COMMENTARY - Ah, it’s the end of 2021 and those who made money this year are busy trying to shelter their income from the taxman. And those in Congress are trying to avoid another government shutdown.
Republicans and the corporate class have been busy using their ill-gotten (or at least better-hidden) gains to oppose the infrastructure and Build Back Better bills. While allowing additional funding for the Pentagon which gets over twice what the original Build Back Better would cost the taxpayer.
Every April (or January if you are virtuous or expect money back) or quarterly if you are a business, you get to see exactly how big a cut the federal and state governments take of your earnings.
You can, at the same time, decide to give $3 to the Presidential Election Campaign. On your California return, you can also donate your tax dollars to one or more of about 20 funds ranging from Alzheimer’s to Suicide Prevention.
Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if each of us could direct where all our tax dollars should go?
So, how would you choose to spend your tax dollars?
Preparing the country for climate change and future weather events, or voting that over three-quarters of a trillion dollars, yes that’s trillion with a T, be spent this year alone on America’s military budget, which benefits… who besides military contractors?
Rebuilding our roads and bridges and strengthening our infrastructure, or handing out large contracts through lobbyists for the armaments industry who are former military or Pentagon staffers?
Ensuring clean water is available at low cost to all Americans, or building up our nuclear arsenal?
Increasing humanitarian aid and education around the world, or funding armed services bases and military exercises in foreign countries.
Providing high-quality health care for all Americans, or developing more high-tech weaponry?
Supporting international intervention for humanitarian causes, or supporting international intervention for political gain, ego and corporate profit?
Increasing educational opportunities here at home, or continuing tax breaks for multinational corporations such as Exxon, Coca-Cola, Northrop Grumman, and Amazon?
Supporting more robust Build Back Better bills, or continuing to subsidize the oil and gas industry?
Increasing community intervention programs for youth, or doubling down on prison and death row costs?
Helping farmers transition to sustainable and resilient methods to benefit the planet, or spending millions on farm subsidies (which actually are most likely to pad corporate agribusiness profits and end up in the pocket of some of our Congressmen and Senators whose tax advisers have wisely invested them in Big Ag)?
Ensuring clean water is available at low cost to every person worldwide, or continuing to subsidize corporate agribusinesses that make decisions based on tax breaks and profit, force out small farmers through monopolies, use too much water and fertilizers (fouling our waters) and too many pesticides (harming our environment) to produce non-essential crops such as alfalfa to ship to China?
Budgets should reflect what a person or country or organization sets as priorities. It also says a significant amount about the values each holds.
There are many Americans who support a strong American military but do they support it to the extent that it has taken over our ability to take care of our own people and planet?
Do they support it to the point where it increasingly puts our country at risk from those who are offended by the overweening egos of some Americans who dismiss the rest of the world as being somehow inferior?
Are their values as individuals such as to distribute their own tax dollars more fairly than our elected officials? Officials who play brinkmanship games to prop up the military-industrial complex at the cost of caring for people, the environment and everyone’s future, here at home and around the world?
I would hope that all of us, all Americans taxpayers, will continue to push our country’s lawmakers to support our values and stop being sellouts to cronyism and lobbyist largesse.
Wouldn’t that be a wonderful holiday gift!
(Liz Amsden is an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions. In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)