Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Taxes - My Patriotic Duty

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Taxes - My Patriotic Duty

Article excerpt

It's early April, which means these are the few days of the year when Americans of almost every political stripe unite in a perennial ritual: complaining about taxes.

Count me out. I'm happy to pay my fair share to the government. It's part of my patriotic duty - and it's a heckuva bargain.

"Taxes are what we pay for living in a civilized society." Those words are written in stone, so they must be true. They're there to read for anyone who bothers to look up as they stroll past those New Deal-era government buildings on Constitution Avenue in the nation's capital.

They are the words of former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Now there was a man! A patriotic taxpayer, not one of those chest thumpers who paper their cars with chauvinistic bumper stickers and grumble about supporting the government of the country they profess to love.

Before ascending to the court, Holmes served his country during the Civil War in places with names that still raise goose bumps: The Peninsula Campaign, Balls Bluff, Antietam, and Fredericksburg, where he nearly lost his life. When he finally died in 1935, Justice Holmes gave his residuary estate to the government in gratitude!

Now there's a man who truly understood patriotism in all its complexities. One facet requires citizens to pay up on April 15 because taxes are what citizens pay for necessary services.

Paying taxes is an exercise of civic virtue akin to supporting one's country in time of war. Paying taxes is a conjoined twin of voting. When my wife and I emerge from our polling place on Election Day, I feel patriotic and virtuous. I am keeping my bargain with the Founding Fathers, affirming the privilege of being an American. It is a right that has roots stretching back to Magna Carta in 1215.

I feel the same about taxes, paying my fair share to the republic. It affirms I am willing to share the burdens of the government that protects me.

Federal income taxes are a terrific bargain in America. I like to tell my tax-grumbling friends about my last year in Israel, when the Knesset passed a new tax code that would've seized 70 percent of my income. …

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