Our 'taker nation:' Angry anti-government voices silent on their benefits
The Kansas City Star
The week the nation passed the deadline for paying federal, state and local taxes is a moment when Americans are keenly focused on the costs of running our governments. The government takes our dollars each April, and we deliver, as required.
But as The Star’s Sunday investigation into our “taker nation” debate made clear, many who complain of high taxes and too much government fail to take into account how much they receive from government.
Sprawling Sumner County in southern Kansas — rich with agriculture, older residents, and wide-open spaces — took in federal benefits in 2010 that were 40 to 50 percent more, on average, than county residents paid in federal taxes. Yet the benefits rarely get mentioned .
It’s the critical disconnect in the national debate that must change. The rallying cry against big government has been decades-long, making it difficult for today’s hyper-partisan politicians to honestly broker budget agreements fairly addressing current and future demands.
Sumner County “takes” a slew of government benefits: for its seniors, children, farms and airports.
Politicians reflect their constituents who listen to a narrow channel of political talk, focused on demeaning individual poor recipients while ignoring the big benefactors of government aid.
A meaningful discussion would acknowledge we are all “takers” in many ways. Any list of “takers” should include investors who benefit from tax breaks, businesses that win lavish breaks, and farmers who collect hundreds of thousands of government dollars in subsidies and crop insurance.
Sumner County is not an exception. It’s like much of rural America, with a heavier-than-average use of generous farm benefits. The challenge is convincing rural and urban America it’s time for a simpler tax system that cuts loopholes and dodges, and slows the grab by communities to get their “share” of the federal money pot. It’s time for more serious efforts to combat the waste that everyone agrees must end.
The onus is on Congress to reach a budget agreement soon, to devise an equitable and job-friendly budget that helps the economic recovery continue while protecting future generations from onerous debt. It’s a big challenge requiring leadership of a new stripe, willing to look at the whole “taker-nation,” not just the edges.