Zachary Antoyan is a political science junior and Mustang Daily liberal columnist.
Strap in, I’m about to make taxes awesome.
Functionally, we pay taxes to fund our government and its works. Federal, state and municipal taxes provide the necessary sum of money to each level of government for whatever shenanigans it is involved in.
What amount each individual pays into this pile of cash is a matter of heated debate. And for the record, side effects often include but are not limited to: fiscal cliffs, stagnation, partisanship and stupidity. Our taxes should be proportional to our income, blah, blah, blah. No, we should just have a flat tax, blah, blah, blah.
We’re addressing the wrong problem with these supposed solutions. Rather than focus on who should pay what, we should be examining our inherent hatred of taxes.
People don’t hop out of bed on April 15 (when taxes are due) stoked on their lives because they’re about to drop hard-earned money into a huge pool of even more money the government may or may not waste. The source of numerous, unfortunate tar-and-feather incidents, and probably a good number of revolutions, taxes seem to be a persistent issue throughout history. There was never a “friendly neighborhood tax-collector.”
This is all, however, completely understandable from a historical perspective. Monarchs, despots and authoritarians have routinely squeezed their citizens dry for the personal luxuries of whoever is in power or to fund the the next big war. We should be skeptical of taxes and what they are used for, and voting for representatives was supposed to fix this — democracy was supposed to fix this.
If the issue of sequestration within Congress is an indication of anything, it’s that we are nowhere near knowing what to do with our budget.
I can’t help but think that if we were to shift society’s perception of taxes from negative to positive, we would tap into something unprecedented for a democracy. But to do this, we need to create a closer relationship with our tax system.
Enter stage left: the website Kickstarter.com. It’s a place where ordinary people can go and help crowd-source projects. The projects range from independent movies to video games and product manufacturing. Essentially, someone with an idea for anything can create a Kickstarter.com campaign and get their idea funded by a ton of people, only paying a little bit of money each.
No major publishing company, no billionaire investor, no risk assessment. The project either gets funded by the masses or it fails and gets nothing. It stands to reason then, that if a person sees their contribution to the fruition of an idea, then they will feel as if they were a part of something bigger.
All right, now that I’m done blatantly promoting, let’s apply this to our tax system.
What if when we went to pay our taxes, we had a choice where our money went? What if there was a list of all the projects that needed to be funded locally, and the individual could direct what their tax dollars specifically funded? Perhaps the good tax isn’t only the evaded one, but the one in which you dictate where the money goes.
Say the amount you owe in taxes is the amount you can divvy up between different local projects. You want to help build a park in the abandoned lot near your house, so you send some money that way. And all those damn potholes in the street, the city wants to go and fix those, so you give a portion to that cause.
Projects would be created by city officials and need a minimum amount of money to get going (without a stringent time constraint). Once the project is funded, work could begin. Politicians could use this data, looking at where people put their money, to see what their constituents are truly interested in. In all honesty, I’m not entirely sure how the system would work, or even if it could be applied at a national or state level. But I do know our options for this could be endless.
Adopting a system where people have a more active role in the spending of public money makes the bond between government and citizen more cohesive. It could pave the way for citizen-initiated local projects, encourage greater efficacy and knowledge of issues and help government see where the people want their money to go.
For so long, we have seen taxes as a negative aspect of life under any sort of rule, but if we were to effectively give the power of spending to the people, it may be that taxes become a method of political activism. They would be crowd-sourced contributions to the public good, instead of the burden of the nation.
This is Zachary Antoyan, trying and failing to not eat the whole box of Girl Scout Cookies. And I’m apparently a walking advertisement for Kickstarter.com. Have a fantastic week.