by David Safier
I understand the sad dilemma. When times are bad, people need more services, yet less money flows into government coffers, meaning there's less money for services. The feds can go in hock, but Arizona can't. So the choices are either Arizona gets more money from the feds — which is happening — and increases state taxes or we cut services.
Here are three headlines from yesterday and today:
- State's day-care center closes due to budget cuts;
- Pima County will consider charging fees for child care;
- CPS staff now below levels of 2004.
That's not just sad. It's wrong on more levels than I want to talk about. So let me just talk about one.
Whenever possible, we have to protect children and help them grow physically, socially and intellectually. People can talk all they want about adults who don't deserve help, who made their own bad choices, and so on. But there is no such thing as an undeserving child. Children are society's charges, and we owe them the best we can give them, both for their sakes and for ours. The quality of their future hangs on what their lives are like in the present. And our future depends on the quality of their present lives as well.
This bleeding heart, tax and spend liberal would love to see us do more than we do for children in the best of times. I want to see better schools, more services to parents, including helping parents learn how to help their children in school, better social services, more and better recreation programs, etc. But if I can't have that, at least let's do everything possible to maintain what we had as recently as last year.
I'm not usually a graph guy, but here are two I found on Matthew Yglesia's blog that give a clear visual picture of a few facts about our income disparity and tax levels. (If they're too small, click on them to see larger versions.) The first shows the growing gap between the after-tax income of the rich and everyone else from 1979 to 2006.
The second shows the effective tax rate on median family income from 1958 to 2006.
I draw two conclusions. One, the richest among us are doing just fine — obscenely more than just fine — even after they pay their taxes. If they were forced to pay more, they would still be doing very, very well. Two, the middle class is being taxed at a low rate in historical terms. While it may be a good idea to cut taxes for the middle temporarily, this group is not being over taxed.
Children's needs aren't less important in tough times like these. In many ways, they're more important. As a society, we have the wherewithal to protect and help our children. The real question is, do we have the desire and the will?