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Opinion: Grateful on Tax Day.

Opinion: Grateful on Tax Day

By Eliot Seide 

Today is the day that the IRS created.  The deadline for filing income tax provokes a visceral response in most of us.  Just feel the stress in your chest, stomach and shoulders.   

No wonder Americans hate paying taxes.  Our tax code is so horrendously complicated that we have to pay accountants to examine our income, expenses and recordkeeping.  Then, along comes the government to take away a chunk of our hard earned money.    

But don’t rush to a Tea Party protest.  Stop and relax a minute.  Take 60 seconds to release some of the negative emotions taxes stir up.  Instead, think about the benefits you enjoy that are paid for by your taxes.    

My anxiety was swept away by thoughts of things that I’m truly grateful for.  I started my day with a warm shower and I’m thankful for clean water and indoor plumbing.  For much of the world, that’s a luxury.  But not here, where we pay taxes.       

I enjoy driving on smooth highways.  The lines and lights keep me and other drivers safe.  I also like to leave the car in the garage and ride the train to a ballgame.       

I’m grateful for the teacher who taught my sons to read “Where the Wild Things Are” and for the bus driver who got them to school safely each day.  I appreciate the lunch lady who filled their tummies with broccoli and the coach who boosted their confidence.   

I love the library workers who help minds soar.  They open the doors to a world of information that helps us learn, prosper and have fun.  Where else can you get free and equal access to knowledge?

I treasure our state parks for affordable family vacations.  Nothing can match a campfire along the North Shore or a hike on a well-groomed nature trail.  Rent a canoe, and if you’re lucky, you might even catch a walleye stocked in a lake by your tax dollars. 

Whatever you think about the war in Iraq, I’m grateful for our soldiers and a strong military that can fight for peace.  I also deeply appreciate the caregivers who heal the veterans who risked everything to serve our country.  

I’m grateful that our society provides a safety net, however imperfect, for those less fortunate than me. 

Finally, I’m blessed with a good job that I enjoy.  Without work, there are no taxes.  This year, there are 212,000 unemployed Minnesotans who cannot pay taxes.  Those of us who can pay should consider ourselves lucky.   

It’s okay to recognize that our tax system isn’t fair.  It’s even better to work to change what you see is wrong.  Minnesota needs fair, progressive taxes based on a person’s income and ability to pay.  If everyone pays their fair share of income taxes, we can fix our state budget and invest in a better future for everyone.  That means protecting the essential public services we need most during tough times.   

As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes observed in 1927, “Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.” This April 15, don’t just pay taxes.  See the abundance all around you and say thanks to the soldiers, firefighters, teachers, librarians, nurses, mail carriers, garbage collectors, plow drivers, and all the other workers who make this a better Minnesota. 

Eliot Seide is the executive director of AFSCME Council 5, a union of 43,000 workers who advocate for excellence in public service.


Photo credit: Flickr

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