Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Rare political rant

Lately, I've seen a lot of the argument that "if the government is paying for your [x] with my tax dollars, it IS my business." At the moment I'm hearing this a lot from people who believe that the government has no business ever paying for abortions or birth control - but it's not an argument exclusive to the religious right. The targets vary, of course: "I don't want my tax dollars paying for bombs in Afghanistan." The sentiment is the same: My tax dollars should not be spent for things I don't believe in.

You know what, folks? Those aren't your tax dollars. Once you pay them, they stop being yours. (It's rather like giving a wedding present. You don't get to take it back, even if they hate it or get divorced.) Instead, they belong to this giant, awkward, inefficient committee comprised of most American adult citizens, some of us whom are more involved in our committee work than others. We call this "government." Yeah, it doesn't always work all that well.

The alternative to accepting this premise? Well, if it's still my money, I get to decide what to spend it on. I'm not sure why I need to go through the step of giving it to the government in the first place. I'm going to use mine to buy shoes.

"Get off the ledge, Turducken," you're saying. "You know perfectly well that it is only supposed to be spent for the public good. Clean air and police and national defense and that kind of thing. Stuff we can all agree on. Still, I should be able to channel my own money, into clean air instead of police, if I want."

The direct result of this belief - not a long strange journey down some slippery slope - is that our impact on our budget is exactly proportional to our income. Rich people get to run things. How do you like that?

Well, you know who would have love it? The founding fathers, that's who. Remember, under the original constitution, only landowners could vote. A great many of us (even among the white male set) can only vote thanks to later amendments. Maybe you're copacetic with this; I'm not. This is one of the many reasons I have no patience with the WWTFFD? line of reasoning: Said fathers were ahead of their time, maybe, but they're way behind ours.

But, hey, if you're into that - if you wish I couldn't vote and that my boyfriend was legally 3/5 of a person because papa Jefferson and friends said so - go ahead, argue that you personally should be able to control your tax dollars.

The alternative is to suck it up and admit that every one of us sends money off to DC to be spent on shit we don't want. That might be birth control for promiscuous ladies or bombs to kill starving Iraqi children. Maybe it's to print money not based on the gold standard or to support bizarre art projects. Maybe it's just to pay that annoying (not to mention incompetent) clerk in sub-basement 3 of some minor federal bureaucracy. Face it, anytime your democracy is bigger than two people, someone is going to regret the choices society makes.

So here's the thing: If you want to change government spending, you have to do one of several things. One, you can convince people it's a low priority. ("I'm not against birth control; I just think the government should pay for submarines first.") Two, you can convince people it violates or is key to a fundamental human right. Yeah, the Declaration of Independence declared certain rights "inalienable," but the Declaration is not actually part of our body of law, and we've never treated rights as inalienable. Human life is "inalienable" - except when the person has committed murder or is a fetus or is dying and in pain. Convince enough people birth control or alcohol or fracking is morally wrong, and we'll vote to stop spending money on it, or at least convince five Supremes to agree with you.

Can't do that? Well, keep fighting. But I don't give rat's patootie if in the meantime "your" money is being spent on things you think are wrong. ALL of us are in that situation, and if you are somehow more sensitive and delicate than the rest of us and can't handle it, that's still not our problem. The princess and the pea is not a policy-making guide.

1 comment:

Night Garden Design said...

Whoa! Political smack-down!