The Political Werewolf
If you know me, then you know I'm a big political nut. So, I've decided to add my own personal flavor to the realm of political discussion. We'll be talking about various issues - some of them having to do with current events, others perhaps more on a philosophical level. But in any case, you're free to respond to whatever you read here, either by E-mail or on the message board.
All righty, here we go.
It's My Money, Not TheIRS
I'd like all of you to do me a favor. Tax day was about a week ago, so you should be able to retrieve your W-2 forms from this year's tax return. First, I want you to look at the amount listed as your gross income. Now, I want you to look at how much is in each of the Social Security deductions, FICA, and both state and federal withholdings. You do realize that this money came straight out of your paychecks, without you ever even getting a sniff of it, right?
Now, think about how many manhours you've spent to pay all of these taxes - along with any extra taxes you owed afterwards. Take me, for example - For every eight-hour day I worked, the first hour was spent paying for Uncle Sam and Uncle Gray's budgets. And the more you make, the larger segment of it goes straight into the US Treasury. For the average American, last Saturday was Tax Freedom Day - the day of the year when they've made enough money to pay their income tax for that year.
If anyone thinks that there isn't a problem with a society in which the first third of the year is used simply to catch up to the IRS, then I'd like to ask them to please - please - explain to the rest of us why the government needs so much of our money. Keep in mind - there are so many myths and fallacies regarding taxes that coming with a valid reason will be almost impossible. For one thing, you ask any liberal what they think about tax cuts, and it's likely you'll get at least one of the following rebuttals:
1) "What, and take money away from schools and Social Security? You fiend!!"
Let's take these three arguments one at a time, shall we?
First of all, tax cuts have proven to raise tax revenue, not decrease it. When John F. Kennedy lowered the marginal tax rate from an asphyxiating 90% to a still outrageous but less egregious 72% in 1961, revenues soared. The same thing happened when Reagan cut taxes in the '80s. Liberals are anxious to point out all the horrific deficit spending that went on at the time, but what they won't tell you is that for every dollar in increased revenue that was brought in, the Democrat-controlled Congress spent $2.83. And of course, they use this as an excuse to put a kibosh on any tax cut that comes their way, and even raise taxes when the public's not looking.
Secondly, liberals can't seem to get over what we'd use this extra money for. What if we waste it? They ask. The answer, believe it or not, is that the money won't be wasted because it can't. If I get an extra $500 thanks to tax cuts, I might put it in the bank. Or I might upgrade my computer. Or I might buy 200 bags of potato chips. No matter how I spend it, the money's going back into the economy - and that's where it belongs. The more money that is in the hands of the taxpayers, the more they have an opportunity to grow the economy, create jobs and increase productivity - all of which results in those boosted revenues I mentioned earler.
So now, maybe you're getting your opponent to side with you a little. Maybe they understand that a lower tax rate historically results in higher tax revenues, and that money will help stimulate the economy no matter what. But now, they whip out the old trump card - the "tax cuts for the rich" bit. Some of them might even use that "top 1%" line that Al Gore made so famous. And of course, once they reach this point, they reveal two things: their tendency to use class warfare as a means of persuasion (because, after all, the rich don't deserve all the money they have, and surely won't mind parting with a larger percentage of it), and their naiveté about who actually pays all the taxes.
According the the IRS (yes, the evil agency itself), the top half of all wage earners pay - are you ready for this? - ninety-six percent of the taxes in the country. Let me run that by you one more time. Ninety-six percent. Why bother having a tax cut if it isn't going to go to the people who are actually paying the lion's share of the amount? (And a mighty big lion, if you ask me). And even if they use the top 1% argument, you might want to ask them what the income floor of the top 1% is. It isn't $100,000,000. It isn't $10,000,000. It isn't even $1,000,000. To be part of this ultra-wealthy top 1%, your annual income need only total $370,000. Granted, that's a lot of money, but it's not enough to make collecting Ferraris a hobby or allow you to jet to Paris once a month. And it's definitely not a lot to be forced to fork over half of it to the government when April 15 rolls around.
Of course, one of the easiest ways to alleviate all of the problems in the tax code today (including how utterly confusing and overbearing it is) is by simply having a flat tax. It shouldn't be too difficult to find a tax rate that not only keeps all taxpayers in good financial standing, but also makes sure that the government gets all the money it needs to carry out its functions. In fact, one country has already adopted a 13% falt tax rate, and has seen over 400,000 new businesses formed while tax revenues jumped up 50%. Care to take a guess which country? Here's a hint - they were once the cradle of Communism.
But there's one other issue regarding taxes I want to air out, one that goes beyond simple accounting. There's a tendency for liberals to clamor for taxes for the sake of morality. Quite often, they aren't able to ban something outright, so instead they levy a huge tax on it. I don't smoke, but I do think the $1.15 in taxes paid on one pack of cigarettes is more suffocating than what it's actually taxing. Looking for a scapegoat to blame the epidemic of childhood obesity on, California legislators tried to pass a 2¢ tax on cans and bottles of soda. To reduce the amount of carbon dioxide (no, not monoxide, dioxide - you know, the stuff you're exhaling right now?), the same legislators wanted to form an advisory board that would've made such recommendations as an extra $1/gallon gas tax (to go along with the highest prices in the country already), a $3500 fee on every SUV and light truck sold, and a 2¢ tax on every mile you drove. It's not just about raising money anymore - it's about finding ways to do it that also impose a strict set of guidelines on your lifestyle. This while liberals threaten us by saying that the dastardly Religious Right wants to "tell us how to live".
Wherever you go, Uncle Sam's trying to get into your wallet. There's an income tax, a sales tax, a gas tax, a cigarette tax, a property tax, a Social Security tax, a water tax, a phone tax, a hotel tax, an airline tax, a Medicare tax, and when you finally up and die, there's the estate tax to take away all the money that was left over which you had already paid taxes on. If you still don't think that we as a country are way overtaxed, then maybe you can do me a favor and pay my taxes too.
Previous columns:4/14/03: Bush Won - Get Over It
4/7/03: Conservative Business 101
3/31/03: I'm a Celebrity - No War in Iraq!
3/24/03: Patriotism vs. Nationalism