Paying Taxes Is Supposed To Get Us Something, Right?


One of the principle arguments that I’ve always maintained against the tax system is that when it comes right down to it, I don’t seem to get very much in the way of the services for which I’m paying all this money.  Admittedly, the fire department does show up twice a year when there’s a false alarm here in my apartment building, so there’s that, but outside of that, I don’t really see the results of my efforts in forking over all this money.

People argue that there are still a lot of things that I get – roads for instance – but it’s hard to take them seriously when I pay a fifty cent toll less than half a mile from my apartment to access any of the major highways here, and the one major east-west stretch of road that is nearest is quite literally called the “Dulles Toll Road”.  I also pay about $30 in tolls to drive to NY, so again, the “my-taxes-pay-for-roads” concept is largely lost on me.  I’m taxed on my labour, most of my groceries, all my bills, and taxed several times on my cell phone for all sorts of little taxes that I’m guessing no one actually understands.

I pay approximately 33% of my salary in taxes.  (I remember playing the game “Civilization” on SNES, and if you raised the tax rate above 9%, the citizens revolted.)  That means that for 1 out of every 3 hours I work, the working I’m doing is directly going to pay taxes.  If you look at it yearly, I work from January THROUGH April just to pay taxes.  (It’s not so coincidental, then, that tax day comes in the middle of April.)  This is to say nothing of property taxes on my rental property.

I understand that generally, property taxes are supposed to pay for schools.  The schools in Binghamton, NY, where my rental property is located, are famous for exactly one graduate – Rod Serling.  This is not at all ironic; anyone who’s ever spent any amount of time in Binghamton can watch “The Twilight Zone” and fully understand how Mr. Serling got to be the area’s most famous graduate.  So, it seems, the property taxes that I’m paying are generally not going to good use.

One thing I am certain that they are not going towards is the Binghamton Police.  The property was apparently broken into over the Christmas break while the students were away.  This in and of itself is fairly unfortunate.  While the cops can’t be expected to be everywhere, apparently they are nowhere, as there were apparently 149 other break-ins during the last month, according to the property manager.  If true, that’s an average of FIVE A DAY FOR A MONTH.  I may know very little about police work (I was a police cadet in my younger years, but all I ever did was direct traffic), but I’m fairly certain that even a modest force that actually patrolled the streets with any amount of effort would be able to prevent at least SOME of the break-ins if there were five happening on any given day.  (Perhaps they did stop five a day and there were actually ten going on?  This seems doubtful.)

The REAL irony of all of this is that the City of Binghamton sends around a man who measures the grass and issues summons when the grass is too high.  (There are other various infractions you can be cited for as well.)  You actually have to visit the Binghamton City Court if you get one of the Summons, and if you don’t, it’s considered a missed court date and the judge has the option to issue bench warrants for the arrest of the homeowner.  The one time I attended the court, I saw at least three warrants issued for homeowners who failed to show up for court.  So if you fail to mow your lawn, you’re likely to end up arrested, but if you break into someone’s house you’ll score a big haul for your online auction sales.

So in the end, with all the taxes I’m paying, and with all the efforts I make at “playing by the rules”, the people who get screwed are myself and my tenants.  The burglars make out like bandits (pun intended), and the tenants and I are paying tax money to a system that clearly is not working.  Perhaps, as has happened in England ( maybe the homeowners and myself should band together and actually pay a separate protection force.

The exceptionally bitter pill to swallow will be that this year, as I made money last year, the government is going to demand 33% of that money as well.