Local Commentary

Editorial: ‘Taxpayers’ Are Citizens, First

Wall Street’s impact on Broad Street (Falls Church’s Main Street) will actually be felt more in countless residential neighborhoods both here and across the planet as personal retirement and pension accounts disintegrate and local governments face steep losses in both their investment account balances and tax revenues.

Following the path of jurisdictions everywhere, those in Northern Virginia are anticipating grim cuts in basic services, and while no area of government spending is immune, despite the needs, it is regrettable that the ax may fall more unfairly on the poor and needy than on any other class of persons.

Going into the budget deliberations that will undoubtedly be the most extraordinary quite possibly since the Great Depression, elected officials in local government, in particular, and the general public in those jurisdictions will need to rise to the occasion. We will all be sorely tested in these times to show the kind of shared responsibility for society, much as was felt in America in the first months following 9/11. That is, the business-as-usual approach of pitting so-called “taxpayers” against those seeking government funding must be replaced by a fresh spirit of generosity, mutual sacrifice and compassion.

No longer can it do for elected officials to simply stand strong for “taxpayers” against genuine social needs, without carefully weighing the consequences of such an errant approach. They must grasp, as must their constituents, that there is a shared responsibility for maintaining the core values that keep our society intact, and that means funding programs that serve minorities, including children and those with mental health and economic needs.

No longer can it do for officials to also propose “across the board cuts,” subjecting every budget department to equal funding cuts, as has been proposed by the Fairfax Board of Supervisors. It is a time for careful prioritization, when capital improvements need to take a back seat to basic educational, mental health, housing and social services.

In fact, in times like those now facing us, it does not do to identify anyone as merely a “taxpayer.” Instead, we are all citizens with a shared burden to maintaining the fabric of our civilization. Citizens pay taxes in accordance with their means in our society, and in exchange, they benefit from the countless ways in which those taxes fund services that they enjoy, from public safety, to water and sewer systems, good roads, good schools and the programs that provide services to those with special needs who otherwise cannot make it on their own.

Therefore, it must never be said that a program shall not be funded because it is overburdening “taxpayers,” without first examining whether or not, and the degree to which, the merits of that program are contributing meaningfully to the kind of social environment that the so-called “taxpayer” is willing and expects to support.