Edward Abbey states in Eco-Defense that it is indeed appropriate and necessary for civil disobedience to be used as a means to protect the environment (344). The environment cannot speak for itself, stand up for itself, defend itself, yet, without intervention, its destruction is imminent. Only a few, greedy people would benefit from its destruction. Millions would be subject to harm from its demise. Yet, so few people seem to notice, take action, or seem remotely aware of the destruction of the environment that is occurring right around them every day.
Continuing with his argument of the blindness of the American people, Abbey then discusses the politicians. These representatives of the American people are not being true representatives of their constituents. Elected to office to vote based on the wishes and opinions of the people which they serve, the politicians are instead being swayed to vote by the interests of the commercial enterprises that fund their campaigns. The public, again, do not appear, in large part, to notice. Voter apathy is, in a large part, to blame. In many elections, less than 50% of eligible, registered voters bother to vote. Most people who can legally vote do not do so. The voices of most people are not being heard in Washington! If this is the case, laws are not being made that most people agree with. Rather, laws are being made that the wealthy want in place. The wealthy want to become wealthier. The apathetic general public is blindly and ignorantly allowing them to do so. The 99% issue that has come to play may become an even narrow margin if this continues to spiral.
As I agree with Abbey that civil disobedience is appropriate to call attention to the problem of environmental degradation, I believe it will have two effects: it will help people become aware of the problem itself and it will help them realize that being involved in the election process is a way in which they can help solve this problem and others as well. This being said, Abbey’s method is one which will cause no physical harm to others, and that is essential as violence is never the answer when a peaceful solution can be used. In that, he is correct. By using peace, he is demonstrating peace to mankind and the environment, both are positives, and few could find either disrespectful.
Another area where people demonstrate great concern but display little power because of voter apathy is frustration with taxes. By combining active voter turnout with civil disobedience in acting on and insistence on tax reform, people could send a message to Washington that the middle class, the majority of Americans, are tired of carrying the tax burden of most of the nation. There are several different types of tax reforms being offered. Any one of them is probably better than the complex and unfair tax code that the Internal Revenue Service now imposes on Americans.
In a complex study, Kuang et al (2011) studied a national tax and found that it does not end up being fair for most middle class Americans. Although the tax, which is referred to as the fair tax in their study, is much less regressive throughout the lifetime of an average middle class American, it is surprisingly not as progressive as the current system. Policymakers are still drawn to tax reform plans such as a national tax because it is simple and people like simple and efficient, easy to understand plans. Americans still want equity, and that is where the concern rightly is founded according to this study. A reform plan needs to consider efficiency along with progressivity before being implemented (377-379).
Donald Marron is the director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. His description of America’s tax system is described in the following paragraphs. Simply stated, the tax structure is a mess. It is complicated without need. It is unfair. It harms the economy. It does not raise enough capital. It needs to be reformed. This reform needs to be a top priority for the politicians in Washington, no matter what their party, as well as other elected officials and all citizens in the country. It is estimated that most Americans have seen their tax burden grow by 20% over the past decade. The national debt has also grown during this same period.
Americans should insist that their taxes do at least five things, states Marron. There should be enough taxes for the country to pay its bills. There should be more reliance on energy and environmental taxes. Taxes should be based on consumption rather than income. The tax burden should be an equal burden regardless of income. Taxes should be on a broad base and a low rate. This would mean lowering deductions, or tax rewards, the main reason the tax code is so complex (“Can Tax Reform Save” 55-56).
Harvey Galper (2010), a tax expert working with the federal government, takes the view of looking at compliance and being responsible stewards of money and answer to the taxpayers. He admits that the rules are so complex that even as tax professionals, the government employees sometimes need to guess what the tax codes and rules really mean when they are being interpreted. He acknowledges that the lack of understanding is scary – and wrong. Galper also discusses the staff that exclusively studies tax compliance, preparation, and administration that also guesses the understanding of the complex rules and knowingly make mistakes. This is a common and accepted practice at the tax offices of the government (vii).
Carbaugh and Koushik (2011) are two more economists who agree that the tax code must be changed. The $1 trillion deficit that they mention has grown to $1.5 trillion today. Carbaugh and Koushik mention the focus that politicians give to special interest groups as well as economic incentives for large businesses and wealthy Americans instead of an equal tax system for all Americans. They discuss an efficient tax system to spur economic growth to help out country end its current recession instead of the government focusing on the interests of the powerful lobbies in Washington. These experts also discuss how some Americans under-report their income to try to avoid paying taxes because they are so oppressed and feel victimized by the current system. Again, a progressive and flatter tax system is mentioned as more fair and a way to reduce the deficit. A reduction in tax breaks would help to broaden the tax base. A national sales tax is also discussed. Simplifying the corporate tax code is discussed as well as a means of keeping jobs in this country (77-78).
It is true that Americans are traditionally apathetic. Yet, complaints about taxes are heard almost every day. If people are going to speak out to each other, which they already do, nothing gets done. Registering to vote, and voting, speaking out to the elected officials who have power, and holding them accountable, is how changes are made. Protests that are done peacefully can help this message spread. Voices need to be heard – by the right people – in the right way.
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