Coloradans should resist divisive rhetoric concerning taxes, government

I write to affirm the point made by the author of the Feb. 16 letter “Salary talk detracts from greater budget concern.” The author correctly notes that rather than blaming salary, “you actually should blame every person who says ‘taxes for education are a burden,’ rather than ‘taxes for education are an investment in the future.’” I want to affirm the author’s point because it’s so easy to hear (listen, listen) the anti-tax zealots already sharpening their knives to go after such an important (if obvious) truth.

For many years, many in politics and business-centric “think tanks” (including some powerful forces from outside our state) have maintained a divide-and-conquer strategy. Their rallying cry has centered upon demonizing taxes: all taxes, regardless of their purpose. With propagandistic phrases like “starve the beast” and “it’s your money,” this effort has sought to cast government (including universities) as tax-wasting enemies and the “free market” as the solution. (Who crashed the economy, again?) In the process, large portions of the voting public have become confused about where their actual self-interest lies. As Cornell University’s Suzanne Mettler shows in a recent nationwide survey, “Almost half of people who received such submerged state benefits as home mortgage interest deductions, student loans or the earned income tax credit reported that they had not used a government social program.” Source: http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/March11/MettlerGov.html

We here in Colorado would do well to resist the disconnection of perception and reality and the divisive rhetoric which makes taxes and government the enemy. The result of such rhetoric, as we've seen, is in effect to say that caring for one another--and investing in our future--is not important. But most people have a moral and economic compass which points in a different direction. We would do well to argue more imaginatively and forcefully for what is, in fact, the truly popular cause: a knowledge economy and a state which makes taking care of its own the most important mission.

David Hildebrand
Philosophy, CU Denver