Earlier this week, PolicyMic pundit Tarsi Dunlop wrote a piece making the claim “I am proud to pay my taxes.” The logic behind this statement is that it is important for us to invest in the middle class by providing schools, building roads, researching, and developing alternatives to our current fiasco. She assures us that she does not hold the government as some demigod of peace and love that will solve all of our problems, but that if we don’t invest then the whole ship of state will be unable to fulfill the basic responsibilities that we expect from our government. The article makes the logical conclusion, though does not outright state it, if you are paying less then “you should” or nothing at all, than you’re not doing your patriotic and moral duty to ensure society continues to prosper. It also makes the conclusion that these individuals are, for the most part, the very rich. The final conclusion, is that the only way we can ensure that everyone pays their fair share is electing Democrats because, despite the fact they have many, many flaws, at least they will ensure that everyone holds up to their commitment to society.
There is one slight problem with this conception. Most people that do not pay taxes are the middle class and the poor. Gasp a shocking truth that destroys the argument. In 2011, 53.6% of those that did not pay taxes were in the lowest 20% on the income bracket. I was one of them, and I will be one of them again in 2012. The federal government believes that it is better for me to live off of my $7.25 an hour I earn working then to be dependent on welfare. The problem is when you have large sums of debt and deficit spending, the value of the currency diminishes. So my $7.25/hr is able to buy less and less each year. If I cannot find a higher income job in time, then I will soon fall into the dependent category, despite working several jobs and living in a back office (thank God the town I live in doesn’t have housing regulations!).
The problem, according to my PolicyMic colleague, isn’t the 99.4% of Americans earning fewer than $100,000 per year that do not pay taxes; it is the 0.6% of Americans that are earning more than $100,000 that are not paying taxes. Why are these evil people shirking their responsibility and undermining society?!
The answer is they are not. These individuals are contributing to society by voluntarily giving money to charities that help the poor and other individuals become well and more functioning members of society. The government believes that these philanthropists deserve to write off a percentage of what they give from their taxes in order to encourage them to give more than they would otherwise. In this way, the government is encouraging a form of voluntary wealth redistribution that appeals to even most conservatives. Where is this money going? It is going to the scholarship funds that are paying for student’s tuition. It is going to the homeless shelters and food banks that are supporting the people the government chose not or cannot help. It is going to research institutions to help develop cures to diseases. It is going abroad to help spread American good-will to countries that do not have the privileges that we have here in America. The fact of the matter is, the voluntary giving of funds to private charity is the most American way of providing these services.
So, what about the roads and schools – obviously I am calling for the undercutting of school budgets and the implementing of mass toll roads system that will hurt the poorest of the poor. Not really. Today, our federal road spending is funded by gasoline taxes – with few exceptions. Your 1040 had nothing to do with the roads. Our education system is funded by local and state-level spending almost exclusively. The amount of money going to your school from the federal government is, unless you are living in one of the parties favored districts, barely enough to cover a few teachers salaries. Even so, the government today has the ability to live within its means with spending reforms in other areas of our lives – such as the way regulations are created and implemented (today they are created by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats – and we call it democracy?). It is estimated that these regulations cost $1.75 trillion annually, and specifically target small businesses (large ones lobby for exemptions, which most of them will get, small business incur higher costs, reducing revenues and decreases product marketability.).
Paying taxes isn’t necessarily moral. In an ideal world, everyone in the U.S. wouldn’t have to pay income taxes because the rich gave so much of their money to private charity that they were completely exempted. When a person voluntarily gives because of the goodness in their heart we call it charity, a moral virtue.