Opinion

Lemonade Lessons: complacency and comfort (part II)

There is room for discussion on government policy; however, no one believes that our corrupt and rigged political process is legitimate or right. Backroom deals hidden from the public, legislative bills voted on before reading, a nearly 70,000-page tax code designed to hide political favors, and crony capitalism are just the tip of the iceberg.

Our politicians regularly exempt themselves from the laws they present as absolutely necessary for us. They want to tax what they call Cadillac health insurance (unless we are union members), but they do not tax their own Rolls-Royce insurance plans. They have Social Security for us (which they will soon be forced to scale back), but they and their fellow public servants will keep their huge government pensions for themselves.

Why are union members favored over other workers? Why do politicians and public employees get higher compensation, better benefits, and more protections than other Americans? How is it that Congress can determine its own compensation and perks without oversight or the agreement of the people? What makes these people “preferred” citizens?

How is that politicians can survive when we learn, in spite of their principled opposition, they are selling their votes just to gain favors for their state or their district? Why is it that we allow children and other relatives of elected politicians to become lobbyists and then lobby their own parents? I understand that this may be legal, but why do “we the people” put up with it?

And what about this process called “earmarks,” where politicians (often anonymously) put political favors into legislation in the middle of the night, without scrutiny, and sometimes even after the bill has been voted upon? Sadly, it is not surprising that both Republicans and Democrats sneak in earmarks, but it seems rather bold or arrogant that so many politicians openly support the process.

We the people did not intend for these transgressions to occur, but “we the people” facilitated their establishment by not paying attention and not caring enough to engage in the political process. Many of us have forgotten that our liberties are not perpetuated automatically. Without citizen participation, politicians will gather more and more power while they gradually reduce our individual liberties.

Now that the Tea Party citizen movement is engaging these issues, perhaps other everyday citizens will pick up the gauntlet and meet their obligations to their children and their country.

Our Creator gives our rights to us, but they are guaranteed and protected only by our government and by our involvement in the political process. How many times have you heard someone say that the government works for the people, the people do not work for the government? How is it that this common message has been missed by so many of our “public servants”?

Do you feel the government is working for you when you go to get a passport, a driver’s license, or even a fishing license? Does it seem like the government is working for the people when the government makes more money on the gasoline you purchase than the big oil company that politicians demonize and blame for the high price you pay at the pump?

Are our government officials being transparent when no citizen can know the whole tax code or even how many taxes they pay? Given property taxes, excise taxes of all kinds, state and local income taxes, sales taxes, occupancy taxes, capital gains taxes, estate (or death) taxes, and many more, most of us cannot even determine how many times the same money gets taxed.

Politicians often speak of tax reform, but they will never simplify the tax code on their own. Taxes are one of the primary tools they use to control us. Preferential tax treatment is one of the primary ways elected officials can provide payoffs to their campaign contributors and other favored constituencies. If they simplified the tax code, we could see what they are doing.

And if we could see what they are doing, we would replace them.

Janie Johnson is the author of Don’t Take My Lemonade Stand – An American Philosophy.