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Many on the left fight regressive taxes because, by their very nature, they penalize the poor and working classes. Those on the right fight virtually every tax, regressive or not. But while I hate regressive taxes as much as anyone else, I willingly vote for them, and I willingly pay them.

Regressive Taxes

Raised a right-wing Republican, even as a teen I was happy to pay income tax. I always understood that society needed taxation to function properly. I liked roads and schools and fire departments and libraries and national parks and all the other benefits that made a society livable.

Early on, however, I saw that sales tax affected the poor disproportionately, and I witnessed many people with low incomes who had miraculously managed to acquire homes still under constant threat of losing everything if they couldn’t keep up with their exorbitant property taxes. Why, I wondered, should someone pay “rent” indefinitely on property already fully paid for? Property tax always seemed like extortion, protection money.

But these days when a proposition comes up on the ballot for yet another regressive tax, I almost always vote for it. While I’m currently a registered Democrat, I vote most often for Democratic Socialist candidates and ideas. Plus, my husband is a Trotsky Socialist, and I sometimes volunteer with his party. I understand capitalist oppression.

But I get miffed when so many on the far left advocate against every single regressive tax. They insist that corporations and the rich should pay those taxes, not the poor or working class. They’re absolutely right, of course, except for one thing—the rich and corporations are NOT going to pay those taxes. Not now, anyway, and not in the foreseeable future. So where does that leave the rest of us in the meantime?

If you act out of principle against every regressive tax, you’re making the lives of many poor and working class people harder, not easier. That’s a regressive act, too.

I love my husband, and I like that we’re both independent enough to make up our own minds on the issues, but I still wasn’t pleased when he voted against a regressive tax to support public transportation. He has a truck. He doesn’t need public transportation to get to work. Six days a week, I take three buses to work and three buses back home. When the city cut routes and increased the time between buses, it made a difference to me. After the cuts, if I missed a connection by thirty seconds, I had to wait another thirty minutes for the next bus. Now my commute is often over two hours, a full twenty-four hours per week. More if I run errands on my day off.

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So don’t do us any favors, I tell my friends and family on the left, by not supporting a regressive tax. By all means, keep fighting for socialism and justice, but we can’t wait 20 or 30 or 80 years to have a good bus schedule. We need it now. If you act out of principle against every regressive tax, you’re making the lives of many poor and working class people harder, not easier. That’s a regressive act, too. And it means we have less free time to participate in leftist political activity ourselves.

The most recent proposition on the ballot in my state was to increase property taxes (ugh) to address carbon emissions. People concerned with regressive taxation pointed out that corporations should be paying for this, especially those responsible for most of that carbon. My husband and his friends voted against the proposition. As did lots of other people who hate taxes of all kinds.

I struggle every month to pay my escrow for property tax and homeowners insurance along with my mortgage. Sometimes, I don’t have enough funds in my account, and my balance goes negative when my payment is pulled automatically. My husband and I keep the temperature in our home at 55 all winter, not to reduce our carbon footprint but because we can’t afford the heating bill. We shop for groceries at Dollar Tree and Grocery Outlet. Far too often, we give IOUs to each other for birthday and Christmas and anniversary presents. For one celebration, we splurged and went to Burger King because they had two Whoppers for six dollars, an extravagance nonetheless, but once in a while, you simply have to be reckless. The fries probably sent my blood glucose soaring, but I couldn’t be sure because I wasn’t able to afford the glucose sensor my insurance wouldn’t cover.

But I voted for the damn tax increase anyway.

It didn’t pass, a victory for fairness.

But you know what? Now NO ONE is paying to address carbon emissions here. That’s a regressive act. Or a regressive lack of action.

So yes, let’s please try to get corporations and the rich to pay their fair share of taxes. I hope to see us succeed in my lifetime. But let’s not contribute to oppression by refusing to let anyone pay to support programs and policies that address the desperate conditions we face right now.

Johnny Townsend

Johnny Townsend