Oh the dreaded taxman doth approach. Coming for our hard-earned dollars so that it can be spent in ways that we agree with, and don’t agree with. Feeding that voracious appetite for more, more, more is the unwelcome obligation we face. Our forefathers set forth in our Constitution a basic premise of what our society is supposed to be like:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” — U.S. Constitution
In theory and practice we are striving for a “more perfect union,” not a perfect union. The emphasis needs to be on the adjective “more.” We are not perfect, and wont be. No country will ever be perfect, well, except when I buy an island, appoint myself emperor, have no subjects but a pack of dogs, the occasional caterer, and infrequent houseguests, then a perfect country shall be established, however briefly it may last.
In the interim I shall reside in the United States of America, and the taxes imposed shall continue to go for a judicial system, a police force, an armed forces and services that I am entitled to take advantage of though not forced to.
When we review the purpose of our Constitution, and the practical application of what it has served, it becomes painfully obvious that though we labor under an imperfect society, we are in fact moving towards a “more perfect” union, oftentimes at a glacial pace, but forward movement none the less.
Take our judicial system for example; it is overburdened with both criminal and civil matters. As a divorce and child custody lawyer I see on a regular basis the carnage that is wrought due to the budget cuts that have laid off thousands of court employees over the past four years. Hearings on child support take months to get a date. Child custody matters are routinely continued for weeks at a time to accommodate the urgency of domestic violence cases which take precedence.
Yet, the cutbacks have resulted in some unique solutions to provide better services. For example, the downtown Los Angeles Restraining Order Center is a one-stop-shop that I routinely direct people to who need assistance, but can’t afford private attorneys.
The Santa Monica Police Department is another example of the benefits of a taxed society. Though we mostly hate the parking tickets, we generally enjoy the quality of life and protections that the department provides along with their assistance in times of civil unrest. I don’t like the fact that they tell me to walk my bike on the Third Street Promenade, but I do like that they enforce the no-smoking laws, so I have to take the bad with the good.
Our military is a huge expenditure of our national budget. I like having a large military. Frankly, I think it should be larger. I believe that we would all have benefited from a two-year enlistment and looking back on my life, it is one of the few things I wish I had done. As we have become an obese, lazy, indulgent, checked-out society, a good dose of the discipline provided by a stint in the military would probably do all of us well.
I know people like to complain about our taxes, and the exorbitant costs on an individual basis, and the huge waste in government. But on balance, when I look at the quality of life that it all goes toward, if some people take advantage, and others abuse the largesse, I have to wonder what the cost of preventing that would be. What part our humanity would we sacrifice? There is an unintended consequence to everything we do, that is axiomatic. It’s the Rumsfeld Rule in action: we don’t know what we don’t know. To cut the waste in one part of the budget would have an effect somewhere else, we just don’t know where, or what, it would be.
So, funding our government is just a constant endeavor at mitigating circumstances and trying to do the best we can, provide for the many, protect the few and know it’s not a perfect system, and no system is. Taxes are not fun, but they do benefit all of us, even if you don’t think so.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra.