Tax Class

OK, kids.

Today, we’re having a lesson on a very, very sensitive subject. teacheratachalkboardEverybody’s given me their signed permission slips from their parents or legal guardians, right? Good.

Today, we’ll be talking about taxes, or taxation. Some of you may’ve heard your parents, legal guardians or older siblings refer to it as taxedtodeath.

For a long time now, probably from before any of you were born, the words ‘taxes’ or ‘taxation’ were what people called ‘dirty words’. Not like the f-word or c-bomb but words many people said through gritted teeth as if they were very, very angry having to say them.

Yes, Sagittarius?

That’s right. Sometimes your daddy might use the f-word just before saying ‘taxes’. But hopefully your mommy washes his mouth out with soap if he does.


Nobody’s ever really liked taxes or taxation. In fact, there’s been a revolution or two fought over them. washyourmouthoutjpgBut most people, most people who aren’t blinkered ideologues, see taxes and taxation as a necessary part of creating healthy and functioning communities, towns, cities, countries and world. The famous American jurist, Oliver Wendell Holmes Junior, said way back over a hundred years ago that taxes were the price we pay for a civilized society.

Baskin? You have a question?

Yes, it just might be on your midterm.

But recently, many people have started to think of taxes or taxation as a burden, an unnecessary imposition upon them, even outright thievery. Hands up everybody who’s heard their daddy say that he knows how to spend his money better than some stupid politician or bureaucrat? Oh my. That’s a lot of you. Almost everybody.

Well, next time you hear your parents, legal guardians or older siblings say that, ask them, very politely because sometimes being challenged on their negative views on taxes and taxation makes people quite defensive and angry, ask how they would, with their hard-earned money out of their pockets, pave that road outside your house that they use every day. And if you get yelled at and told to go up to your room that just means they don’t really have a good answer to your question. Don’t be mad at them. livinginacaveThey just haven’t learned or they’ve forgotten that without everybody paying taxes, most of us would be still living in dirt houses, pulling our wagons over corduroy roads.

No, Buford. Those aren’t roads made out of pants. What is Mr. Stencil teaching you in history class?

I’m sorry, Slmantha, what was your question again?

Oh. That’s a very good question. Did everyone hear that? No? Slmantha asked about government waste and respect for the taxpayer.

Yes, class. Sometimes governments waste some of the taxpayer money taxpayers pay them. That is bad. The people involved in government who do that kind of thing should be held accountable.

But that doesn’t mean the concept of taxes and taxation is bad or inherently evil, as some non-politician politicians like to say. It just means that governments that rely on taxes and taxation need to take better care of how they spend that money. And ultimately, if they don’t, we can relieve them of that responsibility and vote them out of office.

Now, for every example of waste or fiscal malfeasance that tax critics—

I beg your pardon, Puntilly?

No. Malfeasance is not an insect. It means—well, just Google it on your computer. Malfeasance. M-A-L-F-E-A-S-A-N-C-E… “Intentionally doing something either legally or morally wrong, always involving dishonesty, illegality, or knowingly exceeding authority for improper reasons.” That’s right. taxesareevilAnd for every one of those, there’s 3, 4, 10, 100 examples of government revenue from taxes or taxation doing something positive for our society.

Here’s one, for example.

In Los Angeles County in a state called California in a place called the United States of America, where they have a history of hating taxes and keeping them so low that it’s almost taken them to the brink of bankruptcy, they passed in 2008 what is called Measure R, a proposition to raise their sales tax by ½ a cent over the next 30 years, and dedicate that money to building public transit because Los Angeles realized it was horribly congested. This is what’s happened so far, five years later. Click on the link. On the word ‘this’. Back, back. Three sentences ago. Four now…

Subways! Yes. LRTs! Yes. Dedicated busways! Yes. Cleaner air! Yes. Thousands and thousands of new job! Yes. Less congestion! Yes. More walking and biking! Yes and yes.

Now class, we here in Toronto and the wider region think it might be good to follow Los Angeles’s example and build more transit. Our congestion is pretty bad and we haven’t really built enough to keep up with our growing population. So we’ve been talking about new taxes too. People who don’t mind paying taxes call them ‘revenue tools’.

But there’s some real tax-hating, grumpy Guses out there, girls and boys. You say ‘tax’. They say ‘no’. You say ‘revenue tools’. They say that’s just four syllables for taxes. You say, But we really need to build transit because we’re dying here. They say, SubwaysSubwaysSubwaysPrivateSector.emptypockets2

Now I want you to click the link on the not particularly overly tax-friendly Globe and Mail article and see what they have to say about such stubborn anti-tax attitudes.

I’m sorry, what was that? You can’t get past the paywall? You’ve gone over your monthly article limit? Just go into your control panel and clear your browsing history. That should do it. Yes? Good.

Frenzien? Would you read out the 2nd last paragraph, please? Yes, you. Spit out your gum and read that paragraph, please.

It may be that our household budgets would be better off if we paid a little more now, as opposed to waiting and letting infrastructure and urban congestion get worse. We might also take the long view and say we’re saving our kids from massive tax hikes needed to repair our cities.

You see, children. When your parents or legal guardians complain about paying any more taxes to fund the building of new transit, what they’re really saying is, Screw you, kids. upyoursYou want a liveable city when you grow up? You pay for it.

Yes, Stanton. Teacher did just say ‘screw you’. I’m sorry but I’m a little upset right now.

When your parents or legal guardians complain about taxes, they’re simply being childish and refuse to have an adult conversation. So that’s why we’re talking about this now, in a classroom. Because somebody’s got to start acting like a grown up.

Any questions?

pedagogically submitted by Cityslikr