An acquaintance of mine is fond of saying, “I don’t know where people think good societies come from, do they just drop out of the sky?” I think he is referring to people’s apparent lack of understanding or perhaps their conscious denial of the positive role of taxation in our lives and on our communities.
We all benefit from public services. In 2006, each Canadian on average enjoyed almost $17,000 worth of public benefits, including health care, education and training,
entitlement programs and infrastructure. The trouble is that we see this as our right by virtue of living in Ontario or Canada and we don’t make the critical connection between the taxes we pay and these benefits. Without a productive economy and an adequate and fair taxation system all these benefits eventually disappear or are diminished.
So we have a choice. Invest in people and communities through taxation or reduce Government’s ability to support individuals and communities, and hope that communities and businesses provide opportunity, livable wages, needed services and a functional and healthy society.
At Fred Victor, we get to see this issue through the lens of poverty and homelessness and our experience tells us that it’s no real solution to leave these public benefits to communities and businesses.
Social, health and housing services for low income people are still critically dependent on government funding (tax payer support). Fund raising and social entrepreneurship supplement this publicly-funded base, but cannot replace it. Low-income and homeless people would not have access to social benefits at all if there were not tax-funded programs that provide temporary-assistance in getting healthcare, housing, and employment. Whether because of socio economic circumstances, disability or trauma, many people are dependent on tax-funded services for a period in their lives.
Reducing this support (due to a diminished tax base) will mean higher levels of poverty and inequality, more violence, crime, homelessness and wasted human potential, which in turn reduce the quality of life for everyone in our society.
So next time you look at your pay stub and complain about the taxes you are paying, take a moment to think about the benefits you receive and the benefits that go to people less fortunate than you.