Happy Tax Day?

photoByPurpleslogI started trying to write about taxation and the role of government. At least five different posts have begun and been scrapped. Each one of these has devolved into, “y’all…people…why?!?!”

First, I tried to understand and process logical arguments for a system of progressive taxation. I was seriously looking at playing devil’s advocate, but when I encountered a serious argument that progressive taxation encouraged people to earn more money because, “more overall income is necessary to reach one’s ultimate income goals if a higher proportion is paid in tax.” Following the rules of logic, this argument actually makes sense in a really depressing, Machiavellian way. It also ignores human nature. As an example, Average Joe gets a raise at work. He runs home to tell the family and celebration ensues. The next payday comes and to Average Joe’s dismay the amount on the check is smaller than the previous one (spoiler alert: the raise pushed him up into the next tax bracket). If the above premise is true, then Average Joe would react with a, “golly gee, I guess I just need to work harder so I can get another raise.” Can we take a poll of how many people believe this would be Average Joe’s reaction?

Next, I approached the argument by attempting to justify the legitimate roles of government. After itemizing those things that rightfully should be governmental functions I realized that it’s only a tiny fraction of the things that our taxes pay for. In lieu of having to argue Every. Single. Government. Agency. I decided to shift to a different topic.

Then I looked at what entities have the power to tax. We pay taxes to the Federal government, the State government, local governments. With the exception of a handful of purely Federal programs (like Social Security, for instance) most of what we pay to the Federal government is sent right back to the states for them to manage the actual department. As an example: muh roads! Roads are built by states. Even the Federal Highway System. The Federal government doesn’t award contracts to repave a highway. However, the Federal government gets my dollar, trims that bad boy down (paying various Federal officials wages and departments operating expenses), and then sends an adorable little fraction of my dollar back to the State of Georgia so that we can maintain and build roads. There are many other redundancies throughout the government services layers, too many for a little blog post discussing tax day.

So where did this all wind up? It seems trite to add another voice to the chorus that we’re paying too much in taxes and there has to be a better way, and yet, those are very applicable choruses. It’s better, perhaps, to take a step back and look at the reasons we aren’t having real discussions about the psychological impact of taxation methodology, or the proper role of government, or duplicative services and departments. Without even broaching the subject of philosophical differences on the role of government, we need some agreement, outside of the rhetoric, that our bureaucracy is not serving the needs of the people. Once we reach that agreement, we have to start modernizing the government services we need, create a more efficient means of delivering them, and eliminate everything else.

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