A debate has been raging about the proper role of government and the proper government use of our taxes. The recession that began in early 2007 under the Bush Administration and then dramatically deepened after the Wall Street fiasco in October 2008 has brought many more Americans into this debate, and it is affecting the political scene.
Republicans ran in 2010 on a tea-party platform that stated basically two positions, one being that they would never stop tax breaks for the very rich and corporations. The other was that the federal government does nothing good with our money, and it should be shrunk to the size that it “could be drowned in the bathtub,” as Grover Norquist, the founder of Americans for Tax Reform, says. (He is the one who got almost every Republican, including both NH Representatives, to sign his "no taxes ever" oath.) Presidential candidate Ron Paul and the tea-party congressman from New Hampshire’s First District want to abolish the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education, and the Internal Revenue Service, which happens to be the funding source for our whole federal government. At this point, reasonable people might look around our state and ask themselves who is right, and where is their tax money?
Our federal tax money is all over our state, serving people, small businesses and corporations, and helping local and state government provide services. Where is that federal money?
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard has received an enormous amount of money to protect our country. I personally had one single earmark in 2008 that was for almost $10,000,000, for a consolidated components facility that is currently under construction. These federal tax dollars also create jobs, and these workers spend money in our local economy.
BAE Systems is a defense contractor, and their NH plants depend almost exclusively on federal contracts. They are the largest manufacturer here, creating thousands of jobs. GE also has federal money and they create jobs here also, along with many other defense-related businesses who receive our tax money.
Low-income citizens receive health care at Community Health Centers across the state, in places like Manchester, Somersworth, Portsmouth, and Conway. Our federal tax dollars help to fund them. Our congressmen voted to cut funding while praising the community centers for their cost-saving services. Our tax dollars have provided equipment and building money, as well as funding for uncompensated care.
Transportation is a challenge in our state, and many rural citizens have difficulty getting to work, to the doctor, or to a store. Our taxes have been returned to NH to help build transit in our state. There is federal money for highways here, and that also creates jobs, but our federal tax money helps people get around on buses, too. There is now bus transportation from Conway to Wolfeboro via Ossipee, and they used stimulus money—our tax money—to buy the buses. An assistant store manager said the buses are bringing customers to his store. This has also created more jobs in these communities.
New Hampshire firefighters, police officers, and other first responders can provide better services to our communities because our tax dollars helped them get better equipment and better technology. There have been federal grants and earmarks, and also stimulus money to support services and to pay salaries. Manchester, Rochester, Dover, Portsmouth, and many smaller towns applied for and received federal help that really was our money coming back to serve us.
Education is the key to prosperity in New Hampshire, so federal investment in education helps at every level. Our taxes come back to help our smallest and poorest citizens get a chance to succeed. Our dollars help every community put equipment in schools, feed kids who cannot learn if they are hungry, and educate those with extra challenges. Our tax money helps provide clean-energy buses to carry our next generation of NH leaders to and from UNH, and provides the necessary money for innovative and exciting research that will benefit our state and country. Our taxes also help provide loans to students—a real investment in New Hampshire’s future.
We benefit when we “pool” our money. As citizens, we have a common interest in creating and sustaining a great nation that can pay its bills and invest in its people. Clean up duplicate efforts. Catch the cheats. Hold recipients of our money accountable. But Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. had it right when he said, “Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.”
Former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter represented New Hampshire’s First District from 2007-2011, she is seeking a third term in the November, 2012 election. She wrote the proposal for and established a non-profit, social service agency, which continues to serve all ages. She taught politics and history and is a strong supporter of Medicare and Social Security.