Demagoguery Day

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

Today is officially recognized as tax day, in that today is the day that most people will observe as the deadline for filing their annual income tax forms.  I do not respect this holiday, as I have no respect for deadlines when two extension periods are so easily granted.  If you doubt my lack of respect for deadlines, you should have a talk with Janice the next time you’re in downtown Dublin.  She’ll be at the newspaper office, anxiously awaiting an email from me while telling the folks ready to crank up the printing press that they can get busy once Atlanta decides to wake up.

Janice is much too kind of a topic to talk about on a day known as tax day, so we’ll quickly change the subject into much more typical fare for a political column.  This year, “tax day” – grossly misnamed because for most of us tax day is every time we receive a pay stub that indicates withholdings – is also “tax freedom day” – the day that marks how much of the year we have to work to pay our taxes, indicating what we make for the rest of the year is finally ours to keep.

This also happens to fall on the day after the U.S. Senate failed to pass the “Buffet Rule”, a bill designed to increase taxes on the wealthy despite the Congressional Budget Office saying that the new taxes would not actually bring in much if any new revenue.  Nonetheless, you will see those on the left decry the fact that the federal budget is not balanced because Republicans refused to raise a few billion in soak the rich fees, ignoring the fact that the deficit is in trillions.  Confiscating 100% of the income of the wealthiest one percent would not even balance the budget, but that likely won’t make many stories today either.

Clearly each side has their talking points set for today.  And thus the public debate on our national tax policy will continue to be one full of obfuscation and demagoguery but clearly lacking substance.

The numbers are fairly simple, even if the solutions are not.  From 1930 to 1970, American’s total tax burden increased from 12% of income to 30% of income as government assumed a more prominent role in most of our lives.  The New Deal and Great Society programs had a lot to do with this increase.

Since 1970, our tax burden as a percentage of our income has remained fairly steady, through Republican and Democratic Presidents and Congresses.  2011’s burden was calculated by the Tax Foundation at 27.7%.

Despite tinkering with rates constantly as each President has tried to alternatively cut taxes or increase them, our various governments at the national, state, and local levels have taken almost the same percent of our personal incomes for the past 40 years.

What has changed, and changed rather significantly, is our spending.  And over the past 40 years – much longer, actually – we have demonstrated that spending is a bi-partisan problem.

Republicans like to point to those New Deal and Great Society programs and talk about trust funds nearing insolvency.  Given the chance to quickly pass payroll tax cuts the past two years, most eagerly jumped on board, all the while saying these programs must still be protected.  They should be, but no one seems to genuinely care how they will be paid for.

Democrats, meanwhile, have yet to offer any substantive changes to Social Security or Medicare programs, despite the fact that these along with Veterans Administration benefits and payments on the national debt account for all tax revenues we currently take in.  They continue to sell the provably untrue notion that if other people – pronounced “rich people” – would just pay their “fair share” then the problems would be solved.

The fact of the matter is that neither side of this debate is willing to level with the American people and tell us that we want more from our government than we are willing to pay for, and choices must be made.  We’re going to have to spend less.  We’re going to have to figure out how to increase revenues.  That’s the cold, hard math behind this problem.

As a people, we don’t like math.  It’s hard, kind of like deadlines.  And we’re rapidly approaching missing the one to fix this fiscal policy impossibility.

10 comments

  1. John Konop says:

    ………The fact of the matter is that neither side of this debate is willing to level with the American people and tell us that we want more from our government than we are willing to pay for, and choices must be made. We’re going to have to spend less. We’re going to have to figure out how to increase revenues. That’s the cold, hard math behind this problem……..

    Well said and sadly neither side are willing to have a real debate about how to solve the problems. The solutions are fairly simple, the problem is in the mirror. If you dare talk about tough medicine solutions than it becomes about killing grandma, death panels, socialist,greedy……………………………And the sad part many of you know it is BS, but still spew……………

    Real Solutions:

    1) Medicare Part D and Medicaid recipients should by drugs at the VA saving tax payers 60% on the bill.
    2) Social Security needs to be based on life expectancy and younger people should be able to fade out via mandatory saving accounts
    3) Stop blowing lives and money on being the policemen of the world
    4) End the expensive failed “War on Drugs”
    5) End the failed “No Child Left Behind” and instead focus on creating a multi track education system partnering with colleges, technical schools and business community.
    6) Create a multi tier flat tax at lower rates and eliminate special write-offs
    7) Eliminate Medicare tax and pay roll tax and replace it with a national sales tax
    8) Open up “Public Exchanges” and let us all save 20% on healthcare cost
    9) Let people legally buy medicine from first world countries
    10) End corporations and unions ability to donate unlimited money to campaigns in secret. Instead let individuals donate whatever they want as long as it is publically disclosed.
    11) Have all Americans fill out an end of life directive.
    12) Put phones in emergency rooms with a dial a doc phone number and or a local drug store with a nurse for non –emergency healthcare for uninsured and insured. Create financial incentives for the noninsured to use the phone and I am sure the public exchanges would do that already.

    Just a start……………………………..

    • peachstealth says:

      6) Create a multi tier flat tax at lower rates and eliminate special write-offs

      Isn’t that a bit of an oxymoron? How can it be both flat and multi tier?

      9) Let people legally buy medicine from first world countries.
      Just tell the drug companies that can only charge the average of what they charge in Europe, Canada, Australia and NZ. They only break even or make a small profit while the US customer pays for drug development. It should result in higher prices there and lower prices here as we all share the cost of drug development.

      10) End corporations and unions ability to donate unlimited money to campaigns in secret. Instead let individuals donate whatever they want as long as it is publically disclosed.

      If they pay taxes they have the right to participate in the election process. It should be done in the sunshine though. Otherwise it taxation without representation. I think we fought a war about that a long time ago

      • John Konop says:

        ………6) Create a multi tier flat tax at lower rates and eliminate special write-offs

        Isn’t that a bit of an oxymoron? How can it be both flat and multi tier?…

        We should have 3 simple flat rates based on income with no write-offs.

        ….9) Let people legally buy medicine from first world countries.

        Just tell the drug companies that can only charge the average of what they charge in Europe, Canada, Australia and NZ. They only break even or make a small profit while the US customer pays for drug development. It should result in higher prices there and lower prices here as we all share the cost of drug development….

        That would be price fixing.

        …..10) End corporations and unions ability to donate unlimited money to campaigns in secret. Instead let individuals donate whatever they want as long as it is publically disclosed.

        If they pay taxes they have the right to participate in the election process. It should be done in the sunshine though. Otherwise it taxation without representation. I think we fought a war about that a long time ago……….

        The constitution guarantees the rights of individuals not institutions. In fact the father of the concept Adam Smith was very suspicious of large intuitions and that is why the “Bill of Rights” is about individual rights.

  2. CobbGOPer says:

    “From 1930 to 1970, American’s total tax burden increased from 12% of income to 30% of income as government assumed a more prominent role in most of our lives. The New Deal and Great Society programs had a lot to do with this increase.”

    True, but Prohibition also had a large role. Prior to Prohibition, the US government made something on the order of one-third of its revenue from taxes on or related to alcohol (second only to customs duties; together they combined for over 2/3 of the national income). When it was banned, all that revenue dried up, forcing income taxes up (which had been relatively low to that point), and resulting in a flood of new income tax legislation (the first steps in transforming the tax code into the highly-complicated and incomprehensible mess of laws that it is today). While FDR did want more money for his New Deal programs, he also wanted to lower taxes on the working folks that were suffering under the Depression. That’s when government really started coming around to ending Prohibition: they found they could really use that tax money in order to pay for tax cuts for regular citizens, while still providing needed New Deal programs.

    Funny thing is, we’ve got another Prohibition going on, one that has cost us infinitely more tax dollars than the original version, and yet instead of learning our lesson from the first time, we continue to throw money and our liberties down the drain fighting a losing battle. On this tax day, I’d like to ask the government for that money back.

    Tough luck getting it, though.

    • caroline says:

      The quote leaves out trying to build an empire which is expensive along with the fact that more of the tax burden has been shifted onto the tax payer and away from businesses.

      Maybe you could register your vote for Gary Johnson as he’s the only one that seems to be against the war on drugs.

    • David C says:

      Yeah, way to leave out the biggest reason for jump in Federal Expenditure: The rise of a peacetime army commiserate with status of the leader of the free world. Post-WWII, the US couldn’t afford to wait until a war happened to start getting prepared.

      • CobbGOPer says:

        Not to mention fighting three wars during that time period, as well as sending a man to the moon.

  3. benevolus says:

    We could buy ourselves some time to fix SS and Medicare if we would cut defense spending to, say, only as much as the next 10 countries combined. You could make the case that over the past 40 years, DoD has been borrowing SS money and now they have to start paying it back. SS trust fund surplus is something like $2.6 trillion.

    But, anybody starts talking about cutting anything from defense and some people freak out.

  4. Jimmie says:

    (10) Corporations are People my Friend! I just love that line. It is very telling of the puppet that Team Red puts fwd.

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