first Christmas blizzard ever in Kansas City reminded me why my wife
and I chose to live in Overland Park, a suburb of Kansas City on the
Kansas Side of the state line Taxes. We chose it because property
taxes were significantly higher than just across the border in
Missouri. Huh? Doesn’t seem to make sense, you say. Apparently we’re
not alone because we’re surrounded by neighbors who frequently get
reminded of the benefits of living where taxes are higher and reaping
the benefits of those shared expenses.
The blizzard? Right. Three
hours into the blizzard we saw city snow plows clearing our
neighborhood streets. And they came back several times in a 24 hour
period. None of us had problems getting out when we needed to. Today
we went to Church, 2 days after the snow. The minute we crossed the
state line we found ourselves maneuvering snow-packed streets littered
with cars stuck in their driveways and communities locked in. Almost
all of those who were at the early service lived on the Kansas Side
while many on the Missouri side who lived only a few blocks from Church
were homebound. Snow plows may never make it to their side streets
before the snow melts.
In our neighborhood most of us were out
shoveling not only our driveways but our sidewalks. Those with snow
blowers went from house to house without being asked wishing their
neighbors a Merry Christmas. Even teen age school children put aside
their Play Stations and cell phones to help. Why? I think a large part
of it was that the streets were plowed and therefore the mobility
barrier was only our driveways. That wouldn’t be the same if the
streets were filled with 10 inches of snow. What good does it do to
get out and shovel your driveway when you still can’t go anywhere?
So what does this have to do with taxes? When people see their money
going to local services like snow plows, good schools and civic
government a stronger sense of community and pride exist. Ironically
the more selfish people are in the short term the more isolated and
costly it becomes for them to live as a community. Communities are
made of those who are fortunate and those who are less fortunate.
Those who reach out and help each other socially, fiscally,
spiritually and neighborly are those who are healthier and live better.
I was struck by an Randall Stross editorial by in the NY Times this morning titled,
"Sorry, Shoppers, but Why Can’t Amazon Collect More Tax?”.
The article describes the elaborate efforts Mr. Bezos has gone to keep
from paying taxes to the states in which they provide services. This
gives Amazon a competitive advantage at the expense of teachers, civic
services, public roads and a whole host of other tax-based services on
which Amazon itself relies. Similar corporate measures are costing
states up to $350 billion a year and we’re all suffering for it. Mr.
Stross concludes “Amazon’s in-house counsel should help the company
meet its civic obligations — and toss “entity isolation” in the trash
can. Amazon’s employees are too scattered, its customer base and its
sales too large and the states’ fiscal crisis too grave for it to
continue to play tax-avoidance games.”
Here, here. And the next time
it snows, storms or a crisis hits. I’m glad I live in a community that
takes it’s taxes seriously.