Yesterday was Tax Day. The Tea Parties were out, and unsurprisingly, USA Today found a new way to demonize them. In an opinion for the paper, Rich Benjamin details the giddy feeling he gets every spring when he meets with his tax accountant, Howard Carlin. Benjamin loves paying taxes, and apparently that makes him a true patriot. The good news: if Benjamin is ever feeling extra patriotic, he can always have Howard send Uncle Sam an extra large check. After all, Benjamin’s tax burden is only a minimum requirement. He’s welcome to pay more. The bad news: Benjamin’s love for all things fiscally confiscatory demonstrates his lack of understanding of our founding.
No one thinks we can just get rid of all taxes—although we could ditch most of them. The Tea Party groups are upset because we are overtaxed. To counter this point, Benjamin is quick to point out that the United States has among the lowest taxes of G-8 nations. To that, I respond, “so what?” The nations he references—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and the UK—are all European-socialist economies and hardly the picture of fiscal health. Just because they’ve chosen to have tax rates that are way, way too high doesn’t mean we should be OK with our marginal rates. In perspective, we may be better off. But that’s not the same as having good policy.
As for what the founders would think: I’m pretty sure they’d be annoyed to find out that we had amended the Constitution to instate the federal income tax Bejamin seems so proud to submit. And I’m damn sure they’d be pissed to learn “tax freedom day” lands in mid-April (add another month if you’re including the deficit). After all, they went to war because their version of excessive taxation had them paid up in the first half of January.
Benjamin concludes his apologia by touting the so-called necessity of tax-funded research. Sure, the government has passed out taxpayer dollars for the research that brought about many modern conveniences. But even the inventions born out of taxpayer “investment” never soared until a private sector company realized their potential. And while government research gave us the framework for some pretty nice toys, the private sector has churned out many more thanks to venture capital firms and “angel investors.”
No one’s is denying that the citizens have to pick up the tab for government expenses. The Tea Partiers are upset because most of items on the government’s tab shouldn’t be there, and the total bill is exploding well beyond what we can cover.