Friday, May 3, 2019

I Am Goddamn Sick And Tired of Hearing "We Can't Afford It"

Posted By on Fri, May 3, 2019 at 11:47 AM

In some states, school districts are saying they can't afford the raises they promised teachers and may have to lay off staff and increase class sizes to compensate for the salary increases.

That makes sense, right? Teachers may be underpaid, but we have to be realistic. We just can't afford to pay them what they deserve. Right?

Increasing access to early childhood education in Pima County is receiving overwhelming support from individuals, business groups, educators and nonprofit organizations. But Pima County says it doesn't have the money to start the ball rolling.

That makes sense, right? The county would benefit in the short and the long term from having more children receive a quality early childhood education. We just can't afford it. Right?

The legislature is hammering out its 2019-20 budget. It's almost certain K-12 education will get more money than last year, which was an increase over the year before. But even with the expected increase, the education budget will be lower than pre-recession, 2008 level, and back then, our schools were near the bottom of the country in per-student spending. Most Arizonans agree we should have smaller class sizes, new textbooks and computers, and enough supplies that teachers don't have to buy things for their classrooms out of their unconscionably small paychecks. But let's be realistic, folks, the state just doesn't have enough money.

That makes sense, right? Our students would benefit from a more generous education budget, and the state would have a better educated population which would help attract businesses and build the economy. The only problem is, we just can't afford it. Right?

Wrong. Wrong. And so goddamned Wrong it makes me furious every time I hear it.

The amount of money in governments' coffers isn't a force of nature like the amount of rain that falls every year. It's created by human decisions. We may not be able to coax more rain from the sky, but we sure as hell can increase the amount of money government has to spend. All we need to do is bring in more tax dollars, and all that takes is the right number of legislators voting "Aye."

It's often said that a budget is a moral document. Let's add to that, the amount of taxes we levy and the way people are taxed are moral decisions. If tax revenues are too low, the budget will lean toward immorality, slighting social programs and education. If the method of taxation favors the rich at the expense of everyone else, that's both immoral and obscene.

The rich are getting richer, and the one-two punch of lower taxes and ever-more-favorable tax breaks are making them richer still. Meanwhile the rest of the population is in pretty much the same place it was 50 years ago, with shrinking social services and no significant tax relief in sight.

Tax the rich. It's a simple phrase and a simple, effective way of improving the quantity and quality of government services. The rich will be a smidge less rich, which won't hurt anything but their neurotic need to amass more money than they or their families can possibly spend. If we make the rich pay their fair share, to paraphrase the man who currently occupies the White House, we can make America a great place for everyone to live.

If, here in Arizona, we increase state taxes on the wealthiest among us, we can pay teachers what they deserve, fix our crumbling school buildings and give our children every possible opportunity to excel. And we'll still have enough to begin the process of digging ourselves out of the socioeconomic ditch we've dug ourselves into.

Let me proclaim, before anyone hurls what they think is a damning insult my way, I am an unrepentant tax-and-spend liberal. More precisely, I'm someone who wants to tax those who can best afford it and spend in ways that are both wise and generous.

For those of you who have drunk deeply of Tea laced with Kool-Aid for the past decade and are fond of proclaiming you are Taxed Enough Already, tax-and-spend liberals like me agree. We're not coming after your money. We want to tax the people who bought those Taxed Enough Already signs you waved proudly and defiantly at Tea Party rallies. It's the folks who paid for your movement and fanned the flames of anti-government discontent who aren't being taxed nearly enough.

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