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Saturday, November 07 2009

There is a quote that hangs on the wall of my classroom that says, "War is an ugly thing.  But it is not the ugliest of things.  The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling that thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse.  A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing he cares about more than his own personal safety...that man is a miserable creature, who has no chance of being free unless he is made and kept so by the actions of better men than himself."


I don't know the author of that quote, but I do know that it is one of the most powerfully true statements ever spoken.  I also know that it has been read by nearly every student that has come into my classroom, some of whom transitioned from being my students to being my heroes as they set aside their own personal ambition to serve their country. 


For the purposes of full disclosure, the next few words I will write are not those of a veteran.  I chose, as many do, to go to college right out of high school and serve my country in ways other than military service.  Therefore, the position I am about to take in this column is not one born out of any self-serving motive.  I do not stand to benefit from this simple proposal.  Rather, these are the words of nothing more than a grateful American who believes our country has profited immeasurably from the valor and service of its veterans, and that it is time we do more to say thank you.


Parades, tributes, speeches, and church services are all important ways to demonstrate our thanks.  But our veterans, particularly our combat veterans, deserve more...something that is beyond a mere sentimental gesture, no matter how powerful and meaningful those may be.


It is time that American combat veterans be relieved of their responsibility to pay income taxes to the federal government.


I know all the arguments.  There are those who suggest that "paying taxes are our civic responsibility and duty."  I do not disagree.  But surely no one would pretend that those who have served our country in combat have not already met any definition of civic responsibility and duty.  They have not just met such a requirement, they have surpassed it.  They have defined it.


Still others would argue that though military service is undoubtedly an honorable career, so is the ministry, so is teaching, so is saving lives in a hospital.  Again, I have no disagreement with such a conclusion.  I would merely propose that while we can find reasons to honor anyone for their efforts to serve their fellow man (something we should do more of, in fact), there is something particularly distinguished about the American soldier.  While the minister, teacher, and doctor work to improve their communities, the soldier is willing to die in order to protect the very opportunity to do that work.


But what would such a change cost us?  According to U.S. Census Bureau numbers, there are currently 24.5 million military veterans in the United States.  Obviously, eliminating the tax burden of every one of those veterans would provide an excessive and immediate strain on the operations of our national government.  And whereas the eventual elimination of such a debt would be my choosing, I understand that it might not be practical to do abruptly.  But the number of combat veterans, those who have seen action in the field of battle, is a much smaller percentage.  And for those heroes, it is my opinion that their days of paying taxes should be


When discussing this belief with others, I have been challenged by those who attempt to pit my belief in a small tax burden for private citizens against this suggestion.  "If you permanently end all tax payments from combat veterans, other people - like yourself - will see their taxes increase to offset that cost," they argue.  And while I would maintain that there is much to eliminate in the federal budget that could prevent such a reality, I am also a realist in knowing that such is not likely given our current political environment.


So let me be unequivocal about this: as one who loathes the excessive tax burden our federal government places upon us, I will consent to paying an even greater percentage of my income in federal taxes if it means that those who have seen combat in service to our country will receive their U.S. tax form with the words, "PAID IN FULL" stamped across it.


I'm not sure if such a bill has ever been introduced, but I am quite sure that now is the time.

Posted by: Peter Heck AT 09:16 pm   |  Permalink   |  6 Comments  |  Email
That chapter I gave you seems very fitting for this column, doesn't it Pete? John 15:13 "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." Their duty has indeed been paid in full.
Posted by Asburystrider on 11/07/2009 22:06:41
I agree 100 percent. I would be willing to pay more so that the ones that ensure our freedom are REALLY told thank you and we love you.
Posted by Derek Vester on 11/09/2009 15:43:49
And just how is this different from 'spreading the wealth?' While i wholeheartedly agree that our veterans and active members do alot for this country, we must also look at the fact that they CHOOSE to serve this country. Where does it end? What about police and fire personnel who put their lives on the line each and everyday? Why should I have to pay higher taxes for someone who CHOSE that particular profession?
Posted by Randy on 11/09/2009 16:20:18
Oh my. You're kidding, right Randy? You don't see the distinction between the government using its power to place exhorbitant taxes on the motivated wealthy and no taxes on the lazy poor, then redistributing people's earned resources to those who have not earned it...AND...people who have served their country in hostile combat being excused from direct federal taxation. You see NO distinction between those things? In terms of where you draw the line, Peter anticipated that objection and answered it pretty clearly in saying that the soldier stands above the others.
Posted by Observer on 11/09/2009 20:01:18
How about this as a similar idea: if you served in the National Guard, you pay 25% less income tax; full time miliary state side-50% less; full time military overseas-75% less; full time military in combat zone-100% (i.e. no more income tax on local, state, fed. level for the rest of your life.)
Posted by John DeGroff on 11/24/2009 16:47:27
If this was a tactic to decrease the size and scope of the government as a whole then I say, yeah, go for it. However, Soldiers to not protect property rights. Their very paycheck is property theft caused by taxation for their NON MARKET services. Furthermore, what soldiers are doing in Iraq and Afqhanistan is fueling the fire of hatred and empowering extremists like Osama bin Ladin. We should abolish the military altogether and have private firms protect people based on market demands.
Posted by George Edwards on 01/03/2010 00:43:08

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