“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the people discover they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy–to be followed by a dictatorship.” ― Alexander Fraser Tytler (Scottish advocate, judge, writer and historian)
“Government! Three fourths parasitic and the other fourth stupid fumbling.” ― Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
“The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.”–Albert Einstein
Hindi Saying: “Dhobi ka kutta, na ghar ka, na ghat ka’” which roughly translates to “Neither here, nor there.”
The political class of this country has to take care of the people at the bottom of the pyramid (at least once in a while) because they form the bulk of the voting population; these people basically sign the politicians’ appointment order to rule the country. The politicians worship the rich men of this country because they generously fund, albeit without much transparency, the political parties. The Tax paying population is actually in no man’s land with nobody to care for them. In fact the maxim for the tax paying population could be: ‘I Pay Taxes Therefore I Am.’ If a history book is to be written about Independent India’s achievement, the tax paying population would be mentioned just in the footnotes: ‘All the achievements of this country were funded by the country’s generous, unsuspecting and helpless tax payers.’ The only reason that we ever matter to the country is because we pay taxes, Period. Our true existence is for politicians to use our tax money to indirectly pay incentives to the poor people to elect them. It’s a good old carrot and stick approach: The politician get the carrot and the taxpayer gets the stick!
The tax payer is the poor soul caught between hell (inflation) and high water (government) that ensure that his or her hard earned money is used lesser and lesser for his or her own well-being with each passing year. The Indian Taxpayers are like the poor oxen used by a farmer to plough his barren land. The farmer (Politician) knows fully well that his land (Indian Economy) has been rendered barren (in bad shape) by his greed (rampant corruption) and nature (global economic situation), yet he expects that by making the oxen (tax payer) work harder (pay more taxes/ forego subsidies) he can get better returns (continued support from the voting population).
The Indian Tax payer is like the bonded slave of Colonial India. We are bonded for life to pay taxes to the government. We have an eternal duty to pay taxes but no right to ensure that the money that we pay as taxes is spent wisely. We pay taxes and travel in potholed roads but our tax money will used to provide free television for the Needy!!! We pay taxes and endure innumerable power cuts every year while our money is used not to build power plants or public schools or hospitals but in some arcane, utopian and symbolic public scheme that ensures the most votes for the politician who announces the scheme.
The first thing that we should be willing to keep open during our travel in this country using our personal vehicles: ‘Our Purse.’ Why should we, the tax payers pay toll duties at every toll booth? We already pay duties (taxes) to the government every month. And shouldn’t that duty (taxes) that we pay be used to build the roads. Shouldn’t the non-taxpayer who uses his own mode of transport be the one who should pay toll duties? In free India, the Indian tax payer is probably paying more duties/ tributes to the Indian Government Machinery than paid by Indians of Colonial India to their British Masters.
By the time we understand what one type of tax actually means and how much it will offset us, the government roles out yet another tax or cess. Income Tax, Professional Tax, Property Tax, Value Added Tax/ Service Tax, Toll Fees, Excise Duties, Entertainment Tax, Fuel Surcharge, Education Cess, Swachh Bharat Cess, etc., the list of assault on the tax payers income is endless. Just like the omnipresent microbes that threaten the physical well-being of individuals, the government imposed taxes and its bad policies threaten the financial well-being of the taxpayer. What is the success rate of various populistic scheme rolled out by the government? Shouldn’t the tax payer have some say in the way his or her money is spent?
What have successive governments done to broaden the tax net? What have successive governments done to catch hold of the tax evaders? What have successive governments done to bring back black money holed up in tax heavens? What have successive governments done to plug the leakages in the public distribution systems? What have successive governments done to roll back various privileges and subsidies being bestowed upon politicians and parliamentarians? The answers is an EMPHATIC NOTHING.
Politicians mask their incompetence by running media campaigns about how a Good Samaritan has to give up his or her LPG subsidy. The LPG subsidy to the taxpayer is just a drop in the ocean of government spending. The LPG subsidy to the tax payer is like ‘a pimple on an ant’s rear’: It is awfully small compared to various other spending by the government. Lawmakers, ‘Please address the real issues that are setting back this country before you target the tax payer once again.’ I guess not only in kids’ stories but in real life as well, the greedy owner (government) is hell-bent on killing the goose (tax payer) that lays the golden egg (taxes).
Why does someone who makes above 10 lakhs of income have to forego subsidies whereas parliamentarians with crores worth of personal assets enjoy subsidies and privileges of various kind? Why can’t we roll back various tax benefits given to the largest of Indian companies? How about taxing super rich of the country on any money that they have not used in productive, job creating investments (holding idle) for more than a period of, say five years? Well parliamentarians of India, ‘Please lead by example. Please say no to all the privileges that you enjoy.’ Ultimately what is the difference between the pirates of medieval times who used weapons to loot ships in high seas for their own benefit and modern day governments that use the threat of the law to make taxpayers part with their hard earned money which these governments eventually spend as they wish with absolutely zero accountability?
Note: This post has been written for IndiSpire Edition #100: ‘Gas Subsidy has been ended for people with income more than 10 Lac and prices hiked. What is your take on this decision?’