Sure, there are plenty of principled, intellectually honest reasons to think taxes should be lower. But one reason for the rage against them—and the perception that they are larcenously high—is that the act of paying them is so divorced from the act of receiving the benefits that they finance. You might not like paying a lot for groceries, clothing, a car, or a house. But it feels a lot better because, once you’re done with the transaction, you know what you’re getting for it. You’ve taken care of a basic need—there’s food on your plate, a roof over your head, and, if you’re lucky and can afford it, a Camaro in your driveway.
Taxes do the same thing. That payroll tax taken out of everybody’s check? It’s buying you Medicare and Social Security, which means a more secure retirement free of crippling medical bills. Your federal income tax? Its effects are a lot more diffuse. But chances are pretty good that you’ve already used some infrastructure today—whether it was a road or railway you took to work, or maybe the information technology connections you’re using to read this article. Federal, state, and local taxes helped pay for that. Is your water and air clean? Are you safe from threats, domestic and foreign? Then you’re getting something valuable from the Environment Protection Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Defense. Your tax dollars paid for those, too.
Sometimes, of course, your tax dollars pay for supports and services you won’t use. And you might resent that. But even taxes that pay for someone else’s benefits can benefit you.