There was a time when the ultimate source of pride in this country was being an American Citizen. It was an awesome thing, and we had free mandatory public education so everyone could be better citizens. We had public meetings and parties so people could be better engaged as citizens. Being an American meant being a CITIZEN in bold italic capital letters. Nothing superseded it.
But things started changing around 1980 or so with the Reagan Revolution as the concept of citizen was discounted. This reached its pinnacle during the roll up to the Iraq War as countless American citizens were demonized and attacked as traitors for not supporting a war of choice against a country that had not attacked and could not attack us.
Something had to take the place of being an American Citizen as the ultimate sign of patriotism and righteousness. Some tried “real Americans” but that just smacked of moronic stupidity. Others tried, “middle America” but that left out the majority of Americans living on the coast.
What took root was “Taxpayers” which came to symbolize everyone we were trying to serve. Why do we have to cut the benefits of public workers? The Taxpayers deserve it! Why do we need to eliminate medical care for the elderly? The Taxpayers deserve it! Why do we need to get Obama out of the White House? The Taxpayers deserve it! Why do we spend $10 million investigating Clinton’s use of his privates? The Taxpayers deserve it! Why should we deny marriage equality? The Taxpayers deserve it!
And it goes for both sides of the aisle. Seemingly rational Democratic legislators start saying we need to protect Social Security because the Taxpayers deserve it! End the Iraq War why? The Taxpayers deserve it! Eliminate bargaining for public sector unions? The Taxpayers deserve it! (Yeah, I’m looking at you Sweeney. And your well-funded 2013 primary from a union member who understands how important bargaining is.)
But there is a massive flaw that makes the use of “Taxpayers” even more moronic than “real Americans.” At least “real Americans” implies there are “unreal Americans” out there to fight.
But anyone who buys a tire for a car, a gallon of gasoline, takes a paycheck from an honest employer, rides an airplane, buys a house, buys a book, goes to the movies, or engages in any other of a billion different actions and transactions is an American Taxpayer.
In fact, you don’t even have to set foot in the United States to be a taxpayer. A Saudi Arabian can own 100% of a company operating the United States, meaning they pay taxes here. A French citizen who never left Paris could export wine, and is now an American Taxpayer. That Mexican coyote sneaking illegal aliens into the United States and gets a hotel room for the people he pays to treat them like shit is an American Taxpayer.
And you know who else is an American Taxpayer? The school teacher Chris Christie demonized the other day as screwing over American Taxpayers. The state union worker who Steve Sweeney just demonized as sucking at the teat of American Taxpayers! All of these people who the right and “left” have demonized as screwing over the American Taxpayers are American Taxpayers!
But I’ll take it one more step, and the saddest thing about what I am about to lay out for you is that it is not taking my argument to the illogical extreme. It is not reductio ad absurdum. It is simply a plain hard fact — something sorely missing in our public and political discourse today — that the following people were not only American Taxpayers but also New Jersey Taxpayers:
- Abd al-Aziz al-Umari
- Ahmed al-Ghamdi
- Salim al-Hazmi
- Nawaf al-Hazmi
- Majid Muqid
- Khalid al-Mihdhar
- Hani Hanjur
These seven men at one time or another paid New Jersey and United States sales and income taxes, gasoline taxes, excise taxes, property taxes, and any number or other fees or taxes.
And on September 11th these seven men boarded airplanes and flew them the fuck into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and thanks to some courageous passengers an empty field in Pennsylvania.
So the next time some moronic politician wants to tell you that we are doing something for the taxpayers, don’t let them use that rhetoric to shut you down. Just remind them that everyone is a taxpayer, even those who hate this country, and you don’t want to justify political actions in a way that supports the terrorists of 9/11.
We need to go back to talking about American Citizens, about citizenship, about engaging in public life as an American. These are things that Americans and immigrants can aspire to and desire. It is hard to be a good citizen. It takes work to be a citizen. You have to sacrifice to be a citizen. You have to give up evenings with your children to be a citizen. You have to waste vacation days at work to be a citizen.
All you have to do to be a taxpayer is buy a Snickers bar.