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.