Saturday, April 21 , 2018, 6:51 am | Fair 47º

 
 
 
 

David Harsanyi: Glory to the Taxpayer

We must spread the burden equally to ensure our fiscal stability

When I hear about the hapless celebrity who is fleeced by his unsavory accountant for millions, I marvel at how stupid some people can be — until, of course, tax day rolls around and I realize my accountant, were he a less virtuous man, could do the same.

David Harsanyi
David Harsanyi

Yes, our tax system is fairly complex. And complexity is what makes it work. If Jane Taxpayer figures out she spends more than three months of her year working for Joe Biden, well, she might be annoyed.

Fact is she should feel blessed. As our vice president once posited, paying taxes is patriotic. So it’s worrisome that fewer and fewer Americans are asked to participate in the ethical work of paying off General Motors’ $4.3 billion second-half losses or subsidizing wind farms in Montana.

According to the Tax Foundation, this year the top 10 percent of earners are on the hook for about 73 percent of all the income taxes collected by Washington.

On the flip side, nearly 50 percent of households — because they don’t make enough or they have various deductions — don’t pay any income tax whatsoever. (Your payroll taxes “fund” your own stake in Social Security and Medicare.)

If there’s a smoother way to spread the wealth, I’d love to hear about it. But if government is a force of righteousness — a wondrous $3 trillion gift that saves lives and imbues America with hope — why is it that so many of its citizens aren’t fully invested in the magic?

To be fair, as burdensome as income taxes seem to everyone, most of us are disconnected from the genuine and growing cost of government. Tax payments have been declining for the majority of Americans (good for the economy and your freedom), while government spending is increasing.

Now, I hate people who are richer than I am as much as the next guy. But how long can we keep relying on the wealthy?

The total income taxes paid by the top 1 percent of earners as a share of gross domestic product has doubled since the early 1980s. At the same time, the bottom 95 percent of earners pay a significantly smaller share. I’m not an economist (sorcerers!), but this strikes me as an unsustainable policy.

It’s true that President Barack Obama has come up with more than $3 trillion in new taxes during his short tenure, but that’s not enough. Paul Volcker, the president’s informal adviser and a former Federal Reserve chairman, recently broached the idea of “value-added tax,” a consumption tax embedded into everything you buy, and a new carbon or energy tax. (Interesting concepts if they were fixed to future plans to cut taxes on income, labor and investment. They are not.)

It’s doubtful that raising taxes is the answer. As a study conducted by the Tax Policy Center found, even if Washington raised taxes by 40 percent, it would “reduce — not eliminate, just reduce — the deficit to 3 percent of our GDP, the 2015 goal the Obama administration set in its 2011 budget.”

Someone could mention how helpful a massive across-the-board spending cut coupled with entitlement reform would be for the long-term fiscal stability of the nation, but then again, that person would be engaging in idealistic flights of imagination.

So taxes it is. If I were running a minority party, I would make tax reform a major plank of my campaign.

Cut capital gains and corporate taxes. Simplify and flatten income taxes. Finally — and this is sure to go over well in suburban and lower-income households across the nation — spread the income tax burden more equitably so that all of us can enjoy “investing” in Washington.

After all, if your taxes were tied to their spending in any substantive or immediate way, politicians would be ... well, they’d be in trouble.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State. Click here for more information, or click here to contact him.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.


Maestro, Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover, Debit

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >