Tuesday, May 04, 2010

What your tax dollars buy

Like everyone else who has to balance a household budget, I flinch every so often when I see how much of "my" paycheck is disappearing toward taxes. Between that and my retirement/health care/etc deductions, I actually take home less than 50% of my gross pay. That's pretty common.

... and then I read stuff like today's news about the Johnson & Johnson drug recalls, which are fast getting ugly. The FDA did some serious smacking of J&J, especially for its failure to take action fast when it became clear something was amiss:

In its report, the FDA said McNeil did not initiate "corrective and prevention action" after it had received 46 consumer complaints from June 2009 to April 2010 regarding foreign materials and black or dark specks in its drugs.

Reading such things reminds me afresh of why I am happy to hand over a chunk of earnings to taxes: Because unfettered capitalism is actually a pretty crappy way to run a society, and I don't especially want to worry that over-the-counter painkillers are going to kill me or a nearby toddler because it was cheaper for a company to cut corners and ignore problems. I want regulators cracking whips over those who process meat, hold savings accounts, build bridges, fly airplanes and so on.

Sure, the government could be a more efficient steward of our cash -- I like internal watchdogs and get very cranky when they're hamstrung or ignored -- but in general, I'm a big fan of this whole "pay for an infrastructure that keeps society running" deal. It was a pretty clever system for us human beings to invent.