Monday, July 20, 2009

It's The Income Tax, Stupid

Are you of the opinion that the rich are getting richer at the expense of the poor, because government has given them too many breaks on their income taxes? Or are you of the point of view that it is immoral for government to given Earned Income Tax Credits to those who haven't earned enough many to pay any taxes? I'm neither, actually.

I'm of the opinion that the income tax is an unconscionable affront to our sensibilities and that it should be abolished. Worse than the money that it takes out of our pockets is the surefire way in which it gets Americans to hate each other.
Government has the means at its disposal to raise enough revenue through taxes other than the income tax to satisfy its enormous greed. But, like so

the Income Tax was not instituted in order to give the Federal Government more revenue. It was established in order to give the Government more power.

many other government programs, the Income Tax was not instituted in order to give the Federal Government more revenue. It was established in order to give the Government more power.

Do you want to control the people? Tell them that carbon dioxide is destroying the planet, and that you have the solution for CO2 reduction. Do you want to keep the minions dependent on the government teat? Involve them in needless wars for oil and entertain them with modern-day bread and circuses while other nations surpass us in the development of alternative energy technologies. Do you want to teach hatred by putting foremost in your subjects' minds that someone else is not paying their fair share? Then by all means, institute a graduated income tax.

In addition to inspiring class warfare and hatred, the income tax has always provided incentives so perverse that they consistently warp and destroy what would otherwise be a healthy economy. Instead of encouraging Americans to live within their means, including saving significant portions of their income to be utilized for economic investment, the federal income tax code encourages Americans to buy homes that they cannot afford while discouraging savings and other investments through the levying of taxes against earned interest.

Congressman Ron Paul reminds us that we once did just fine without an income tax.
Could America exist without an income tax? The idea seems radical, yet in truth America did just fine without a federal income tax for the first 126 years of its history. Prior to 1913, the government operated with revenues raised through tariffs, excise taxes, and property taxes, without ever touching a worker’s paycheck.
He also points out that removing all income tax revenues would only mean that government would need to return to the size that it was in the 1990's:
[We] don't need an income tax to fund the important functions of the federal government. You may be surprised to know that the income tax accounts for only approximately one-third of federal revenue. Only 10 years ago, the federal budget was roughly one-third less than it is today. Surely we could find ways to cut spending back to 1990 levels...
Most people don't think about the largely unseen consequences of the income tax, but Congressman Paul makes them easy for us to understand:
The harmful effects of the income tax are obvious. First and foremost, it has enabled government to expand far beyond its proper constitutional limits, regulating virtually every aspect of our lives. It has destroy[ed] our privacy in the process. It takes billions of dollars out of the legitimate private economy... This economic drain destroys jobs and penalizes productive behavior.
The income tax is one weapon by which the elite are destroying America.

Put this arrow in your "litmus test" quiver. There are

Do you want to teach hatred by putting foremost in your subjects' minds that someone else is not paying their fair share? Then by all means, institute a graduated income tax.

just a few important questions whose answers you need to know about the candidates you will vote for or against for federal office. One of these questions is whether the candidate is in favor of abolishing the hate-inducing federal income tax. If he or she is not, he or she is not worthy of federal office.

There are far better ways to collect the kinds of taxes that Federal Government needs in order to perform its operations. But there is no better way to pit Americans against Americans in vile class hatred than to require them to pay arbitrarily different amounts of money in taxes. If you understand this one fact about the income tax, then everything else about how wrong it is will make sense to you.

As you think more and more about the genuine lunacy that is the federal income tax, you will develop in your mind an urgency to have the federal income tax amendment repealed. It's not going to happen overnight. But if you want the America back that once was, it's got to happen sometime.


  1. "But there is no better way to pit Americans against Americans in vile class hatred than to require them to pay arbitrarily different amounts of money in taxes."

    How does a progressive income tax require people to pay arbitrarily different amounts of money in taxes?

  2. Because Congress gets to arbitrarily decide what percentages of their income various groups of people have to pay based on some range that their income falls into. That's in and of itself a recipe for disaster. But to make it worse, it places all kinds of loopholes in the tax code to make it so that the elite who know the system well can game it better than anyone else can.

    How can you NOT see that that's arbitrary? Do you think that a progressive income tax is fair?

  3. How is it arbitrary if everyone who has a taxable income of a specific amount pays the same amount of taxes (theoretically speaking of course)?

    I do think progressive taxation is inherently fair however I do agree with your comment about the complexity of the tax code allowing those with the resources and knowledge to better game the system. The tax code should be simple, straightforward and easy to understand. A progressive tax system does not inherently violate any of these provisions.

  4. Dude, we're having a gigantic disconnect here. How is it NOT arbitrary that I would have to pay a larger percent of my earnings if I fall into a higher income bracket than you?

    The Founders understood this concept by not allowing such a scheme to be perpetrated on the American people. We were dumb enough to disrespect their insight and pass an inane amendment to the Constitution that give some people like you the warm and fuzzy feeling that this means that the evil rich are somehow now being forced to pay their fair share.

  5. Dude, anyone who makes the same as you pays the same as you. That's not "arbitrarily different" as far as I can tell. Furthermore, your income that falls into the same bracket as the income of someone who makes less than you is taxed the same. That's not "arbitrarily different" either.

    As far as your little rant goes, I don't know how you got the idea that I think rich people are evil. Could it be you are now fighting a straw man?

  6. I think what Don is saying is that if someone makes $7,825 they pay 10% tax. If you make $10,000, then you pay 10% on the first $7,825 and 15% on $2,175. So, every dollar up to $7,825 is taxed at the same rate. Here's the tax table for reference.

    However, Frank's question is why should someone be taxed at the 15% rate, or all the way to 35%(for now), at all? He's basically arguing that a progressive income tax is unfair. Those changes in percentages are arbitrary. Not to mention the myriad tax deductions and credits available.

    Also, the varying percentages incentivize an us vs them mentality when it comes to income. Let's make someone else pay for everything, after all, they can afford it. The inverse happens as well. There are "taxpayers" who pay nothing in income tax yet receive thousands of dollars on their return anyway. That fosters a lot of ill will as well.

  7. Exactly. Thank you! I think Don agrees about the problem with the "myriad tax deductions and credits available", but you did a great job of explaining what I was not able to convey--how progressive income tax is arbitrary.

  8. "He's basically arguing that a progressive income tax is unfair."

    I understand that's his position. What I'm not seeing is anything explaining why it's unfair. How is progressive taxation inherently unfair if everyone is subject to the exact same rules?

    I guess it's possible to argue that the bracket percentages themselves are arbitrary but simply stating that they are doesn't mean it's true. I'm guessing those who set the percentages (Congress) may have a different opinion about how "arbitrary" the process is.

    Nevertheless, it's still not accurate to say that people are paying "arbitrarily different" amounts in taxes when their incomes are subject to the same tax brackets. It's this type of loose rhetoric which tends to inflame the type of "vile class hatred" Frank apparently deplores. Frank would do well to lose the hyperbole and emotion and simply lay out the facts (if there are any) which support his apparent belief that progressive taxation is unfair.

  9. It IS arbitrary from the perspective that Congress decides arbitrarily on various percentage thresholds. My whole point is that there are much better ways to tax Americans that make them p.o.'ed at the government rather than at each other.

  10. I recall reading that suggestion in Paul's book, and found it rather ironic. He neglects to mention that tariffs, which had been the primary method of federal income prior to the income tax, have always been the bane of the free market crowd. For most of the existence of the US, free market proponents, including the modern likes of Friedman, Rand, Hayek, et al, have denounced tariffs as protectionism, inimical to a free market, and actively encouraged that tariffs be removed. And I seem to recall free market conservatives criticizing excise taxes on gas and the "sin taxes" for much the same reason: they are nanny state attempts to guide consumer choice. Seems a bit of a fishy argument for a libertarian like Paul to say we can rely on things like tariffs, excise, and property taxes.

    I have no problem whatsoever with a progressive tax. One could easily argue that the rich benefit more from government services than the poor: after all, they have more property to protect via police and military defense, they own the benefits which reap many benefits from the infrastructure, etc. So it seems very rational that they shoulder a bigger share. Though I think I'd be fine if that were changed to the sort of progressive consumption tax which Frank Rich recommended.

  11. Proving it's arbitrary by saying "Congress decides arbitrarily ..." is just a wee bit circular, don't you think? ;) Apparently we're not going to agree on whether the brackets are arbitrary or not, but that seems to be irrelevant at this point.

    I'd still like to know why you think progressive taxation is unfair. I'm also curious which forms of taxation you think are "better" and why.

    Personally, I'm just a bit leery of the "progressive income tax foments class hatred" argument. I guess I just don't think it's as bad as you make it out to be. Yes, there are some rich people resentful of poor people not paying taxes (or even getting more back in credits than they had withheld) and there are some poor people wanting to "stick it to the rich". But my guess is that by-and-large most rich people are grateful for the opportunities they've had and don't hate poor people for not paying much in taxes and most poor people would be happy to pay more in taxes (by having more income to pay them on) if they could.


  12. BTW, of course the progressive income tax is arbitrary. So would a flat income tax be: legislatures would arbitrarily determine what the appropriate level would be. So are tariffs, excise (especially so), property, and every other sort of tax. There is no tax based on some natural law. Every tax is determined "arbitrarily" by men. To denounce the income tax as arbitrary while assuring us those other taxes are acceptable is a bit inconsistent, is it not?

  13. Derek and Don,

    Let's try to home in on my original point. I'll try to refocus you by asking some questions: did you think the Bush tax cuts were appropriate? Was Obama correct in wanting to let them expire? Why or why not?

  14. You want us to refocus by changing the subject to the Bush tax cuts? ;)

    I thought your original point was that the federal income tax is "genuine lunacy" and an "unconscionable affront to our sensibilities ... that ... should be abolished."

    Maybe before we move on to the Bush tax cuts you could tell us why you feel this way. You still haven't answered my questions about why you think a progressive income tax is unfair and what types of taxes would be "better" and why. I think that would be much more relevant to your original point than debating the supposedly arbitrary changes made by the Bush tax cuts.

  15. Don,

    You have never met a question you didn't like that you would answer, nor an answer you didn't like that you would try to understand.

    If you DARE, please reread the first paragraph of the article, and then answer my question about the Bush tax cuts.

  16. LOL, Frank. That's right, you nailed me. *rolls eyes*

    Let's forget about the fact that I'm trying to get you to expand on your original point by presenting a rational argument based on facts rather than hyperbole and inflammatory rhetoric and start attacking me with broad accusations instead.

    I'm curious to know of one instance where I have avoided a question posed by you or didn't try to more clearly understand a position of yours. I'm obviously trying to understand more about your feelings concerning the federal income tax as we speak. Unfortunately, you seem unwilling to further explain yourself so I am left to wonder . . .

  17. I would really think you were trying to understanding me if you answered my question. Half the thesis of the article is that some people think the rich are not paying enough income tax. Do you? Do you think that Bush's tax cuts were fair? Or were they arbitrary? How hard of a question is that to answer?

    The problem would be solved if the income tax were abolished and replaced with a tax that is more fair.

    How hard is that to understand? Do you disagree? Or are you going to continue to pick at the nit of what the definition of "arbitrary" is?

  18. Frank,
    I left the arbitrary thing a long time ago in case you didn't notice. I realize that we won't agree on your use of that terminology and I actually said it was "irrelevant at this point".

    Seriously Frank, I don't think you know what you're trying to argue. Your thesis doesn't have anything to do with the rich paying income taxes. Your thesis is that the income tax should be abolished altogether, therefore I assume you think even poor people pay too much in income taxes.

    Do I think Bush's tax cuts were fair? Sure, but it's also fair that they are set to expire. Furthermore, it's fair that Obama only wants them to expire for those making more than $250K. Were they arbitrary? I don't think so, but I don't think the brackets are arbitrary to start with.

    "The problem would be solved if the income tax were abolished and replaced with a tax that is more fair."

    What does that mean? What's the "problem" and what tax would be more "fair"? These are the questions you seem unwilling to answer. Why is a progressive tax not fair and what would you do instead (non-arbitrarily of course ;) )?

  19. Frank, I already explained why I support a progressive income tax, so it should be no surprise that I'm not a fan of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens.

    Your original point seems unclear other than that you believe the income tax should be abolished for a number of reasons, two of which (that the tax is "arbitrary," and that other taxes are sufficient to bring in the necessary funds) I have pointed out are flawed. If your original point is that the income tax was part of a nefarious attempt to introduce "class warfare" into politics; a tactic to divide and conquer and then accumulate more power for the cabal. If that was the original point, then I'd point out that "class warfare" has been a part of the US politics virtually from the beginning (Andrew Jackson, W.J. Bryant, the populist party, etc). Perhaps the progressive tax is the result of class contentions and frustrations, but I hardly see how you can say it was the catalyst for class conflict.

    In any case, why should I not see the criticism of the income tax as a bait and switch? Say the conservatives assure us that tariffs, excise, and property taxes are sufficient to abandon the income tax, and then once they've won that battle, they again take up the traditional free market criticism of tariffs, excise, and property taxes, winning the battle to "drown the baby in the bathwater," as Grover Norquist yearns, starving the federal government until it is too impotent to "interfere" in the free market (ie, take up it's proper role in regulating the market and protecting consumers, labor, and the environment).

  20. Don,

    I don't think you're leveling with me when you say that you think the Bush tax cuts were fair. I would have expected your response to be more like the response of aliberalmormon. If you are leveling with me, though, you are a better man than most, because there are hordes of people who think that the rich aren't paying enough in taxes, and I personally know a lot of people who think that it's lunacy to pay earned income tax credits to poor people who have no income (I personally don't share that sentiment).

    This is "the problem" I was trying to solve by proposing to abolish the income tax--that rich people and poor people hate each other because the poor don't think rich people pay enough and the rich think that the poor are lazy bums who get paid earned income tax credits for being lazy.

    I guess we'll just have to disagree on whether it's arbitrary, because I think it very arbitrary to make the rich pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes, and I think it very abitrary to tie a tax credit to a poor person who has no income.

    Other taxes, such as consumption taxes are much more fair (less arbitrary), because they levy a tax based on what people consume, and they are much less prone to finagling through loopholes, which often allow the in-the-know rich to pay almost to income tax at all.

  21. Frank, what sort of consumption tax are you talking about? If you are talking about a flat consumption/sales tax, I fail to see how a tax which requires a larger percentage of the income of the poor (who, since they are poor, must consume a greater portion of what little income they earn in basic living) than it does of the wealth can be said to be "fair."

    Abolishing the income tax wouldn't "solve" the issue of class warfare because class warfare goes much farther back than the income tax. Just about any sort of tax is going to be criticized as favoring some over others, with varying degrees of accuracy. A progressive income tax isn't perfect, but there are valid justifications for it.


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