Taxes are what we pay for civilized society
I am writing in response to June England’s letter to the editor of July 24 (“Who built this business?”), criticizing President Obama’s speech about business owners and how their businesses were built with the aid of government.
I am a supporter of our President, but I also support and respect all the individual hard work many Americans put into their businesses and jobs. I thank Ms. England for her history lesson on how Samuele Sebastiani arrived in Sonoma and built his winery.
I noted that Mr. Sebastiani emmigrated to the U.S. in 1895. He probably did not build his own craft to arrive here, unaided by any existing charts or shipping lanes.
He then worked hard to earn money for a train ticket to California, using an important transportation infrastructure at least partially funded by government. In Sonoma, he used his cart and horses to deliver his wine. Again, this would not have been possible without the existence of local roads.
The real point of President Obama’s speech is that no one is able to create his or her wealth in a vacuum. Business owners must somehow obtain goods to sell or materials to make those products, customers must be able to reach the business or receive shipments from them, monies received and paid out must be protected from theft by criminals and employees must educated enough to do the needed work. None of this could happen without public infrastructure, a public safety system and public education. All of these endeavors are too large for individuals, or even small local groups, to accomplish alone.
As Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said, “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.” Today, many wealthy individuals and corporations have been able to use their money to make campaign contributions and lobby for unfair tax loopholes for themselves, and this is just wrong. While I support those who work hard being able to enjoy the fruits of their labor, the rich also need to recognize the systematic advantages they’ve enjoyed in our society and be willing to contribute their fair share of taxes.
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Beth Hadley is secretary for the Sonoma Valley Democrats and a volunteer with Organizing for America, Sonoma Valley.