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Published: Tuesday, 1/16/2001

Annual tax-giving time reminds us of what we receive in return

Parting with one's cash can be such sweet sorrow - especially when the money goes off to Uncle Sam. It's nice to make enough to appear on the radar screen of the Internal Revenue Service, but it is painful to send the check.

Millions of us will be mailing the quarterly installment of estimated taxes today (it would have been due yesterday, of course, but yesterday was a federal holiday).

Many of us don't mind paying taxes several times a year. It's not that we're deliriously happy to do so - given that there's still some inequity in the tax system, and there's still too much waste and perhaps a fair amount of corruption.

It's just that we appreciate the good that comes out of tax money. You might call it “your tax dollars at work.”

The Internet you enjoy is here mostly because of the need for a network for our defense effort. Your workplace is safer because of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. You will probably live longer because of medical research funded largely by your tax dollars. The variety of television shows you enjoy would not be as great without satellites resulting from our government's space program.

You can drive across country in a fraction of the time it took before interstate highways. And your trip will be safer because of air bags, collapsible steering wheels, seat belts, energy-absorbing bodies and frames, and many other improvements monitored by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

Millions of Americans got an all-expense-paid trip to Vietnam or Korea in the 1950s, '60s, or '70s or to Europe or the Pacific in World War II. You seldom hear any of them complain about their service or the money Uncle Sam had to spend. Those of us who bought our first homes under the GI Bill of Rights or who finished college on the GI bill certainly aren't complaining about where the tax dollars went.

Your food is cheaper and safer because of the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. Your investments are safer thanks to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Many Americans have more civil rights because of the federal government. And millions will benefit from job-training programs, loans for small businesses, and college financial aid.

The 401(k) plans that have changed the way American workers think about retirement and savings - and even the way they think about wealth - are aided and abetted by Congress and the IRS (which means many other taxpayers have had to, in effect, subsidize the tax-deferred savings).

Young and old Americans benefit from federal programs. Medicare is a tremendous help for many elderly nursing-home patients and those who depend on prescription drugs. For millions of working taxpayers with young children, the Earned Income Credit has become a lifeline. For others, with elderly parents, assisted housing is a godsend.

Our highly successful space program not only gave us tremendous national pride but also produced many useful spinoffs - better computers, worldwide communications, stronger and lighter materials, fuel-cell technology, and freeze-dried foods, just to name a few

Our tax dollars have given us cleaner air, better medicines, high-tech defense, and research that could make life easier for coming generations.

If you're among the taxpayers mailing estimated payments today, you're lucky. Count your blessings.

Homer Brickey is The Blade's senior business writer.



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