The Coercive Power of Taxation

Cross-posted from

Robert Robb wrote in a recent Op-Ed in the AZ Republic, “The government, through the coercive power of taxation, establishes a central pool of resources for the education of students.” Wow, the “coercive power of taxation.” Now that is some powerful spin. Last time I looked, taxes (that “central pool of resources”) are something we agree to pay. After all, as Jeff Bryant, in his blog, writes “But in a democratic society, “government” is ultimately up to us, and what it does is an expression of what we want to do for ourselves.So what the critics of government are saying, really, is that they have a problem with democracy. It’s important to know government wasn’t turned into a four-letter word by happenstance. It happened by design.” The government isn’t though, some outside entity over which we have no say. The government is us! We elect those who make the laws we must follow and set the taxes we must pay. We also have the power to un-elect them. To believe those who would tell us otherwise is to abrogate our rights and responsibilities.

I just don’t get it. If taxes are an evil, coersive power, how does Robb expect a civil society to fund the common needs of its citizenry? Is there no responsibility on the part of that citizenry to contribute to provision for the common good? I suppose he would advocate for business to do it. I hate to break it to him, but business can’t or won’t provide for all our needs. There just are some things that are best provided collectively by government and based on my 22 years in the Air Force and time as a government contractor afterwards, I’ll take a sometimes inefficient government team working for our common good over a profit driven contractor any day!

Unfortunately, our Governor and GOP-led Legislature is dead set on contracting out our public schools. After all, it’s worked so well for our prisons. Those of us who care about the one million plus students in our district schools though, know this will not end well. And it is laughable that those working so hard to push the voucher expansion tout themselves as fiscal conservatives. Maybe the fiscally conservative aspect of vouchers is that they allow those with sufficient fiscal resources to conserve those resources by offsetting them with the welfare handouts taxpayers provide.

Columnist Joanna Allhands, also at, just yesterday urged us all to just “calm down”, reasoning that the expansion of vouchers is not going to produce a mass exodus from our district schools. Know what? I totally agree. After all, parents have had school choice for almost a quarter of a century and yet, over 80 percent of them still choose district schools. Additionally, the vast majority of parents can’t afford to make the choice to take a voucher even if they wanted to. Now worth only $4,400 for a mainstream student, vouchers won’t even begin to cover private school tuition of $6,000 for elementary or $18,000 for high school.

Ultimately though, this fight isn’t about the choice of schools, but rather, what kind of country we want. Do we want one that values all its people and wants each to have the opportunity to reach his or her full potential, or do we believe that only the strong should survive and “to the winner go all the spoils”? Do we recognize all the benefits our district schools – with their locally elected governing boards – bring to our students, families and communities all across America, or don’t communities even matter anymore? Are we destined to continue to segregate and polarize, or can we reconnect with the idea that diversity is our strength and that our public schools are the melting pot that teaches each of us that truth?

Don’t be fooled by all the noise. The expansion of vouchers is not about our kids, but about profit and power. It is part of the systematic destruction of the people’s faith in our institutions and their voice in our democracy. That’s why this fight is far from over. Betsy DeVos may have tweeted congratulations to Governor Ducey last week, but her money fueled ideological agenda won’t win in the end. That’s because our cause is just and we have a much higher purpose than ourselves…we have our children.

President John F. Kennedy said, “A child miseducated is a child lost.” Proponents of public education understand every child is precious and should not have their potential determined by the circumstances of their birth. Public schools offer the best opportunity for all children to achieve the American Dream and the road to that dream is paved by the “coercive power of taxation.” If this is no longer what we want for not only our own children, but all America’s children, let’s quit pretending we either are great, or want to be great again. That time will have passed.

15 thoughts on “The Coercive Power of Taxation”

  1. Linda,

    Robb said taxes are “coercive” but I do not believe he said they are evil, which is a big jump. I do not know his opinion on the evilness of taxes but neither do you. Like most of us, he probably sees them as coercive but necessary in most cases.

    I also take issue with your statement, “Public schools offer the best opportunity for all children to achieve the American Dream…” While most of our public schools, district and charter, are great opportunities for students, so are many private schools. I went to Catholic elementary school and high school and received a great education. What’s wrong with Brophy and Notre Dame locally?

    There are many great avenues for a good education in Arizona and I am proud to have expanded parental choice in that area by supporting ESAs..

    • For once Kavanagh is correct. Some taxes are good.

      Without taxes, how would Kavanagh provide guaranteed profits to his private prison pals?

      How would the AZ GOP send our tax money to the Wall Street folks who own many of these charter schools?

      People, seriously, Wall Street runs on cocaine and hookers, and cocaine and hookers are not cheap.

      So, in summary – taxes that help poor and sick folks are bad, paying teachers in public schools is bad, but taxes that end up as corporate profits for people who are already rich are good.

      And without those guaranteed profits from our tax money, how will rich people be able to fund PACs and political campaigns to ensure those stolen tax dollars, I mean, profits, keep rolling in?

      • Let me get this right.

        Saint John’s Catholic school in south Tucson is a corporate profiteer? 90% minority, highest crime, highest poverty, highest minority zip code in Tucson. The nuns who taught there lived in an extremely small dormitory right on the campus.

        Not enough money to water the grass, so no grass.

        When I went there to school we didn’t have enough money for a wrestling mat so we practiced on the dirt and concrete. Three of us from that small group went on to be undefeated state champions. All of us graduated from college. Louis Rodgriguez became an avionics engineer, James Ortega became a Technical education teacher, Richard Sanchez became a coach of 10 state championship wrestling teams and then an athletic director, Marcelino Lucero is a pharmacist.

        You all are twisted and warped as to the reality faced by minorities in our “public” “education” system.

        The district system, developed in the early 1800’s, the most virulently racist and bigoted period of our history, was designed to keep Catholics and minorities out. By definition, across the nation, 95% plus of the public is excluded from attending a district school.

        Orwell would be proud of the phrase “public” as an adjective to school.

        He would love the case of a New Jersey administrator convicted of a crime and losing his job for allowing a member of the public to attend a public school.

        • Cherries. Mmmm.

          Charter schools have become siphons for corporate profits with no accountability.

          They’re a scam. And you pointing out racism is a whole pot/kettle thing, isn’t it Falcon9?

          Remember when you demanded that Mexican restaurant menu’s should be in English, I’ve been meaning to ask, how do you feel about Italian restaurant menus?

          Because I had some Fettuccini Alfredo last week, and while it was delicious, shouldn’t that have been called noodles in white sauce? Should the gnocchi be potato dumplings?

          When are you going to demand Italians speak American?

          • What I’ve come to realize is that you and many of the posters are seething stew of bigotry and racism.

            My wanting these children to learn English and have great success isn’t racism, it is the opposite of racism. Knowledge of English is the number one predictor of success, stronger than a high school diploma or a college degree.

            Your false compassion of district education and welfare – both of which trap these children in substandard positions in life is your ultimate expression of racism.

            You may look down your nose at someone from the southside of town who mispronounces a word – but that is your real attitude. You look down at Blacks and Hispanics thinking their real place in life is in the ghetto and on welfare.

            I have a different vision – CEO, architect, doctor, engineer, scientist because that is my experience. I know they can do it – you don’t want them to do it. You want them subservient. Makes you feel good – compassionate.

        • BTW, you do not understand the words you use.

          Why would George Orwell be proud? Orwell’s book was a warning, he wasn’t advocating doublespeak.

  2. speaking of coercion how about the lunch shaming of little children by liberal educators or was it huppenthal stamping the children’s hands? if libertarians were not pro dope they would be hanging from telephone poles.

    • OMG censored, give it a break! I already told you that it was a really bad decision on the part of an employee at a school to stamp the hands. A big mistake, not a strategy or plot and soooooooo not a widespread practice!

      • this happened and is continuing to happen lunch shaming in other ways so lets not discuss it. no evidence trump committed crime with russia so lets discuss it ad nausium. otherwise we might have to discuss why arizona;s white working class women don’t vote democrat!

  3. “Last time I looked, taxes (that “central pool of resources”) are something we agree to pay.”

    WOW! Back at ya’, Linda! Where do you live? I know I have never “agreed” to pay a single tax in my life. ALL taxes are coercive from where I stand. The government decides to collect it’s pound of flesh out of me and does so at the point of a bayonet. Either pay it or have all your assets seized and then go to jail. There is no “agreed to” anywhere in that. And as far as voluntarily giving taxes up, the Arizona State “I Don’t Pay Enough Taxes Fund” for 2016 only collected a little over $1,200. I don’t think many people will agree with you that taxes are agreed to that often.

    I understand that taxes are necessary for the common good, and I understand that we elect our representatives, so in theory we “agree” to what they do in our name. But that is pure theory. My representatives often do things I don’t like and I don’t agree with. When they do that, I am NOT agreeing to what they do, and that includes most taxes. When they do that often enough, then I work to unelect them, and they no longer represent me (at least if I am to believe all those who say Trump is not thier President).

    I will admit, Linda, that this is a clever way to try and convince those who don’t like increased taxation for education that, whether they like it or not, they are agreeing to the extra taxes because of our form of governance. But it won’t work.

    • Hi Steve. If you want to get really technical, you are correct. But…I know you also get the fact that our quality of life would suck if we did not contribute to the common good through taxes. I also believe it is our duty as conscientious citizens to pay taxes to provide for our security, safety, and the education of our children. Really ironic that often, those who revere those who serve/served in the military, also rail against paying the taxes that pay for that military. What I most object to though, is the idea that “the government” is some evil foreign entity that we should all rail against. As I wrote, “the government” is us and if we don’t like what we see, we should change it. That is our responsibility as citizens and voters. But…we have to do it with eyes wide open and minds well informed. Otherwise, we end up where we are right now.

    • I don’t completely disagree with where you are coming from. I don’t like my tax dollars being used to fund a military that then takes that money, spends it to enrich private for-profit military contractors and buy munitions which are then used to incite terror in other parts of the world. I don’t like it when my tax dollars are spent to fund and enforce a failed war on drugs, treating substance abuse as a criminal act instead of as a mental health issue which requires medical treatment. I don’t like to see the county administration spending my tax dollars to fund special tax breaks for large corporations who claim to ‘provide jobs’, while largely failing to do so (most of these incentives aren’t actually creating jobs on the margin).

      I think that it’s the superficially easy (and incorrect) solution to look at the problem and say ‘taxes suck, let’s get rid of the government’. I would certainly really not want to live in the hypothetical alternative society where we had no police, fire, courts, public roads, environmental protection, national defense (I’m fine with some defense spending; I think we spend too much and don’t spend very wisely), public education.

      I really do think, that there’s a limit to the extent to which the private sector can be trusted to manage a lot of essential services which we take for granted. I don’t think that we’d be better off with large corporations, beholden to no one but their shareholders, running this country, over a government where we at least in theory have the power to influence our representatives and other officials through the political process. I do think that the price of representative government is vigilance and demanding accountability at all levels.

      So, I guess what I am trying to say is that I think the points you bring up are a lot more complex than they are presented in the comment above, and I don’t think the answers are very easy. (Big surprise, I know.)

  4. Lynda,
    You speak as though education works. As though the eliminating of public education would result in a less educated citizenry.

    Nothing could be more coercive than taxation. Refuse to pay those taxes – they send people with guns to throw you out in the street and take your house. Happens all the time.

    Whether you agree or not.

    Public education comprehensively fails at the mission it is charged with – to educate the underprivileged. Failing, they come up with an elaborate language and measurement scheme to make that failure as obscure as possible. Then , gullible naifs such as yourself go forth to deny responsibility. Or declare great success. Or both.

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