We’ve been hearing a lot about the dangers of big government recently, and how taxes will destroy the foundations on which this country was built. But apparently there’s one giant caveat: taxes are okay, as long as they support the memory of the Confederate cause. Yes, you read that right. According to the AP, the state of Alabama retains a property tax that was originally used to fund the Alabama Confederate Soldiers’ Home. Since the last Confederate veterans died decades ago, the home is closed, but its presence is commemorated by Confederate Memorial Park. According to officials, the tax brings in approximately $400,000 annually for the park’s upkeep.
In the grand scheme of things, $400,000 may not seem like a lot of money. After all, Alabama’s total operating budget is $1.8 billion, so this tax is quite miniscule. But it allows Confederate Memorial Park to remain one of the most beautiful in the state, despite its troubling name and history. Through the decades, this tax has been pared down and distributed among other veterans’ services. Basic funding for the park, however, has never been threatened, in part because few people were aware that the tax existed.
This is not a good time for historical sites in Alabama: workers at Helen Keller’s home fear losing artifacts because of a lack of state funding. Other state monuments, like historic Ft. Gaines, are also threatened by evaporating funds. But when Gov. Robert Bentley eliminated state funding for historic funding, the Confederate park survived. This is because of outcry from organizations like the Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy.
The AP reports that “tax experts say they know of no other state that still collects a tax so directly connected to the Civil War.” It seems patently absurd that Republican legislators should be able to get away with funding a park that glorifies the history of slavery, especially in a time when other historic sites are struggling for survival. But it certainly shows Alabama politicians’ willingness to use public money to preserve the memory of a racist past.
Photo from divemasterking2000 via flickr.