Tuesday, October 7, 2008

TAXES AND PATRIOTISM

Joe Biden is right. Paying taxes is patriotic. For speaking an unpopular truth--indeed for being a true maverick--Biden has taken flak from the wannabe mavericks Senator McCain and Governor Palin. Our tax dollars support infrastructure improvements, medical care for the disabled and elderly, public education, national parks and recreation, and much more. Sometimes that money is misspent: I don't like how my tax dollars have been used in Iraq. Along with every other American citizen, about ten cents of my federal tax dollars went to pay for a recreation center in Wasilla, Alaska, that Sarah Palin funded through earmarks. A waste of my money--perhaps. But my responsibility as a voter and as an engaged citizen is to challenge elected officials to spend my money more effectively--not to dodge my responsibility and evade paying my taxes. (For those of you who weren't reading this blog back in April, check out my post on taxation, published on April 15.)

Unfortunately, Sarah Palin has shirked her responsibilities as a tax-paying citizen. To put it most bluntly, she and Todd Palin are tax dodgers. I can think of few less patriotic acts than that. Tax attorneys have been poring over Palin's tax returns for the last two years. They are not pretty. Palin did not pay taxes on $43,490 that the state of Alaska gave the family to cover travel expenses for Mr. Palin and the Palin children. I travel a lot for work--and like most who do, I get my legitimate business expenses reimbursed or deduct them on my taxes. As much as I would love to bring my wife and kids with me on speaking gigs, their presence is not a legitimate business expense. Palin owes taxes on that unreported income (not to mention on her dubious state per diem payments for working at home). This is not a technical matter or an accounting glitch. It gets to the core of Palin's sense of duty and responsibility. It gets to her character. And that character is, as revealed on the tax returns, deeply flawed. And it gets to one of the core ideological flaws of the anti-tax philosophy of the Republican Party: they want the benefits of government--such as a strong military, Social Security, and pothole free highways--but without paying for them.