Taxes are how we function as a society

I wanted a less inflammatory title than that of of Binyin Applebaum’s Op-Ed, though he’s not wrong, “The Rotten Core of the Republican Party.”  Great stuff here:

Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the top House Republican, recently took to social media to warn that Democrats have hatched a dastardly plot. “Democrats,” he said, “want to track every penny you earn so they can then tax you and your family at the maximum possible amount.”

Well, yes. Democrats want Americans to pay the full amount they owe in taxes.

What doesn’t get enough attention is that many Republicans seem not to agree.

Resistance to taxation is the rotten core of the modern Republican Party. Republicans in recent decades have sharply reduced the federal income tax rates imposed on wealthy people and big companies, but their opposition to taxation goes beyond that. They are aiding and abetting tax evasion.

Republicans have hacked away at funding for the Internal Revenue Service over the past decade, enfeebling the agency. When the rich and powerful open loopholes in the tax code, Republicans reliably fight to keep the loopholes open. Indeed, they valorize Americans who find ways to pay less, a normalization of antisocial behavior that may be even more damaging than the efforts at bureaucratic sabotage…

Improving tax collection has another important benefit. Democracy — and capitalism — rests on a lacework of mutual obligation. People fulfill their own responsibilities because they are confident others will, too. Collecting taxes, especially from the rich and powerful, is an affirmation of that faith.

The Republican Party was reborn in the 1970s under the banner of resistance to taxation, led by anti-tax men like Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan. It remains the party’s fixation, the one major area of policy on which congressional Republicans were able to agree during the Trump administration.

By way of ideological justification, Republicans like to talk about liberty, by which they mean a narrow and negative kind of freedom from civic duty and mutual obligation…

Opposition to progressive income taxation also draws strength from an imagined democratic ideal in which the people who vote for taxation, pay the taxes and get the benefits are all one and the same.

History tells a different story. From the outset, taxation in the United States was designed as an antidote to inequality. The government initially chose to raise revenue through tariffs collected from wealthy merchants. The introduction of a federal income tax in the early 20th century was a different means to the same end. In a historical analysis published last year, a pair of German political scientists, Laura Seelkopf and Hanna Lierse, showed that progressive taxation is a hallmark of democratic governance.

Political philosophers have long fretted that democracy allows the poor to plunder the rich. The opposite has proved more nearly true. Progressive taxation is not a threat to the wealthy. It is a small price to pay for prosperity.

Cutting taxes to starve social programs is, by itself, a threat to the sustainability of the American experiment in multicultural democracy. In enabling resistance to lawful taxation, Republicans are engaged in an even more direct assault.

Having failed to constrain government spending through the democratic process, they are seeking to undermine government.

Mr. McCarthy is right to frame a fairly technical change in tax rules as an issue that goes to the heart of American democracy. Democracies impose higher taxes than other forms of government because democracies are communities of common purpose. We create and maintain our society through our contributions.

Or we don’t. And things fall apart.

I mean, it’s one thing to want lower taxes.  It’s another entirely– and sadly where the Republican Party is– to aid, abet, and even celebrate (i.e., Trump) tax evasion.  This is how society works.  

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

One Response to Taxes are how we function as a society

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    We better restrain the billionaires before we get a bunch of trillionaires. The more they have, the harder it will be to regain control of our lives.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: