« 上一頁繼續 »
Unfortunately, however, in the past many large budgets have represented extravagance, thoughtlessness, and sometimes bribery, graft, and fraud.
13. Our National Budget. The United States was the last great nation to have a national budget. This was not accomplished until Harding's administration, although attempts to bring this about had been made for more than twenty years. Taft tried a plan of this kind when he appointed a Commissioner of Economy and Efficiency, but strange to say this was bitterly fought and practically killed. The national budget bureau has a " director of the budget," who is appointed by the president and not only is responsible for getting together each year's estimates of the money needed to run the various departments, but is supposed to suggest ways whereby the departments can save money. It seems strange that it should have had to remain for the director of the budget to suggest such economies as one that was reported in 1922. The Department of Commerce had arranged to forward by rail to the Pacific coast three buoys at a cost of $2 362.28, while the director of the budget found that they could be sent by water, via the Panama Canal, for $576. The mere fact that such occurrences as this are published in the annual budget report will make the heads of departments more alert to prevent waste.
14. Each Person a Budget Critic. Important as a budget is there is no magic in it. It will accomplish only what the people insist that it accomplish. If year after year the annual budget is published and only the politicians read it, then dishonesty and inefficiency will creep in. Merely to read the figures, however, will do little good. To be correctly informed is the first step, to act in some way is the second. There are several ways of acting :
1. Writing to the local newspapers, calling attention to what seems to be extravagance or discrepancy.
2. Writing to the mayor, governor, or to one's representative in the common council, the board of supervisors, the state legislature, or Congress, calling attention to the matter.
3. Getting other people to write also.
4. Joining some such organization as a taxpayers' league or a goodgovernment association, which has committees who closely follow up the expenditures of the different government departments.
5. Discussing matters of taxation and expenditure with one's friends and acquaintances often enough to get familiarity with the subject.
15. Studying a Community by Means of the Taxes it Pays. One way of learning about a community is to find out how it spends its money. The following shows how each dollar of tax money of a small city was spent one year: State tax and assessment
$0.197 Public schools
0.189 Public works
0.162 Debt requirements
0.143 Police department
0.078 Fire department
0.069 County courts
0.035 Hospitals and health
0.034 Institutions and poor relief
0.03 General government
0.027 Public recreation
0.024 Public library
Get the corresponding figures for your community and examine them to see if they help explain why your schools are good or poor, why the public library is poorly or well equipped, why automobile thieves are not caught, why there are frequent attacks of typhoid fever.
16. How Taxes concern Everyone. Taxes concern every person in the following ways:
1. Every person either directly or indirectly pays a tax to the government. Those persons who do not pay direct taxes pay indirectly when they pay for rent, board, clothing, etc. This is because all those who pay direct taxes on land, buildings, automobiles, or incomes, charge more for the rent of land and buildings or for conveying foodstuffs by automobile. Even those persons who do not have money to spend because they are supported by others, really "pay” by having fewer . things and less desirable things than would be the case if there were no taxes. In one way or another each person pays a tax.
2. Every person can help reduce taxes in many ways that will cost nothing in money and little in time. In the public gardens at Newark, New Jersey, one year this sign was erected :
Citizens, this park is yours. It was planted for you, that the beauty of the flowers, trees, and lawn might refresh you. You will therefore
take care of it. The last sentence is the key to the way by which any and every person can keep down taxes. It takes only thoughtfulness to refrain from leaving papers, fruit skins, etc. on the ground or throwing them anywhere except in receptacles provided for that purpose. And when receptacles have not been provided it requires only thoughtfulness to carry the waste paper or fruit skins to one's home, where they can be disposed of properly. It costs the city of Boston $7000 a year to pay men to do nothing but pick up papers which the people have thrown away in the Common and Public Garden. Every cent of this could have been saved if each person had spent one minute's thoughtfulness on the matter. There are many similar ways of bringing down taxes:
a. Returning all public-library books promptly and in good condition.
b. Being as careful of all school property-plumbing, water, desks, textbooks, paper, and ink-as one would be of his own property.
c. Keeping the fruit and shade trees on one's property and on the street or road adjoining this free from destructive insects and diseases.
d. Notifying the proper officials promptly of any obstruction in the streets or any unsanitary condition in streets or yards.
e. Taking care not to waste water by letting faucets "drip.”
f. Taking pains with addressing letters and making out money orders to save the time of postal clerks in adjusting mistakes.
g. Paying all taxes promptly to save second notices.
3. Every person can belong to some association which gets information about the officials who have to do with the assessing and collecting of taxes to see that no dishonesty is practiced. In Chicago one year the Teachers' Federation found that the city officials were not assessing certain property according to the same standard as other property, and that as a consequence many taxpayers were paying more than they should and many less. In some cases buildings were not taxed at all. By taking legal action the teachers caused $500,000 to be added to the revenue of the city. Any wide-awake association that exists for the good of the community can keep in touch with the tax-levying and collecting machinery.
PROBLEMS AND EXERCISES
1. What is a tax? Show what will make taxes high. Does a high tax rate always mean that a community is a better place in which to live than one in which the tax rate is low ?
2. Get last year's tax statement for your community and find out how much of it went for (1) schools, (2) streets, (3) parks and playgrounds, (4) other improvements.
3. (a) What kinds of taxes does your state have? Are corporations taxed ? Be sure to learn whether the oil, coal, or iron ore produced in your state is taxed. (6) What taxes in the form of licenses and fees does your local government levy?
4. Make a list of all the government help received by your family (through post office, street lights, public library, etc.). Then consider what these would cost if you had to supply them for yourself.
5. Do your community and state have a budget ? How successful has this proved ? If pupils cannot secure this information from their parents, the class should appoint a committee to consult persons who will know, and then make a report to the class. The local newspaper editor, the president or one of the directors of your local bank, are persons who can help you get information.
6. Consult the official manuals of your state and community and from them compile a list of all the officials concerned with the levying, collection, and spending of taxes.
7. When in 1918 Caruso, the famous Italian tenor, sent to the government his first check in payment of his income tax, he expressed his gratitude for what America had done for him and his pleasure in paying his share of government expenses. The newspapers all over the country told of this letter. Can you tell why editors regarded this as news ?
8. In most churches each member pays as little or as much as he wishes toward its support. How do you think this plan would work with government ?
9. Do you belong to any organizations which require membership dues ? If so, tell who fixed these dues, to whom they are paid, what happens if they are not paid, for what the money is spent, whether you believe the money is wisely spent.
10. The text mentions some of the taxes paid only by those who benefit directly from them. Make a list of others—as, persons who take disputes to court must pay court expenses; persons securing marriage licenses must pay for them; property owners pay for the water used, etc.
THE GOVERNMENT OF THE COMMUNITY
1. The Community as a Unit of Government. In a preceding chapter we have learned that a community is a place where people live, work, and find part or all of their pleasures. But not every community is a town, village, or city, for a community
a is not always a unit of government. It may be only a small part of an incorporated town, city, or county, and may be separated from the central part of the legal community by many miles. Sometimes there are many communities in a single county, or even in a single township. The name of the community is usually. that of the post office and railroad station, which may be entirely different from that of the town or city. For instance, the town of North Collins, New York State, once included five different communities, each having a separate post office,-Collins, Shirley, Langford, New Oregon, Marshfield,—but all a legal part of North Collins. The difference between communities, on the one hand, and towns, townships, counties, etc., on the other, is that communities represent people, while local government units represent square miles. A whole county or township might be entirely empty of people and still remain a county or township. But a community is always an area where people live and work. No state legislature can tell in advance where a community will grow up nor how long it will continue to remain there.
A new community is automatically a part of a county and usually of a smaller unit of government. It is these which reach out to the community to do certain things for it and to demand certain things from it. It is not always satisfactory, however, to have the needs of a community dependent on town officials many miles away. For this reason, as soon as a community be