Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Taxing Feeling

By Bill Maher

A few weeks ago I mentioned on the show that, while I'm willing to pay more in taxes, Democrats could lose me on this issue if they continue to go to that well over and over. In other words, there's a limit to what I think the government should be allowed to take from its citizens, even the wealthiest ones. I wasn't suggesting that I was going to start donning a tri-corner hat and going Galt, or even Wesley Snipes. I was simply saying that when you combine all of the state and federal and local taxes, especially in a high tax state like California, it is a lot. Because -- oh, how shall I say this? -- it is a lot. Maybe I feel this way because it's April 15th and, like many Americans, I feel like the radius of my asshole just changed. Or maybe it's because, again, numerically, it's a lot.

Now, I'm not asking for any sympathy. I've done quite well, and I'm willing to pay a higher rate than Joe Six-Pack. Or Mitt Romney. And I do. What I didn't like is what the reaction to my comments says about how Americans have come to discuss political issues: both sides have their talking points and their spokespeople, and nobody gives an inch, and then they commence talking past each other.

Really. I didn't think this was a very controversial statement. But apparently it was, because it got picked up in the conservative media, and I heard from lots of liberals about it because it vaguely veered from Democratic dogma on taxes, which is that not only should you always be for raising them -- especially on the wealthy -- but you should really, really enjoy paying them!

Well, just because Republicans hate taxes and pledge to lower them at every turn, doesn't mean that I have to love taxes and pledge to raise them at every turn. But this is basically the arrangement we have on every issue in this country. The Republicans take a ridiculous, extremist view on an issue, and the left is left to defend the basic principle on the other side, and nothing interesting gets discussed by anyone.

Instead of discussing what the appropriate tax rate should be and who should pay -- which, let's face it, is dull enough already -- the discussion we have is whether taxes are bad because government is bad, or whether taxes are good because all government programs are the cat's meow. And then the buzzer goes off and the middle school debate team competition is over.

Well, I'm sorry, but for the most part I don't love paying taxes. I view them as a necessary evil. I even view paying them as a form of patriotism. But I'm also a sentient adult who understands that a lot of that money goes to stuff I really don't like and don't think is necessary, like our enormous and bloated defense budget. Like many Americans, I think we often spend too much and receive too little benefit for the money we spend, and that our budget should look vastly different than it does, and that the tax code is completely screwed up, so I'm not going to defend the current system as if it's perfect and delight in paying for it simply because there's a Democrat in the White House. I'm also not going to take the position of "All government programs are good." Or "All poor people are noble." Or "Everything the teachers union does should be defended." Or "The higher the tax rate on the rich, the better."

And conservatives, just because I say something like "tax rates are getting pretty high" it doesn't mean I've suddenly seen the wisdom of cutting them to Paul Ryan levels, or even cutting them at all, or that now I'm on your team. I'm not. In fact, you're the real reason we're having these shitty debates, because you've gone to such an extreme that we're left to simply argue for the basic principle, like that taxes are necessary, or that global warming is real.

So, let's all grow up a bit. And if you want to watch a show where your biases are relentlessly confirmed, where children argue and no one ever concedes a point on anything, try Hannity.


wayner said...

Here in Canada we pay a shitload of gasoline taxes (why our 3.7 liters costs 2 dollars more than yours) and the roads are still terrible. WTF does the government actually do with all that tax money? Why can't public finances be published in the newspaper once a month? (it's OUR money!)

grams32 said...

I agree. It should be possible to be a liberal and still want some accountability and value for our taxes.

Anonymous said...

Hi Bill,
I had to write a pretty big check this year to the IRS and I'm glad because it meant I was employed again after being unemployed for 2 years. It also meant I am a contractor who got paid a very decent hourly wage but without health insurance or pension benefits, so I had to keep current with estimated taxes.

But that is not my point. I believe in a strong government, in regulation, and the safety net. Yet I've never gotten over the infamous $450 toilet seat line item that Mother Jones revealed about the Pentagon's budget during the Reagan years. (Heck, maybe it was a $450 hammer, I can't remember.)

When Reagan said "trust but verify" he was talking about the Soviet Union and arms control. But he could have and SHOULD have been talking about our
federal bureaucracy.

Once upon a time, we had Senate oversight making certain that private businesses did not gouge the government. That's what made Harry Truman famous in WWII, although I don't think anyone kept doing it once the Cold War began.

But we need it. We need to verify in order to trust. As it is, we are all pretty sure the money is getting syphoned off into rotten people's pockets (your 2008 or so photo of the the CEO of Exxon Oil comes to mind) and all we can hope for is a small percentage getting appropriated and spent as we hoped for.


9. E said...

It is just too easy to obtain power through the media by dumbing down public opinion via demonizing discourse as traitorous to one extreme or the other. It's nice to see your attempt to take a reasoned centrist position about taxes, but you are too easily dismissed because you insist on dumbing down public perception about religion. Your bias causes you to continually to miss significant (and humorous) opportunities to shine light on the hijacking of religious discourse. You don't really think that all of the brilliant yet devout men and women who helped create Western Civilization were simply less informed than you, do you? You always quote religious teaching for eight-year-olds, instead of knocking Bible-quoters out of their boots with context. You don't hear the Borscht-Belt humor in Adam's defense "... the Woman that You gave me made me do it"? This was originally oral teaching, and this was not played for laughs? New Testament: Could there have been anyone in any Roman-occupied land that didn't realize that a Roman governor suggesting that he was powerless over local authorities was absurd? Only Roman soldiers would believe that Jews would blame Jews while absolving Rome of any wrongdoing. This is the same "Why, yes Massa, I know it's safe here on the plantation, you take good care of us even when you have to whip us 'cause we forget how hard we must work to keep out the Devil and get to them Pearly Gates..." Come on, start giving credit and start considering how we ever managed to stop killing everybody in the next town. Somebody has to tell fairy tales for someone to hear them, but if it helps get a lot closer to the Promised Land then perhaps there is more Truth than naivete. You'd ignore a compass because it really points to Magnetic North instead of the North Pole? We will never be so close to perfection that the compass becomes useless.

Hugh Caley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hugh Caley said...

Bill, you are a wealthy and famous liberal, and you complained about tax rates, and therefore became a tool of the right.

Not really that difficult a situation to predict.

Anonymous said...

It is refreshing to hear someone who's opinions are in tune with mine. I always say I'm a democrat, but sometimes I don't agree with the herd. Bill you are my hero.

Anonymous said...

you're a misinformed douche bag faggot looking asshole and i hope when the revolution comes we hang all you fucking progressives that are having your day. it will be short lived. And im glad to see you throw your million dollars at that lying sack of shit nigger of a president and his monkey faced wife I try to watch your show and it makes me want to puke if you didn't have HBO you'd be a real nobody like you were when you had a cameo on the Roseanne Bar show as a faggot photographer how many cocks did you suck to get where you are now. why don't you put a really smart conservative on you show? Answer because they'd eat you alive 17 trillion in debt and soon to lose our status as the IMF preferred currency

Eric C. said...


Could not agree more. I hate the unlubed and uninvited penetration Uncle Sam performs on me each Spring, and I loathe how my money is being mismanaged, misspent and misused, yet I also understand some of it, albeit a small amount, goes to some good.

But, as someone who is also in the entertainment industry and does better than Joe and Suzy Six-Pack, I get a little defensive when they scream at me for having all this dough and the "nuts of California" mindset.

I don't have a solution, but I do know what is not working, and the current polarized bullshit is simply not working at all.

And oh yes, fuck the tea baggers....that was just to make me feel better.

Hugh Caley said...

"Anonymous said...
you're a misinformed douche bag faggot looking asshole and ..."

... you realize that you come off as a cowardly (anonymous) crazy person, right?

Cachae Thomas said...

I (Used to) have a 501(c)3 [and would like to prove it], So I know a thing or two about the "double-speak" in Washington.
I have since written a book entitled Red, White AND Poor, how Outsourcing & Economics have Racially Divided America.
I chronicle how to get the [Black]"community to help themselves" or lack thereof, to discrimination (i.e., my personal interview experiences) and why I'm still "over-qualified" AND Unemployed!

I also talk about the disadvantages and indoctrination of Blacks through Welfare's WEP program, etc., and would like to one day be a part of your panel - even if to only talk about my IRS experience (I'm also an authorized e-Filer).
See my [Shameless] promotional website:
I look forward to hearing from you.

Cachae Thomas said...

Hey @ Anonymous - Only Cowards post such filthy language (anonymously)...If the public were truly educated [and informed] like they were 30+ years ago, they would use their time more wisely and encourage protests in Washington - NOBODY blames BUSH for the S**T Obama had to clean up + keeping the country from sliding into the toilet...
Get Educated - as you have none!

Gary Wilson said...

A flat federal sales tax on all goods and services would take care of our national debt in a short amount of time while at the same time eliminating a lot of unnecessary government jobs in the IRS.

Michael Frost said...

Paying taxes is patriotic. A democracy takes time and commitment by the citizens. No politician can read minds or respond to silence from the citizenry.

The mature government, mature economy, and Citizens United cash orgy in Washington / Sacramento have created a negative feedback loop.

The industries that should be "checked and balanced" by the government and media have been corrupted by corporate money (Oil & Gas, Nuclear, Corporate Ag, etc.). The costs of doing ethical business in America has been externalized onto our people, our environment, and the next 3 generations' viability.

People (right wingers) sense these issues, but respond emotionally, selfishly, and lash out at the easiest target, government. Politicians don't do themselves any favors by bowing to corporate influence consistently... hence the negative feedback loop.

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