If Low Taxes Means Poisoning Children, You Can Count Me Out

Dear America: Please raise my taxes.

I'm perfectly willing to pay them, and have the money spent on fulfilling our basic responsibility to take care of our country -- like replacing ancient pipes so that children in multiple states don't have to be poisoned by lead.

We have a national epidemic of lead poisoning. Meanwhile, cities across the country are decades, or even centuries, behind schedule on replacing old pipes, one of several possible sources of lead in children's bodies.

And in 2012, as Nicholas Kristof notes in a recent column, Congress cut funding for CDC lead programs by 93 percent.

That's because that kind of spending has been rebranded as "waste" by special interest groups for short-sighted businesses and investors. They argue that it's good for the economy to cut so much spending, along with the taxes that support it.

It isn't.*

It isn't good for anything, except looting the public good for the private benefit of the few of us who least need it.

And let's remember that most arguments over taxes focus on the marginal rate. That means what you pay on income above a high margin -- after you're already rich. And when it comes to capital gains -- which matter most to people who have a lot of capital -- tax-cutters are defending a rate of only 15 percent, far lower than the rate working people pay on their wages.

If trying to keep every dollar I can requires that infrastructure crumble and children suffer, I not only don't need the extra money, I don't want it.

"But we can cover those costs by cutting waste, so we don't need as much in taxes," -- so goes the counter-argument. Two big problems:

  1. No independent study of government waste finds amounts even in the right ballpark for paying the bills we are currently trying to skip. For example, if you eliminate all the -- quite low -- waste, fraud and abuse from welfare programs, you yield a drop in the bucket.
  2. That said, no one is against cutting waste. But too often what actually gets cut is vital spending on things like -- think about this -- protecting children from being poisoned by lead in their drinking water.

Again, I not only don't need the extra money, I don't want it.

*For example, there's the awkward fact that the economy has done better under every Democratic president in modern times. That doesn't mean there's a direct causal connection -- many factors influence the economy -- but it sure weakens the case for radical cuts in taxes and spending.