fact that she owed the federal government $80,000 in back taxes. Another man says that he owed a mere $18,000. In both cases, these people say the company with whom they worked managed to cut their taxes to where they paid only a fraction of what was owed.

A thirty second spot tells people who have overwhelming credit card debt to call them. They assert with their help that people can debt cut to a small percentage of what is due. At the end, the spokesperson says, “Don’t file bankruptcy; give us 10 minutes and learn how you can pay only a fraction of what you owe credit card companies. It’s a secret that credit card companies don’t want you to know!”

These things aren’t what I was taught by my parents. My dad filed bankruptcy as a young man. After he and Mother married years later, Daddy worked on those debts he had until every single dime was repaid. To him, bankruptcy was an embarrassment, and he was committed to making whole folks whose services and goods he had purchased.

Today, it seems that folks are told to live far above their means. They can purchase a $50,000 truck, live in a house that requires more that 25% of their monthly income, and buy every new toy with all the bells and whistles, things like the new $1000 iPhone. When they wind upside down financially, all that has to be done is to call on someone to “fix” the problem without their having to pay what they owe.

Citizens are obligated to pay a portion of their incomes to the government in the form of taxes. Those funds go toward providing the things that citizens need and want. Sure, plenty of waste occurs in the government, but that fact does not excuse anyone from paying his share. Shirking one’s obligations only makes the load much heavier for others. I’ve paid more taxes than I’ve wanted to over my life. However, I like having schools, roads, and other benefits that come from those tax dollars. Instead of resenting the government for taking our money, we should aim our anger at those who would simply refuse to pay taxes or lie in order to evade paying them.

Most of us have credit cards. We use them for large purchases or for unseen emergencies in our lives. With luck, some are able to pay off the balance each month. That’s the ideal way to use these lines of credit. The problem is that too many people whip out credit cards to buy anything they want, regardless of their ability to pay off the things. Exorbitant interest rates on cards lead to rising amounts of debt if the cardholder only pays the minimum monthly amount each month.

Failing to pay the taxes one owes is cheating the country and all other citizens. Making America great again, in part, requires that folks pay their fair shares. It also demands that individuals learn to be financially responsible by paying the debts that they’ve incurred. Finding ways to dodge those payments leads to higher prices for all of us and making end meet more difficult. Yes, I’m disgusted with those commercials that encourages people to not pay taxes or to run up their credit card bills. That preaches and teaches the lack of personal responsibility. No one is entitled to a free ride by doing these things.

 

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