By JYOTHI NATARAJAN
Each year on April 15, millions of United States residents file their taxes. Individuals and companies gather information about the money they earned and the taxes they paid the previous year and submit a report, called a tax return, to the U.S. government.
Many people dislike paying taxes and claim that the government takes away too much of their hard-earned money, and for what? Former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. once said “taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.” What he meant is that taxes pay for many of the benefits we enjoy, such as clean water, paved roads, the fire department, public schools, public trains, parks and playgrounds. Taxes also pay for funding wars like the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In the last half century, our tax system changed significantly. The wealthiest people now pay a lot less in taxes than they used to. According to a report from AlterNet news magazine, “in 1955, America’s top 400 taxpayers paid three times more of their income in taxes than the top 400 of 2006.” If the 400 wealthiest taxpayers in 2006 had paid at the same rate as those in 1955, the United States would have earned an additional $35.9 billion.
Imagine what our country would look like if we didn’t have taxes to fund public services. Take a look at the pie chart below and you’ll see how President Obama would like to spend U.S. tax dollars. How would you change the pie?