The Ides of April: The Goodness of Taxes, the Orangeness of Tyranny

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Speech presented at the April 15 Trump Tax Rally – Myrtle Beach, hosted by Grand Strand Action Together.

Behold, the Ides of April!  Tax Day!

The theme of today’s rally is Taxes & Transparency—two subjects that the majority of politicians dodge like Donald Trump ducking a wind tunnel.  Like Sean Spicer zooming away from a New York Times reporter on his turbo-charged Press Corps Podium.  Like Ben Carson forevermore avoiding public housing elevators.

Thankfully, our event organizers knew some non-career politicians and bold activists who are always willing to step up to the microphone to tackle any political hot potato.

Boy, it feels wonderful to be reunited with two of my South Carolina Blue Brothers:  Pastor Thomas Dixon, your 2016 Democratic Party/Green Party/Working Families Party U.S. Senate Candidate; and Mal Hyman, your 2016 Democratic Party/Green Party/Working Families Party candidate for South Carolina’s 7th Congressional District. (And now 2018 candidate, I hear!)

Talk about Transparency.  These two gentlemen would sooner do dishes in a Myrtle Beach pancake house to raise campaign funds than take one red cent from a corporate PAC.

By the way, I didn’t happen to see Tim Scott or Tom “Dirty” Rice at our event today, did you?  Oh, Tim!  Tom!

Anyway, back to Taxes & Transparency.

As to Taxes, even though Donald Trump is too cowardly to show us his tax returns, I’ll be honest with this gathering of venerable citizens:  This year, Uncle Sam required that I contribute a little over $2,000 of my annual wages.  And the Palmetto State nearly $1,000.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t slip any bitcoins under the virtual table to the Russian Federation.)

Guess what?  I’m not going to complain about my taxes.  Not one bit.  Even though I work as a public librarian—and trust me, nobody becomes a librarian with delusions of champagne wishes and caviar dreams.  (Besides, I prefer bourbon and French onion dip.)

Here’s something you don’t hear every day from a politician:

TAXES ARE GOOD.

Taxes provide for the essential services and protections that, as Bob Schieffer once wrote, “improve the lives of citizens.”  Then again, Mr. Schieffer was just quoting the ancient Greeks.  What did they know about Democracy?

In all seriousness:  Government is “WE the People.”  We are Government.  And the job of Government is to efficiently and rigorously link and protect individuals, communities, and industry.  When “WE the People” do our job as stewards of society, Government is a powerful, positive force.

And taxes are the revenue means by which “WE the People” enable Government to improve our lives.  Here’s an example:

This year, a few of my tax pennies will go to improving Palmetto State roads and bridges—though maybe I should have contributed another nickel, or even a dime, as the American Society of Civil Engineers informs us that more than 10% of South Carolina’s bridges are structurally deficient, and nearly 20% of our roads are in poor condition.  Because we don’t pay a few extra nickels, Joe & Jane South Carolina Taxpayer each shells out an extra $500 annually in unnecessary motorist expenses.

(Hey, maybe now we know why all these tire manufacturing companies keep moving to South Carolina.  It makes sense to be next-door to your best customers.)

Anyway, I don’t know about you, but spending 5 cents to save $500 sounds like a bargain to me.

Too bad folks like “Status Quo” Joe Wilson, Tom Rice & Tim Scott keep voting down major federal infrastructure bills that cross their legislative desks.

By the way, South Carolina’s gas tax—which is used to fix our deficient transportation infrastructure—is the second lowest in the country.  The only state lower is Alaska, with all its bridges to nowhere.  In fact, the South Carolina General Assembly hasn’t increased the gas tax since before Al Gore invented the Internet.  Yet some brave legislators are trying to raise it as we speak.

We are told that this long overdue and reasonable adjustment to the gas tax would annually impact the average South Carolina motorist in the $50 to $60 range.  Still, Governor Henry McMaster is threatening to veto the gas tax bill.  Ole Hank seems to prefer our dilapidated roadways, our crumbling bridges, our pothole-pocked Palmetto State.  But aren’t you tired of spilling coffee on yourself because of roads that look like lunar landscapes?  How’s your rear wheel alignment?  Remember:  invest a few pennies, spend hundreds less at the mechanic each year.

Of course, while I think taxes are good, not all taxes are applied in an efficient and ethically-acceptable manner.

On the topic of Government Efficiency, for nearly a decade, I had the honor of managing a $2 billion economic development program for our state called the SmartState Program.  We not only helped usher South Carolina into the 21st-century knowledge economy by recruiting the most innovative scientists and engineers from all over the world—but we did so on an operating budget of less than 2%.

When the Washington Advisory Group (now the Huron Consulting Group) confirmed we were building our state’s knowledge base with perhaps the most efficient government program in history, they declared the SmartState Program the best program of its kind in the U.S.

South Carolina was finally first in something positive!  Then Nikki Haley and the Tea Party rose to power and defunded the program.  (No wonder Donald Trump selected Haley to help throw out the U.N. baby with the bathtub.)

As to the Ethical Application of our tax dollars, I would love to see our military appropriations purposed more toward humanitarian and exploratory missions that serve not only the security and peace of our nation, but of all humanity.

Call me a dreamer, but I’m sure the folks at Raytheon could use their billions of dollars in government contracts for something more life-affirming than the production of Tomahawk missiles.

Also, it pains me beyond measure to think that Rick Perry draws a federal paycheck as the U.S. Energy Secretary, while daily following executive orders to dismantle and gut environmental programs that, frankly, are crucial to our survival.

Of course, it bothers me even more that Secretary Perry’s boss also draws a federal paycheck.  By the way, who cares that Donald Trump donated his paycheck to the National Park Service?  The Trump Administration’s budget cuts $120 million from the Department of the Interior.

Then again, you’ve got to hand it Donald Trump.  He’s just about the most “Transparent” politician since Caligula.

Donald Trump is transparent about his hatred of women.  He’s transparent about his mockery of the physically handicapped.  He transparently uses our tax dollars to line his own pockets.  He’s transparent that he doesn’t care about Education and the Environment.  Donald Trump also showed transparent shamelessness in peopling his Cabinet and Inner Circle with members of the Alt-Right and Goldman Sachs executives.

In fact, every day, Donald Trump logs onto Twitter and wears his barbarous heart on his sleeve for all the world to see.  Which is why I find it just a little ironic that Donald Trump refuses to be transparent about his taxes.

Of course, we’ll see Trump’s tax returns someday.  When we do, I’m certain we’ll discover they’re written with Cyrillic letters.

A closing thought on Transparency: maybe what we really need in Government are politicians who don’t have anything to hide, who aren’t afraid to tackle any subject (even the Goodness of Taxes), and who ultimately are more interested in serving “WE the People” than Mammon and themselves.  Man, it sure is good to be a South Carolina Blue Brother.

“There’s a Better Way!”

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Arik Bjorn lives in Columbia, South Carolina. He was the 2016 Democratic Party / Green Party fusion candidate for U.S. Congress in the 2nd Congressional District of South Carolina. Visit Arik’s campaign website, and check out his latest book, Waiting for Civilization. You can also follow his political activities on Twitter @Bjorn2RunSC and on Facebook.

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