Taxes are sometimes necessary and good

One of those vaguely annoying World War II-era acronyms you don’t hear much anymore, along with SNAFU and FUBAR, is TNSTAFL.

Acronyms are making a comeback in the age of email, though, and maybe it’s time to revive this one: There’s No Such Thing As a Free Lunch.

People used to take that for granted. “You get what you pay for,” they said, or “If you dance, you have to pay the piper.”

Where’d we go wrong?

Americans, particularly Americans toward the right end of the political spectrum, have developed the idea that all good things come to he who complains loudest about taxes.

It’s ironic, not to mention amusing, that the self-celebrated party of personal responsibility has morphed into the party of perpetual blame-shifting. My Inbox over the last five years really makes it clear: Email after email has slammed “tax-and-spend liberals” (almost one word now, like “damyankee” or “treehugger") for everything from the state of public education to the elusiveness of Osama bin Laden.

If this seems not to make sense, that’s because it doesn’t make sense. The knee-jerk anti-tax crowd, I’ve come to realize, is among the biggest threats to my version of what America should be.

This notion has been floating around in my mind for a while, but it fertilized and implanted when I read that former State Assemblywoman Sharron Angle is making another attempt to limit property tax increases to 2 percent a year.

Angle, if you don’t recognize the name, is a classic one-issue activist: Taxes are bad, period. She’s been flogging the idea for years. Because she’s relentless and the measure is what used to be called an “Okie charmer"—it has superficial appeal to the uninformed—she keeps it alive. But she’s failed three times to force it onto the ballot, twice because she couldn’t get enough signatures and once when she withdrew it after a lawsuit challenged its accuracy. (There are those, one of them me, who think accuracy hasn’t been a prominent feature of Angle’s efforts.)

Well, she’s back. She’s started a drive to collect the more than 58,000 signatures she’ll need to get her tax measure on the November ballot.

Mine won’t be one of them, and yours shouldn’t, either.

No one, if I have to point this out, likes to pay taxes. My wife’s income isn’t subject to withholding, and when I mail our check to the IRS, we’ll wave goodbye to a BMW.

Certainly I’d rather have the car in my driveway than George Bush in the White House, but the knee-jerk notion that taxes are always evil or inevitably wasted is just plain stupid.

Taxes, people like Angle forget, are the bill we pay for services we need. The money doesn’t disappear any more than your house payment or insurance bill goes into the toilet when you write those checks.

Every time you take your car out of your garage, you’re using roads provided by taxes. Your kids can read because taxes funded our schools. When you call 911, an emergency responder paid with tax dollars comes to your rescue.

“But taxes siphon money from business. They suffocate the economy.”

Maybe … but maybe, too, they make business possible, by funding a legal system that makes contracts enforceable and ensures that everyone plays by the same rules. And maybe the teachers, cops and judges who earn those tax dollars spend most of them on lattes and Lexuses and condominiums right here in town, keeping us all solvent.

Bear it in mind: When a politician has nothing to offer but lower taxes, he or she has nothing to offer.