Find a better way to argue about income taxes, please

posted at 5:13 pm on April 11, 2010 by CK MacLeod

I hate the following argument, and I tend to think that conservatives are fools to make too much of it. Mark Steyn:

And yet for an increasing number of Americans, tax season is like baseball season: It’s a spectator sport. According to the Tax Policy Center, for the year 2009, 47 percent of U.S. households will pay no federal income tax. Obviously, many of them pay other kinds of taxes — state tax, property tax, cigarette tax. But at a time of massive increases in federal spending, half the country is effectively making no contribution to it, whether it’s national defense or vital stimulus funding to pump monkeys in North Carolina full of cocaine (true, seriously, but don’t ask me why). Half a decade back, it was just under 40 percent who paid no federal income tax; now it’s just under 50 percent.

Such observations recently led Doctor Zero to attempt a thought experiment about excluding “net tax-consumers” from the voting franchise. See, according to the Doctor and Mr. Steyn, or at least the line of thinking with which they’re publicly experimenting, everyone who isn’t (currently) paying any federal income tax is virtually a free rider, a mere spectator, and is no longer adequately invested in public affairs to be consulted – or, worse, is merely in the game to steal more and more from authentically productive citizens.

Tho if you really want to set my blood a-boilin’, and want to risk turning many a potential Tea Partier back into a Democrat, and want to conjure the image of conservatives as confoundingly out of touch, just try abbreviating the above argument – as I’ve heard assorted pundits, politicos, and sinecured think tankers do – to “soon a majority of Americans won’t be paying any taxes.” Even quickly amending that to “no federal taxes” or “no federal income taxes” will at best lower the ol’ blood temperature to “rapid” rather than “boiling off.”

On the face of it, on the level of the real world shorthand takeaway, the argument seems to put conservatives on the side of higher taxes for some number between 0 to 100% of the poorer half of the population, and according to some species of a “fairness” justification. You guys sure that’s where we want to be? At the same time, it ignores some of the primary causes of this creeping re-structuring of the income tax revenue base – e.g., an aging population, increasingly also an under- and unemployed population.

Most significantly to the average irresponsible free riding spectator and thief undeserving of the vote, the argument rather completely ignores, or flagrantly minimizes, all of the taxes and fees that lower income people pay, usually under an extremely regressive structure. Just so everyone’s clear on exactly what that means: the poorer you are, the more they hurt, to the point of hurting a lot.

I’m not just talking about the taxes and fees that Steyn concedes before he gets to his “but” sentence. In a time when the federal government has routinely raided entitlement revenue to fund ongoing expenditures, to the point of defunding the programs, how are Social Security and Medicare taxes anything other than a flat income tax (double-sized for the self-employed) that’s reverse means-tested – since, by virtue of the cut-off (ca. $100k these days), high income people don’t pay into the program at anywhere near the same overall rate that lower income people do?  (Atención! – AP –  maybe this can help explain those “mystifying” survey results.)

Here’s my thought hypothesis: The Dems opened themselves to means-testing when arguing for the Obama tax rebate, suggesting it would help people burdened by those FICA taxes. Oopsie! Only conservatives were supposed to be evil enough to question the premises of our sacrosanct “equal” “social insurance” contributions. How about dropping the whole insurance charade – it’s always been one – eliminating the cut-off, means-testing both contributions and benefits (including taxes on the latter), putting in a realistic retirement age and cost-of-living-adjustment, then getting back to me when you’ve calculated the impacts of various rates on unfunded obligations? (I’m really curious about this one – but I still have to do my own $&*^@! taxes.)

Now back on the rest of our mere spectator’s burden:  Residents of relatively high tax states will typically be paying a second, completely regressive tax in the form of sales taxes, usually pushing 10%, biting every day, sometimes several times a day. Most will pay a third set of usually highly regressive fees for government services on the municipal level and higher – often through utility fees that include within them additional charges from that federal government that we’re supposedly uninvolved with. And relatively low income people are of course the ones hardest hit by gasoline taxes, which will typically include both a federal and a state component. We poor people have also been paying ever higher, noticeably higher rates for everything from college tuition, to smokes, to postage – fed + state + local, directly and indirectly, you think we have the time to sort out which goes to which goes to which?  We can hardly stand even to look!

I’m also aware that, one way or another, even before the possible imposition of a new national sales tax (VAT) – for which Mr. Steyn and Doctor Zero seem to be providing a moral argument, regardless of whatever they believe about a VAT on its own terms – all levels of government and indeed the economy are interwoven, via unfunded mandates and regulatory burdens, and increasingly by the massive overhang of federal debt.

I’m guessing that people like me will be paying disproportionately for it all, for that last one especially – possibly through inflation/monetization, possibly by some other means.

Partly as a result of ’08-’09 fiscal crisis, my main business (collectibles sales over the internet) was devastated for a few months: A chart of my turnover would look a lot like the stock market, and the loss of business will be reflected in a lower income tax “contribution” than in prior years. Though I haven’t yet tallied up the results – I may not finish doing my $&*^@! tax return until around 4:50 PM PST, April 15, 2010 – I already know that that I’m feeling pretty darn overtaxed already, even before I calculate whatever small portion of my total tax burden is called “federal income taxes” by people like Mr. Steyn, whose argument (regardless of what Mr. Steyn himself thinks about the big picture) seems to say that I need to send even more money that I don’t have to the government, so that I can feel more invested in what it does.

Trust me, I feel quite adequately “invested” in government policy. I’ve got plenty of skin in the game. Shed more every day. Don’t have much extra skin left at all, matter of fact. Whatever conservatives have in mind with this argument, I cannot see why they think it will get them somewhere to seem to be whining for still more flesh.

cross-posted at Zombie Contentions

This post was promoted from GreenRoom to HotAir.com.
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+1

The conservative version of “moral taxation” is no more useful than the liberal one.

Lehosh on April 11, 2010 at 5:19 PM

Intersting factiods do not a public policy make . Ever hear proposal to give one additional vote for every year spent wearing this country’s uniform ? Don’t think it would go to far , that equal protection thingy from that pesky negative rights document seem to eliminate super citizen status .

borntoraisehogs on April 11, 2010 at 5:20 PM

I read Steyn’s entire article yesterday, & I don’t believe he ever called for a tax increase on the poorer half. He’s just pointing out that lower-income folks aren’t as likely to vote for smaller gov’t when the politicians are taking money from the richer half to buy stuff for them.

itsnotaboutme on April 11, 2010 at 5:21 PM

Amen.

Free Constitution on April 11, 2010 at 5:23 PM

The whole argument arises, it seems, from this effort by conservatives to try and figure out why the poor are always voting for Democrats (and the welfare state by proxy). The idea being that the poor must be an organized group of vampires voting themselves more largesse.

But the truth is that, because of the regressive structure of secondary taxes and “fees” created by politicians too cowardly to vote for visible taxes, the poor really do need the government handouts. especially in states like New York or California.

Lehosh on April 11, 2010 at 5:23 PM

Tho if you really want to set my blood a-boilin’, and want to risk turning many a potential Tea Partier back into a Democrat, and want to conjure the image of conservatives as confoundingly out of touch…

Bye.

Inanemergencydial on April 11, 2010 at 5:24 PM

Thanks for sharing those deep thoughts.

Mr. Steyn, whose argument (regardless of what Mr. Steyn himself thinks about the big picture) seems to say that I need to send even more money that I don’t have to the government, so that I can feel more invested in what it does.

Federal entitlements without federal income tax, that’s the key; the state local taxes aren’t feeding the social state in the same way. Steyn is walking through an old Churchill quote about the people voting themselves the treasury. Send Steyn an email and ask him to explain it to you and maybe you’ll make the mailbag.

Spirit of 1776 on April 11, 2010 at 5:25 PM

Yes, all working folks do pay “income taxes”. It’s just called FICA/unemployment tax.

These are taxes on income, and it all ends up in the same pot, essentially. Money is fungible.

I find the “48 percent don’t pay federal income tax” to be misleading. I want to know how many people don’t pay any federal tax on net. I don’t think it’s that many people.

Obviously, with VAT, everybody will be paying, retiree and working person alike.

meep on April 11, 2010 at 5:27 PM

CK, the point of the argument is that our tax code is designed to foment class warfare. It is built not only to screw the rich, but to obviously screw the rich, while actually also screwing the productive middle class, and send the spoils to the poor. Its purpose is that Democrats can go to the poor and middle class and say “The rich keep getting richer. For some reason, the Republicans want to cut taxes for the richest people. Vote for us, and we’ll make them pay.”

The fact that other taxes (like Medicare) are regressive in actuality doesn’t bother us that much, because it has the desirable effect: making everyone feel the pain when they vote for greater spending. The idea of a flat tax or fair tax is not to punish the poor, it’s to make sure that no one is voting for taxes and spending that don’t apply to themselves. The Democrats know that if this ever becomes reality, their access to our money is going to tighten up real fast.

joe_doufu on April 11, 2010 at 5:27 PM

We should do a poll here. How many people here make enough to pay an income tax? Once determined, we should make sure anyone who is not productive enough to earn a salary that brings with it a substantial tax burden is banned. That way, only people with skin in the game get to comment on the nature of government.

ernesto on April 11, 2010 at 5:30 PM

CK, you aren’t the person Steyn is talking about. He means welfare bums etc. You are a businessman.

When someone like CK hear the phrase “Income Tax,” he thinks “Tax”

When the people Steyn is talking about hear the phrase “Income Tax,” they think “Income” — the annual govt check they use to put new rims on the car!

I’m surprised this post got promoted. CK’s own personal situation is obviously affecting his reading comprehension skills.

fivefeetoffury on April 11, 2010 at 5:30 PM

I think there’s quite a bit of mis-stereotyping going on in the arguments to which CK’s responding.

If you haven’t read Red State Blue State, give it a read. The idea that poor people are consistently voting Democrat is wrong. Same with the rich being consistently Republican.

There may in fact be a lot of free riders, but complaining about their input into government is hardly a winning strategy.

Free Constitution on April 11, 2010 at 5:30 PM

joe_doufu on April 11, 2010 at 5:27 PM

Send the spoils to the poor? By the poor, do you mean primarily the military and the elderly?

ernesto on April 11, 2010 at 5:33 PM

Yikes, CK!

You whiffed on this one.

Steyn’s point is that those that don’t pay taxes and even get money back when they didn’t even pay in have no interest in seeing changes to government since their view of taxation = free money every year.

Now, if you remove payroll taxes and make it mandatory for people to pay quarterly taxes, in a lump sum, like some of us do I believe you would encounter an entirely different mind set from the “poor”.

When the ‘cost’ of running a society is not partially masked (payroll taxes) people tend to pay more attention.

exsanguine on April 11, 2010 at 5:34 PM

It is never a good time talking to the accountant about taxes, today really got me pissed…..
Here is why…40% of tax filers will get money back from the government though they paid no income tax, an additional 7% of tax filers will pay no income tax. We are getting to a point where half the people pay for the other half.
Seriously, my standard of living would improve if I quit working 80-hour weeks and lived off my retirement and rental income. I could quit work and do whatever I wanted with the government sending additional money.
Here is a cute anecdotal story. One of the accountant’s families suffered through a 16-year-old daughter getting pregnant. All the pregnant teenagers (or formerly pregnant teenagers) informed the daughter she could receive $6,000 from the government if she claimed she provided half the fiscal support of the child. So the 16 year old mom lives at home with her parents providing food/shelter/essentials, the daughter works part time retail for the W-2 ( don’t make too much or the earned income credit goes down).
I don’t know when I’m going to shrug….but every day I get closer and closer. The Government is incentivizing non-production by guaranteeing a standard of living based on other peoples labor.

Lobster on April 11, 2010 at 5:36 PM

Send the spoils to the poor? By the poor, do you mean primarily the military and the elderly?

ernesto on April 11, 2010 at 5:33 PM

ernesto: Heres the thing,Hopey is robbing from the poor,
and is giving it to the destitute!!

canopfor on April 11, 2010 at 5:38 PM

I read Steyn’s entire article yesterday, & I don’t believe he ever called for a tax increase on the poorer half. He’s just pointing out that lower-income folks aren’t as likely to vote for smaller gov’t when the politicians are taking money from the richer half to buy stuff for them.

itsnotaboutme on April 11, 2010 at 5:21 PM

+1

CWforFreedom on April 11, 2010 at 5:38 PM

How about we compromise. Here’s my proposal:

1. Do away with withholding. You pay your taxes with a check to the government every quarter.

2. Move the date of all elections to April 16th.

PackerBronco on April 11, 2010 at 5:39 PM

Send the spoils to the poor? By the poor, do you mean primarily the military and the elderly?

ernesto on April 11, 2010 at 5:33 PM

No, I mean primarily the assholes working at the DMV… public sector union workers. I know you’re a liberal, but if you tell me you don’t hate the DMV people, then you’re not even human.

joe_doufu on April 11, 2010 at 5:40 PM

Send the spoils to the poor? By the poor, do you mean primarily the military and the elderly?

ernesto on April 11, 2010 at 5:33 PM

No, I mean primarily the [jerks] working at the DMV… public sector union workers. I know you’re a liberal, but if you tell me you don’t hate the DMV people, then you’re not even human.

joe_doufu on April 11, 2010 at 5:41 PM

Ernie the elderly are more likely to have money.

Fail

CWforFreedom on April 11, 2010 at 5:41 PM

CK, Steyn’s argument wasn’t “tax ’em all to hell”, or “everyone needs to put money in the pot”, it was a warning call about how skewed the tax system is; that when a smaller and smaller fraction of the country carries a larger and larger portion of the tax burden, you get to the point where, as Steyn says, a majority can vote themselves lollipops from the minority– and that’s a mighty a perilous situation.

This incentivizes private sector earners to say, “hell with it”– meaning, move their business elsewhere, stop taking risks for growth, etc– because they’ll feel less like they’re working for themselves than they are for the state, and if you want a dynamic ecomony, your business class needs to think otherwise– ask Greece.

Pasalubong on April 11, 2010 at 5:41 PM

Reading comprehension much?

Caper29 on April 11, 2010 at 5:41 PM

Reading comprehension much?

Caper29 on April 11, 2010 at 5:41 PM

Heh

CWforFreedom on April 11, 2010 at 5:44 PM

So, let me get this straight: the author took the risk of making money in an individual enterprise on the free market, the market for that enterprise collapsed for a few months so enough money isn’t earned to qualify for the privilege of actually paying the tax in question, and therefore the author thinks there is something wrong with the worker bees who do make enough to pay Federal income taxes should be ashamed for pointing out that almost half the country’s workers don’t pay them? Uh, seriously?

Sorry business was bad, but it does not change the fact that 53 percent of us have to pay the tax, and 47 percent of you do not. I assume you’ll pay the optional extra taxes provided on ye olde 1040 once business picks back up to catch up with the rest of us. Heh – sounds like class warfare. Lovely.

elcapt on April 11, 2010 at 5:46 PM

Ernie the elderly are more likely to have money.

Fail

CWforFreedom on April 11, 2010 at 5:41 PM

Then why do so many of our tax dollars go to insure their retirement? My only point was that characterizing American taxes as simply a means to send spoils to the poor ignores the fact that the vast majority of our tax money goes to the military and elderly entitlements.

ernesto on April 11, 2010 at 5:46 PM

The idea that anyone “pays no taxes” is a foolish lie. It’s a shame so many have fallen for the idiot notion that things not labeled “federal income tax” are somehow materially different from taxation. It’s all taxes guys… there’s nothing special about FIT.

There is not a single person who engages in the American economy without paying taxes on something. The secondary taxes paid by the poor through sales taxes, state taxes, and the host of “fees” used by municipalities to generate revenue chop a significant and non-negotiable chunk out of a poor person’s income.

Lehosh on April 11, 2010 at 5:48 PM

Then why do so many of our tax dollars go to insure their retirement? My only point was that characterizing American taxes as simply a means to send spoils to the poor ignores the fact that the vast majority of our tax money goes to the military and elderly entitlements.

ernesto on April 11, 2010 at 5:46 PM

Do the elderly not pay into it? So I must assume that 1. you don’t think they should get a fair shake on their “investment” and/or 2. that we should rid ourselves of SS altogether. We know SS is a joke over time and the government will raid it every chance they get. They should not be in that business.

CWforFreedom on April 11, 2010 at 5:49 PM

Lehosh on April 11, 2010 at 5:48 PM

You are not listening.

Once again: Federal Spending is exploding. It is silly that 47% of Americans don’t take part in the costs. For people to wonder if they should have a vote(while not correct or realistic) is totally understandable. BTW I pay all those crappy fees etc. as well on top of by Federal bill.

CWforFreedom on April 11, 2010 at 5:52 PM

Anyone, whom has ever attempted to do their own taxes knows, there are innumerous deductions for taxes and expenses on the state and local levels. This revenue apportioned to the state and local governments, is SHARED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. It is redistributed to the states by way of revenue sharing programs approved by the states and Congress. (Or the current graft being employed for votes by the Democrats).
Only the homeless vagrant can subsist day to day without paying any tax on anything. And even they can only avoid being taxed at their death if they die without any worldly goods.
Don’t just take my word for it; Ask any Certified Public Accountant.
The United States STILL HAS THE HIGHEST STANDARD OF LIVING FOR THE MONEY. But, the current Administration and Congress is doing it’s best, and working overtime, to change that statistic.

Cybergeezer on April 11, 2010 at 5:53 PM

CWforFreedom on April 11, 2010 at 5:52 PM

Would you feel better if people taking home less than 20k paid their $10 or whatever into the system? Would that even change anything, really?

ernesto on April 11, 2010 at 5:58 PM

The middle road: Income taxes are paid into the Treasury, and are the funds partly used to provide entitlements. As Joseph P. Newhouse proved in “Free for All?”, a group which gets benefits for free abuses the privilege.

So, for those 47% or whatever, the benefits which accrue from spending the income tax come with no “sweat equity” — and no reason to decrease same.

Now, I mentioned “partly used” above. By “partly used”, I mean that the rest is not generated from the income tax, but is instead generated from thin air — otherwise known as the deficit. The payment for “thin air” is also coming due — not for us, but for our kids or grandkids (I’m pushing 60, so I doubt I’ll have to pay for it).

We’ve violated on many levels the concept that nothing is ever truly free — there’s a cost someone has to pay for anything of value which is given.

I see Doc Zero addressing this issue, but I hear air from Mr. MacLeod. He argues in favor of the status quo — in which some subset of the populace receive goods and services paid by the rest of the populace. Now, some of that will always be necessary (the adult who is incapable of caring for him/herself will always require some amount of support from the rest of us), but some of it isn’t (the owners of a baseball team who structure their assets so as to pay no taxes, yet still enjoy full use of those assets).

Everyone who earns something should be required to pay a tax for the proper functioning of our Government. What we are about here is determining what the proper functioning of our Government ought to entail in terms of taxes upon each citizen. Part of that is a careful reading of the Constitution, and the elimination of expenses at the Federal level not specified therein. The other part is putting a cap on the amount of GDP the Government is allowed to utilize for its own life — as Mr. Pence puts it: “If God can get by with only 10%, then the Government sure as hell ought to be able to get buy with 20%”. We’re at 25% now, and still growing. The third and final part is to tax every person, so that every person understands the pain of taxation. Only when every person understands that pain at some level will the size of government begin to decrease.

Your ball, Mr. MacLeod.

unclesmrgol on April 11, 2010 at 6:00 PM

Would you feel better if people taking home less than 20k paid their $10 or whatever into the system? Would that even change anything, really?

ernesto on April 11, 2010 at 5:58 PM

Yes, it would. It would sensitize them to the size of Government, thus making them more fiscally conservative.

unclesmrgol on April 11, 2010 at 6:03 PM

The third and final part is to tax every person, so that every person understands the pain of taxation. Only when every person understands that pain at some level will the size of government begin to decrease.

Your ball, Mr. MacLeod.

unclesmrgol on April 11, 2010 at 6:00 PM

You do realize you’re talking about a group of people that, by and large, don’t even know that fast food is more expensive than cooking for yourself. What makes you so sure that ‘things will change’ once they pay their $38 or whatever?

ernesto on April 11, 2010 at 6:04 PM

I don’t think it bugs me that much that some people don’t pay income taxes; however, what does bother me is when those same people get a few thousand dollars “back” in taxes when they didn’t even have to pay in in the first place.

deidre on April 11, 2010 at 6:05 PM

I read Steyn’s entire article yesterday, & I don’t believe he ever called for a tax increase on the poorer half. He’s just pointing out that lower-income folks aren’t as likely to vote for smaller gov’t when the politicians are taking money from the richer half to buy stuff for them.

itsnotaboutme on April 11, 2010 at 5:21 PM

Exactly, and it is for this reason that once you have something like single-payer health care in place, it is impossible to get rid of it. When a majority of the electorate are not contributing to the programs funded by the income tax system, they have no reason whatsoever to want to curtail or eliminate those programs.

ProfessorMiao on April 11, 2010 at 6:08 PM

The fairest way to structure taxes is to take public expenses, divide by the number of citizens, and send everyone a bill.

How can one possibly define fair, for example, as going out to dinner, but only half the people involved are forced to pay all of the tab. The dinner-payers don’t get to say no on going out. They do get a stake in choosing where their money will be spent, but only as much of a choice as those who don’t pay.

Now, a fair system, again where everyone pays the same cost and gets the same benefit (citizenship) may not be a realistic outcome anytime in the near future, even though this would immediately guarantee responsible federal budgeting. But we should certainly strive to move closer to this system.

The notion that we can survive as a Republic with half of the population voting themselves a greater share of the other half’s money is laughable.

18-1 on April 11, 2010 at 6:10 PM

2. that we should rid ourselves of SS altogether. We know SS is a joke over time and the government will raid it every chance they get. They should not be in that business.

CWforFreedom on April 11, 2010 at 5:49 PM

There are people who, due to Social Security taking a substantial part of their wages to pay for current beneficiaries, have no retirement income at all other than Social Security. You cannot get rid of SS without taking away from them the stake these people have in the current program. The only thing that makes sense is to slowly wind down the size of social security benefits for future beneficiaries — but this cannot be done in a way which does not reimburse current stake holders in the program for the paper worth of their stake.

Bush tried this but got shot down by the Democrats. Because the generation about to receive social security is larger than the generation which will be paying for their benefits, it seems a change is in order, or our children and grandchildren will be impoverished paying for our benefits. The train wreck is coming, and we know who will be blamed — President Bush.

unclesmrgol on April 11, 2010 at 6:11 PM

Unless you’ve lived under a bridge in a cardboard box, been unemployed for the last year, had/have no tangible property, and conducted no business for which there was a paper trail, you will not pay ANY TAX.
You might qualify for a subsistence allowance from the state or federal government, only if someone points you in that direction.
I’m not speaking from experience, but, I know of and see the poverty under the radar in this country.

Cybergeezer on April 11, 2010 at 6:11 PM

The biggest problem is people thinking poor = minority.

End the distinction, and it becomes clear. Far more white people live in poverty, yet the majority of the benefits go to minorities (not including Asians).

uknowmorethanme on April 11, 2010 at 6:12 PM

I only need to summon four words in defense of Steyn’s article:

He speaks the truth.

As often tends to be the case, CK seems to be drawing his own conclusions based on his own preconceptions. I didn’t think conservatives usually pull those sorts of stunts, but whatever…

gryphon202 on April 11, 2010 at 6:12 PM

Far more white people live in poverty, yet the majority of the benefits go to minorities urban centers

uknowmorethanme on April 11, 2010 at 6:12 PM

FTFY

ernesto on April 11, 2010 at 6:14 PM

You do realize you’re talking about a group of people that, by and large, don’t even know that fast food is more expensive than cooking for yourself. What makes you so sure that ‘things will change’ once they pay their $38 or whatever?

ernesto on April 11, 2010 at 6:04 PM

Michelle Obama is supposed to be teaching the folks how to eat a healthy diet.

It will change when the folks find out they have less in the wallet to buy that supersized order of fries and Big Mac’s. I pay my fair share and so should every citizen of this country cause Joe Biden told us it was the patriotic thing to do.

Knucklehead on April 11, 2010 at 6:14 PM

2. Move the date of all elections to April 16th.

PackerBronco on April 11, 2010 at 5:39 PM

It is no accident that congress chose April 15th as tax day because it is the farthest date that can be obtained from election day.

carbon_footprint on April 11, 2010 at 6:16 PM

Cybergeezer on April 11, 2010 at 6:11 PM

I forgot to say that these people in poverty are “farmed” for their votes.

Cybergeezer on April 11, 2010 at 6:16 PM

You do realize you’re talking about a group of people that, by and large, don’t even know that fast food is more expensive than cooking for yourself. What makes you so sure that ‘things will change’ once they pay their $38 or whatever?

ernesto on April 11, 2010 at 6:04 PM

Fast food is not more expensive than cooking for yourself. I could completely meet my nutritional needs by consuming fast food costing about $3.00 per day, coupled with a single vitamin pill costing about $0.15 — or about $95 per month. Do I? No, and with good reason. I prefer the taste of my own food, and hence pay the grocers and the gas company far more than $90 per month for the privilege of eating a more tasty meal.

I believe that these people know intellectually the cost of money, but they need that brought home to them physically for the intellectual lesson to truly take and not be forgotten. $38 per month translates to about $450 per year — and that kind of serious change brings serious thought.

unclesmrgol on April 11, 2010 at 6:17 PM

uknowmorethanme on April 11, 2010 at 6:12 PM

Sounds like you read the book; “Backfire”.

Cybergeezer on April 11, 2010 at 6:17 PM

I enjoy reading both Mark Steyn and Dr Zero, and find that I agree more often than not with both.
After reading this piece, I feel like I’ve been hacking through bamboo for 15 minutes, and I still don’t what your central point is.
Before we start to point fingers at who pays their fair share, or who is living off of someone else’s tax dollar, could we just freeze federal wages and hiring, and take a hard look at the size and efficiency of the government, and think about how much we really need the EPA, the education deptartment, Fannie and Freddie etc.? And maybe we could think about reducing everyone’s tax burden. There’s really no rational justification for the colossal and corrupt fiasco currently bleeding us dry at the national level. Forgive me for being ungrateful for their “public service”.

ontherocks on April 11, 2010 at 6:18 PM

I could completely meet my nutritional needs by consuming fast food costing about $3.00 per day

You can cook for yourself for less than $3 a day, but either way $3.00 worth of fast food and a multivitamin would not constitute meeting your nutritional needs.

ernesto on April 11, 2010 at 6:20 PM

Would you feel better if people taking home less than 20k paid their $10 or whatever into the system? Would that even change anything, really?

ernesto on April 11, 2010 at 5:58 PM

Uh, yeah, I would feel better. Those people could consider it a small down payment for their “free” healthcare and government-provided college loans that will be forgiven after 10 years, and every other government program that the other 53% pays for.

They might see government squandering money on a bridge to nowhere and think, “Hey, that sucks, they’re wasting my money”, instead of “Whatever, it’s not my money”.

So, yeah, if every person had to pay even a small amount it might change their attitude toward government waste and the size of government.

JohnInCA on April 11, 2010 at 6:21 PM

ontherocks on April 11, 2010 at 6:18 PM

HEAR; HEAR!
I’ll drink to that; And as a former federal employee, I know all too well what you are talking about.

Cybergeezer on April 11, 2010 at 6:21 PM

I really tried to read this post, but it was so much drivel I just couldn’t make it past the first few paragraphs.

Buford Gooch on April 11, 2010 at 6:21 PM

You can cook for yourself for less than $3 a day, but either way $3.00 worth of fast food and a multivitamin would not constitute meeting your nutritional needs.

ernesto on April 11, 2010 at 6:20 PM

And you know this how? Source please.

Knucklehead on April 11, 2010 at 6:22 PM

Find a better way to argue about income taxes, please

Millions of productive American citizens have already figured this out. Just watch for the headlines starting April 16th.

If you genuinely enjoy arguing with parasites — whether asking for their generocity, or begging for their sympathy — then knock yourself out. But don’t kid yourself that doing so can ever accomplish anything in a million years.

Newsflash: Atlas is shrugging RIGHT NOW — quietly, but very, very powerfully.

logis on April 11, 2010 at 6:22 PM

Paying taxes and having my money taken from me to go into the PONZIE Scheme that is Social Security INSURANCE are two very different thing. We should be dismantling this SSI criminal enterprise not building another new and improved bigger one in the name of Health INSURANCE.

Pole-Cat on April 11, 2010 at 6:25 PM

‘Kay…Plan A: tax consumption…at an equal rate, nix the income tax. Period.

Plan B: Revisit Steve Forbes’s fair tax.

We have a gazillion page tax code, and we just added buckets to it ala health care.
I’d sure like to scrap it all and start over…but that skittles poopin’ unicorn thingy sounds pretty awesome, too.

Chewy the Lab on April 11, 2010 at 6:27 PM

logis on April 11, 2010 at 6:22 PM

I think you have the crux of the argument.
I believe our Founding Fathers had the idea of a “facultative symbiotic relationship” based on their basic beliefs that people were inherently equal.

Cybergeezer on April 11, 2010 at 6:30 PM

You can cook for yourself for less than $3 a day, but either way $3.00 worth of fast food and a multivitamin would not constitute meeting your nutritional needs.

ernesto on April 11, 2010 at 6:20 PM

I don’t think I can cook for myself for $3/day. First, storage costs for my implements and stored food. Second, fuel costs for procuring the food I consume. Third, electricity costs for storing the portion of the food I purchase but do not immediately consume. Fourth, electricity and gas costs for heating the portion I am immediately about to consume. Fifth, the time and energy costs used in preparation.

Even for a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, the above comes to more than $3/day. Now, if I get the senior discount soda and a Fillet-O-Fish sandwich at McDonalds, I can easily pack in 900 calories in a single meal costing less than $3.00. I can live under a bridge by the freeway and still have a daily hot meal.

unclesmrgol on April 11, 2010 at 6:31 PM

I enjoy reading both Mark Steyn and Dr Zero, and find that I agree more often than not with both.
After reading this piece, I feel like I’ve been hacking through bamboo for 15 minutes, and I still don’t what your central point is

Welcome to the “What the Hell Was That?” club, we are many.

thomasaur on April 11, 2010 at 6:36 PM

thomasaur on April 11, 2010 at 6:36 PM

What? You don’t think we accomplished the articles request?

Cybergeezer on April 11, 2010 at 6:38 PM

Steyn’s argument is impeccable. The parasites will always vote to continue their parasitism.

TexasJew on April 11, 2010 at 6:40 PM

Is CK’s role here at HotAir just to pick fights with other members of the greenroom? Didn’t we endure a fued last week with this guy? Seriously, I think most of us come here for Ed and AP’s analysis, not to sit through the latest pissing match between B-list greenroomers.

Now, having said that, it would be awesome to see Doc Zero dismantle this guy. Or better yet, I would love to see Steyn take him apart.

JohnInCA on April 11, 2010 at 6:41 PM

Readers are fools to make too much of MacLeod’s arguments.

It is just so that Federal Income Tax represents the largest chunk of tax many taxpayers have to pay.

Using FICA as a argument is a false comparison. They were sold to the Americans as a saving program into Retirement income and health coverage when they retire. You get something back (supposedly). It will be more than likely that people in higher income bracket will be screwed out of Social Security and MediCare at the end of the day by means testing and claw back, after they paid the maximum for both year after year. Don’ t forget Medicare tax a person to the last dollar earned and there is no ceiling.

Let take buying a car to look at MacLeod’s position on FICA. People pays in to get something concrete back. Should people who do not make a lot get the car free or at a steep discount to the price? Are the wealthy buying the same car ripping poor people off by paying just the list price, or are they supposed to pay double the list price because they may still have more money left after buying the car?

bayview on April 11, 2010 at 6:43 PM

A lack of targeted tariffs, as much as any issues of taxes and spending, is what is destroying our solvency.

abobo on April 11, 2010 at 6:45 PM

The federal and state governments are learning that they don’t have to increase income taxes one dime. Merely raise the cost of fees and licensing, increase the number of activities and items that require fees and licensing, and increase taxation on businesses, who will merely pass along the increased cost in the form of higher prices, lower wages, and decreased payrolls.

Your income tax burden may not change but you’ll certainly feel it when your car registration fees double in a year, your employer goes through another round of layoffs, and gas prices go to five bucks a gallon.

American employers have become unwilling dupes, passing along the stealth taxation to the consumer while shouldering the blame that rightfully belongs with a government that refuses to go on a diet.

TheMightyMonarch on April 11, 2010 at 6:46 PM

What? You don’t think we accomplished the articles request?

Cybergeezer on April 11, 2010 at 6:38 PM

REading CK is like trying to decipher the transcript of Barack Obama speaking off of the cuff.

thomasaur on April 11, 2010 at 6:47 PM

Now, having said that, it would be awesome to see Doc Zero dismantle this guy. Or better yet, I would love to see Steyn take him apart.

JohnInCA on April 11, 2010 at 6:41 PM

True, out of all the so-called Green Room, Doc Zero is the only one, in my humble opinion, that is worth his weight in gold. He should be a front page contributor, always.

carbon_footprint on April 11, 2010 at 6:47 PM

Haven’t read all of the comments yet so I hope this isn’t a rehash. There is a difference between a VAT and a national sales tax. I am against a VAT, and would favor a national sales tax placed in a fund that CANNOT be raided by Congress.

This tax should be used to reduce the debt and provide a path to self-sufficiency for those in need. It could also be used to defray costs of providing healthcare for the truly needy, not the multiple car, multiple home, boat, vacation family who choose not to carry insurance. And, it would be set to expire at a date certain unless 2/3 of the American people vote to continue.

eaglesdontflock on April 11, 2010 at 6:50 PM

Personally I like the flat tax, but would go one step further. Eliminate payroll withholding. On every April 15th or quarterly every single man woman and working child in this country would have to write a check to uncle sam.

I guarantee major tax cuts would result, soon! You want fiscal resposiblity in Washington. Once everyone has some “skin in the game” that hurts we will get it!

conservnut on April 11, 2010 at 6:54 PM

1 Person. 1 vote. 1 Tax rate.

I’d campaign on that just to watch the libtards heads explode.

Iblis on April 11, 2010 at 6:54 PM

Mark Steyn might as well complain about the unfairness of the weather.

And yet for an increasing number of Americans, snow season is like baseball season: It’s a spectator sport. According to the Weather Center, for the year 2009, 47 percent of U.S. households got no snow. Obviously, many of them got other kinds of precipitation — rain, drizzle, hail. But at a time of increases in snow fall, half the country is effectively making no contribution to shoveling it … … …

MB4 on April 11, 2010 at 6:55 PM

If you are poor enough you can get your FICA refunded on APR 15. For the cost of a few minutes on a form and a stamp I got my money back… it wasn’t much, needless to say, way back when in the 1980’s. We really should drop the pretense of FICA ‘going to’ SSA: it goes to the general funds.

A 5% Absolute Minimum Income Tax, indexed to the cost of government in 2007, with every 1% above that raising 0.1% of the Absolute Minimum Income Tax would do two things: it starts low enough so that even the working poor even at the lowest end (BTDTGTTS) have some investment in the government and an understanding you do have to contribute to it to get its protections, and it would force the idiots in DC to realize that when they go on a spending spree they WILL hurt the poor. There would be no exemptions nor write-offs for this tax, and it is fillable on a post-card sized form.

Its a two-parter: buy-in by the poor into government and the nasty stake into the chest of those Congresscritters wanting a bigger government. If you don’t like bigger government, then make it the most distasteful that you can for those pushing it. Put their lie out in the open that they really want to ‘help the poor’ when they can do that by figuring out what to cut from other parts of government to get the goodies they want to hand out. At 5% it is very limited and a buy-in to our common government. For every expansion of government it takes more from the poor. You want to help the poor? Tax them at a modest range and index that tax to the size of government spending. I could actually have afforded that when I was making so little as to be in the poor category. The poor are not the destitute.

ajacksonian on April 11, 2010 at 6:57 PM

I was trying to be nice.

eaglesdontflock on April 11, 2010 at 6:57 PM

Steyn is dead accurate (duh, it’s Steyn).

By comparison, this post is a good example of what happens when people get brainwashed by left-wing propaganda about how great democracy is. Democracy is just a means by which other people vote themselves more of your money.

As for the “poor people pay sales taxes too” argument, consumption taxation in the US is very low by first-world standards. If you look at countries like Norway, their consumption tax shares of GDP are much higher than in the US.

needtoknow on April 11, 2010 at 6:58 PM

The poll tax is looking better.

eaglesdontflock on April 11, 2010 at 6:58 PM

MB4 on April 11, 2010 at 6:55 PM

I got plenty of snow for the whole damned country and it was only an average year.

thomasaur on April 11, 2010 at 6:59 PM

Such observations recently led Doctor Zero to attempt a thought experiment about excluding “net tax-consumers” from the voting franchise. See, according to the Doctor and Mr. Steyn, or at least the line of thinking with which they’re publicly experimenting, everyone who isn’t (currently) paying any federal income tax is virtually a free rider, a mere spectator, and is no longer adequately invested in public affairs to be consulted

Such “thought experiments” are best left as just that as any serious attempt by an in power political party to put them into place would lead rather swiftly to it’s political and perhaps violent physical demise.

MB4 on April 11, 2010 at 7:03 PM

START TAXING THE INDIANS!

Cybergeezer on April 11, 2010 at 7:05 PM

Such “thought experiments” are best left as just that as any serious attempt by an in power political party to put them into place would lead rather swiftly to it’s political and perhaps violent physical demise.

MB4 on April 11, 2010 at 7:03 PM

Does that mean the current system is morally correct? If so, why? If not, what would be the best replacement for it?

gryphon202 on April 11, 2010 at 7:05 PM

The federal and state governments are learning that they don’t have to increase income taxes one dime. Merely raise the cost of fees and licensing, increase the number of activities and items that require fees and licensing, and increase taxation on businesses, who will merely pass along the increased cost in the form of higher prices, lower wages, and decreased payrolls.

C’mon! You don’t think these “fees” are taxes?????
Well, pay no attention to the man behind the screen…
I choose to believe that the voting public (I did not say the public)knows when they are being shnookered (my very nice term…I could have used one that started with the 6th letter of the alphabet.).

Chewy the Lab on April 11, 2010 at 7:07 PM

The people agitating for more taxes are overwhelming on the left. What Steyn and others are pointing out is that there is a small percentage of the population that is overwhelming paying the bulk of the load for govt spending. If more govt. spending is called for, at least some of that money is going to have to come from someplace else. They are not arguing for higher taxes. They are arguing for smaller govt and less spending, and for you to spin it that way is a bit bizarre.

painfulTruthDisciple on April 11, 2010 at 7:07 PM

ELIMINATE “NON-PROFITS”.

Cybergeezer on April 11, 2010 at 7:07 PM

START TAXING THE INDIANS!

Cybergeezer on April 11, 2010 at 7:05 PM

…um, which ones?…LOL

Chewy the Lab on April 11, 2010 at 7:09 PM

conservnut on April 11, 2010 at 6:54 PM

Better yet, make them due the week before Election Day.

TheMightyMonarch on April 11, 2010 at 7:09 PM

Chewy the Lab on April 11, 2010 at 7:09 PM

Cleveland, too!

Cybergeezer on April 11, 2010 at 7:09 PM

They are not arguing for higher taxes. They are arguing for smaller govt and less spending, and for you to spin it that way is a bit bizarre.

painfulTruthDisciple on April 11, 2010 at 7:07 PM

“A bit bizarre” is a large enough umbrella to cover most of CK’s writing.

gryphon202 on April 11, 2010 at 7:10 PM

all of the taxes and fees that lower income people pay, usually under an extremely regressive structure

Good point. Cigarettes, which the “poor” consume very disproportionately are taxed to the moon, over a 100%, yet how much is Botox, which rich people like Pelosi and Kerry use so much, taxed?

MB4 on April 11, 2010 at 7:10 PM

the state local taxes aren’t feeding the social state in the same way.

Ever look at your property tax bills? In some states (Illinois is a big state example), that property tax bill pays more than 50% of the cost of educating that student in those states. That tax is paid for by a lot of folks whose income is fixed.

The point CK is trying to make is that if one were to take all federal/state/local taxes, PLUS fees paid, PLUS Medicare/Social Security, that the average household DOES eventually pay their fair share in some form.

BradSchwartze on April 11, 2010 at 7:11 PM

I’m also aware that, one way or another, even before the possible imposition of a new national sales tax (VAT) – for which Mr. Steyn and Doctor Zero seem to be providing a moral argument, regardless of whatever they believe about a VAT on its own terms – all levels of government and indeed the economy are interwoven, via unfunded mandates and regulatory burdens, and increasingly by the massive overhang of federal debt.

A national sales tax that charged when a good or service is purchased by the consumer, is not the same thing as a VAT (Value added tax) which is charged at every time the item, raw material to finished product, changes hands.

Slowburn on April 11, 2010 at 7:12 PM

I now pay around 1600 dollars a year in federal cigarette tax, phone taxes, gasoline taxes…I was laid off and received NO unemployment, never mind 99 weeks of it. Full-time student at a Community College. No income, no income tax, no refund either. So, apparently, paying $2000 a year to the feds, with NO income; means I should bend over and stop voting… BTW, I do want witholding of taxes prohibited from paychecks.

Jeff2161 on April 11, 2010 at 7:12 PM

The point CK is trying to make is that if one were to take all federal/state/local taxes, PLUS fees paid, PLUS Medicare/Social Security, that the average household DOES eventually pay their fair share in some form.

BradSchwartze on April 11, 2010 at 7:11 PM

So you do think the current system is defensible? Or am I reading too much into this?

Well good effing luck getting the government to pare its spending if you really believe that our tax code is morally defensible. For my part, I still call it THEFT.

gryphon202 on April 11, 2010 at 7:12 PM

True, out of all the so-called Green Room, Doc Zero is the only one, in my humble opinion, that is worth his weight in gold. He should be a front page contributor, always.

carbon_footprint on April 11, 2010 at 6:47 PM

Sorry, that is not a fair assessment. I have never actually read anyone except Doc Zero, before today.
You all deserve credit for your work and there is no way I’d ever be able to do the work you do.

carbon_footprint on April 11, 2010 at 7:12 PM

I’m just throwing this out here and I’m sure someone has had a similar experience.

My neice has 2 children from two different baby daddies. She doesn’t work or pay bills. She lives rent free in Washington State. She doesn’t pay utility bills, doesn’t pay for gas, doesn’t pay for food. She doesn’t pay for a gat danged thing.

So, she calls me up and complains that her “income tax refund will only net $2300.00 this year” as compared to $4300 last year.

Sorry, I’m going Galt. I’m not paying some lazy azz biatch to pump out kids on my dime and lay on her azz and then expect a bonus at the end of the year. Eff that.

Key West Reader on April 11, 2010 at 7:13 PM

Huh?

Mason on April 11, 2010 at 7:14 PM

MB4 on April 11, 2010 at 6:55 PM

I got plenty of snow for the whole damned country and it was only an average year.

thomasaur on April 11, 2010 at 6:59 PM

You should immediately demand that all people living in Florida be disenfranchised. God is on your side.

MB4 on April 11, 2010 at 7:19 PM

Isn’t there an exemption on good used in the manufacturing process with a national sales tax, but not the VAT

eaglesdontflock on April 11, 2010 at 7:19 PM

C’mon! You don’t think these “fees” are taxes?????

Of course they are, that’s my point. Stealth taxation. They can’t sell higher income tax rates without inciting the local torch and pitchfork crowd, so they sneak it in through new regulations and fees.

This is the Washington Way. Increase taxation on businesses, who are forced to raise prices as a result. Your average taxpayer isn’t going to make the connection, they just see their energy prices go up and are whipped into a frenzy to blame “greedy corporations” and “money-grubbing executives”. CEO’s are dragged in front of Congressional committees and receive their forty lashes before Congress pushes through yet more legislation punishing “windfall profits”, and the cycle starts all over again.

This system works surprisingly well. Government gets its revenue stream, has its scapegoat, while the sheeple fail to notice that they’re slowly being bled to death.

TheMightyMonarch on April 11, 2010 at 7:20 PM

Does that mean the current system is morally correct? If so, why? If not, what would be the best replacement for it?

gryphon202 on April 11, 2010 at 7:05 PM

The best replacement system is for you to pay my taxes and for me to get your house.

MB4 on April 11, 2010 at 7:21 PM

Isn’t there an exemption on good used in the manufacturing process with a national sales tax, but not the VAT

eaglesdontflock on April 11, 2010 at 7:19 PM

By definition, a sales tax is only paid by the end-consumer. Stuff that is sold wholesale (to another business for subsequent resale) and goods purchased by manufacturers, anyone but the end-user of a service or product, does not pay sales tax at all.

That is the prime differentiating factor between a sales tax and a VAT. And for the love of God, anyone who equates a national sales tax with a VAT has just removed themselves from serious debate over taxation, in my not-so-humble opinion.

Buh-bye CK.

gryphon202 on April 11, 2010 at 7:21 PM