More taxes, please

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Obviously, I'm not running for office, ever.

And, I assure you, I'm as money-focused as my fellow Americans. I would like to earn more, while doing less. I would like to win the lottery. Get a huge inheritance from some surprising source. Have an even nicer computer. Build a wicked cool off-the-grid-but-still-warm-and-comfortable house, with a nice view. Further hybridize our Prius to make it even more efficient. Or get one of them Teslas!

So, I like buying stuff, just like everyone else, OK? I just think that taxes are the best way to buy some of the things I want. Like...

* Energy efficiency. Like the blower-door tests and other tools to ensure more efficient housing stock, I'm willing to pay more — I'm willing for everyone to be required to pay a little more, whatever amount would be added to the bottom line of each house for the additional test, or the additional materials needed to pass the test — to accomplish this goal I think we all should have. No, Ron Paul, the free market will not provide it.

The same would apply to, say, solar panels, and wind-power generation: The market is going way too slowly, in part because of subsidies such as those for oil exploration that are already welded into place by practice and lobbyists.

How 'bout we stop subsidizing the oil business, which ties us to parts of civilization that "hate us for our freedom" (or something like that) and start subsidizing technologies that would free us from foreign oil and spur investment in resources we already have access to, like wind, and sun, and geothermal, and wave energy? It's a no-frickin'-brainer, even leaving aside the obvious environmental health advantages.

* Public financing of elections: We'd each have to pay $6 more, according to just6dollars.org, which I wrote about previously. The problem is, we're paying far more now, except the payments are not visible to us. Well-heeled people buy access to the government by contributing large sums, and then pass the costs onto us.

For example: The profits of Archer Daniels Midland, a titan in food production, are heavily dependent on agriculture policy, so they have a huge stake in how Congress votes and how the executive branch enforces. Naturally, they have a huge public-relations machine that includes not only the commercials they air, but the public policy influencing they do. And naturally, just like seed or pesticides, these costs go into their bottom line, and help determine the prices they charge. Take away that part of their expense, and they can charge less! Great deal for us, no? Remove a taint from governing, and pay less at the checkout counter!

Undeniably, elections cost money, and someone's gotta pay it. With public financing, we just pay for the elections, without paying the middlemen's costs of lobbying, administration, and profit percentage.

* Reinstate public-service broadcasting requirements. Formerly, corporations that had use of the public airways were required to set aside some of their broadcast time to serve the public. Typically, it led to 6 a.m. religious services shows, or other marginalia. But how 'bout if we required them to give a certain amount of prime time to political candidates? That would remove a huge burden on running — the cost of air time to reach the electorate — which would open up the process to we whose best hope for wealth might be, say, an inheritance from an unexpected source.

I read somewhere that Obama has a couple of million in net worth, but that ranks him, like, 7th, among candidates running. And that's before Mike Bloomberg gets in. The CW says that if he does, he's prepared to spend a billion of his own money. He's not "just" a billionaire. He could spend a billion to get elected. Do we want to exclude 99.4 percent of Americas (non-millionaires, according to wikipedia) from being able to run for the presidency, by making the race so much about money and access to it?

Yes, this would cut broadcasters' profits, but I say, screw 'em! They only earn any profits because they have been granted exclusive use of airwaves that belong to everyone. Yes, they paid for the right, but deals come with conditions all the time; this would just be one of the conditions, and any of them that don't like the new conditions could just sell their interests and invest somewhere else. I bet that none of them would do so; they'd merely end up with slightly less shiny golden eggs. And, since the regulations would apply to all, there would be no competitive disadvantage to them. Just a cost of doing business.

If we remove the lobbying costs, maybe they'd even break even, even.

My point with all this is that we have common aims, many of which can be accomplished only collectively. Sometimes, that might mean paying more, collectively. What's so wrong with that?

OK. Of course what's wrong is that not everyone agrees on what we should spend collectively on, and previous uses of public funds rankled enough NASCAR dads and soccer moms to make any taxes bad taxes. (Well, unless they're used to subjugate foreign governments who have oil and don't behave.)

I would consider it progress if we just started moving beyond the "no new taxes" mantra and began talking about what's best for us collectively.

Who could argue against energy efficiency, for example? Even those troglodytes (see? never running, ever.) who don't accept the urgency brought by global warming would have to favor a systemic reduction in the amount of oil we need to purchase from overseas, or the environmental despoliation of ripping up the earth so we can burn more coal.

OK. So we're set on this, right?

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