21 February 2008

My Tax Dollars

There's an army air base on the west side of town. As I was driving past it the other day, I saw a whole bunch of small planes taking off, circling around, and then landing. Among my first thoughts was: "My tax dollars at work. I wonder how much they're spending to go around in circles like that."

Most people who use that phrase are using it to disapprove of governmental services they wouldn't personally want to contribute to, such as the welfare system. (Not I in the above instance, to be clear.) So my second thought was: "I bet nobody ever thinks about 'my tax dollars' when they see evidence of military training."

Because of course we need our military to be well-trained so that they can do their jobs. Nobody questions that. Fighter pilots are doing noble, glamorous things in the name of defending the country - and flying around in pointless circles is a necessary precursor.

Meanwhile, people attempting to feed their families and have some semblance of a happy life are parasites. I guess it's not glamorous enough to do that - even though being fed is a necessary precursor to doing much of anything else.


John the Scientist said...

You have got to train sometime. I'd rahter have tax dollars spent training than lose moany and lives when the excrement hits the fan.

My objections to military spending have more to do with the Quartermaster Corps and congressional prioritization.

MWT said...

Yeah. I was actually trying to say the opposite of what it looked like I said, by first making the reductio ad absurdum argument, and probably all I did was piss everyone off. So I fixed it (sorta). Though in retrospect this was probably a good example of a thought that was only half-formed and shouldn't've seen the light of day for a while yet.

Uh. Sorry, everyone... please come back. o.O

John the Scientist said...

I'm not going to leave because you disagree with me. I take it as a given we'll disagree about 50% of the time.

MWT said...

That's comforting... in a dun dun DUN! kind of way... ;)

I've been enjoying the back fence chats. It's been insightful digging into the whys and wherefores of where we disagree.

TroyBoy said...

Could you give an example of "people attempting to feed their families and have some semblance of a happy life are parasites".

MWT said...

That one is hard to see unless you've had to buy stuff from a grocery store with food stamps (or have friends who've had to do it). There tends to be lots of people looking down on you, and even making snooty judgemental remarks about what you're spending their tax dollars on. If you buy anything they consider "frivolous" for example, like a birthday cake for your kid, or a soda to give to a visitor.

From jill | September 3, 2005 04:35 PM on the Being Poor article at Whatever:

Being poor is having the grocery store checker give you dirty looks and make comments to the next customer about "my tax dollars being wasted" when you use food stamps to buy a day-old cake on sale and a package of birthday candles for your child.

Being poor is being overwhelmingly grateful that the next person in line says to the checker, "I can't think of a better use for my tax dollars than to pay for a poor child to have a birthday, you heartless prick."

John the Scientist said...

Yeah, there's a fine line there. back before Welfare Reform (thank you Clinton!), it was seriously possible to game the system.

When I was a grad student, I made about $10 K per year, and it was taxed. We used to shop at a grocery wholesaler. We scrimped and saved and bought the chicken that tasted like fish because they fed those birds ground up fishheads.

People in front of me would have carts literally full of steaks and shrimp, and pay for the lot on foodstamps. I would come away from grocery shopping seething with rage.

Since Welfare Reform I have not seen such things (I'm a cheap bastard and still shop at wholesalers, but I can afford the chicken that tastes like chicken, now ;-) ), but unfortunately people my age or older still associate food stamps with third-generation welfare families.

Shawn Powers has a nice post about the welfare system working the wya it should for him. I do try hard not to look down on people with food stamps anymore, but those attitudes run deep, and I have to work at it. And in all fairness, I have not seen abuse like I witnessed in grad school since about 1997 or so.