Tuesday, May 28, 2024

A telling image from the Boston tea party held April 14, 2010, on Boston Common: a sign about the delights of public property, carelessly discarded on the public property hosting the event. (Photo: Occam)

Cambridge Day is part of a project called Voices of MainStreet — a weekly, nationwide Q&A in which editors at the money and lifestyle site MainStreet.com ask questions and bloggers answer them. For this entry, I was asked about paying taxes.

Tax day this year will be a new experience for me, since I’ll be in a bracket so unfamiliar that the best way to describe it is by saying I don’t expect a refund. I’m definitely eating a higher class of ramen – a taste to savor after starting 2010 with Connecticut cutting my unemployment benefits. (My crime: Being unable to afford repairs on the car I was keeping only to get to a part-time job that was more than two hours away and unreachable by public transportation or – as you can guess – carpool. To the bureaucrats in the Nutmeg State, this proved I was lazy.)

By rights, I should stop shoveling caviar down my throat long enough to join the Republican Party, open an account in the Caymans and start rallying against the damned tax-and-spend liberals who want to take the money earned from many long hours of toil getting carpal tunnel syndrome from this keyboard, and the sweat of my brow when they don’t turn the heat down.

But instead I’m grateful for the opportunity to pay the taxes. (At least I am until I see the actual hit.) And when I think about tax day, I mainly think back to last year when the tea party descended on Boston Common – complete with Sarah Palin and Victoria Jackson – to rally courageously for louder arguments and less logic. And drilling babies. I don’t know. Whatever it is they want.

There are a couple of reasons I tend to think of the tea party, one of which was, of course, the conversation I had with a couple of angry guys about my projected lottery winnings.

In classic Republican/tea party/“What’s Wrong With Kansas” fashion, these working-class guys (they boasted about how hard they worked to eke out a living) were worked up about how unfairly the mega-rich were taxed and how Democrats wanted to tax the rich even more. When I mentioned how much better the working and middle classes did and how much better the economy was when the rich had an even higher tax rate, one challenged me with: “So if you won the lottery, you’d be okay giving half of it away to taxes?”

Yeah, actually, I would. At the time, the Mega Millions prize was $105 million and, I don’t know, somehow I feel like I wouldn’t really have too much cause to complain if I got $52.5 million out of it. I guess I’m weird like that.

But I didn’t grasp the real weirdness until I’d left the rally. I was on the T headed back across the river to Cambridge and noticed a tea partyer on the train with me. I asked what he’d thought of the event, and he was pretty pleased with it. Even his trip in on the train that morning from his park-and-ride lot had been fine.

Slowly it hit me that the tea partyers I’d spoken with had come from miles around, driving on roads paid for by taxes and riding government rail, to stand on a giant lawn maintained by our tax dollars to complain about (well, about everything, actually) how government was sucking the lifeblood out of our great country. Even if you can argue for the total privatization of rail and, somehow, our freeways and the entire rest of our transportation infrastructure, in what fantasy world do all the free market fans and Ayn Rand acolytes find profit motive in carving out a giant hole in the middle of downtown for carefully maintained, litter-free grass and trees that anyone can come and enjoy for free?

This year I’m happy to pay taxes for that, then: so people can have a pleasant experience coming here to froth at the mouth against taxes and about how collective efforts such as paying for roads and parks are anti-American.