Carol Platt Liebau: The Truth About Taxes?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Truth About Taxes?

Mark Mellman claims that Americans no longer worry too much about the size of their tax bills:

That waste provokes more anger than the size of our tax bills. A Fox News poll put the question directly: “What bothers you more — how much you pay in taxes or how your taxes are spent?” Only 12 percent emphasized the amount paid, whereas 71 percent cited waste as the primary villain.

Maldistribution of the burden is taxpayers’ other prime complaint. Two-thirds told Gallup this month that “upper income people” pay too little in taxes, while 71 percent complained about corporations paying too little.

Let's take the second one first. No wonder Mellman, a Democrat, is so thrilled -- it sounds like the liberal policy of blaming the rich is working, and to heck with the facts. As this report demonstrates and even the New York Times has conceded, "the rich" pay the overwhelming majority of taxes in this country. The top 25% pay 83% of the taxes, and the top 1% pay 37% of taxes in this country. But hey, economic illiteracy help the left.

Second, the question “What bothers you more — how much you pay in taxes or how your taxes are spent?” strikes me as somewhat flawed in the drafting. The fact that people are more offended by waste or poor allocation of their money than the gross amount they have to pay suggests that they'd be willing to pay the same amount (or even, perhaps, more) if doing so would actually solve pressing problems for them and for the country. That doesn't strike me as a surprise -- and, if anything, contradicts the age-old leftist trope that people are "selfish" because they don't want to pay more in taxes.

In any case, the Democrats ignore the high tax issue at their own political peril. If contentment with high taxes is contingent on government effectiveness and efficiency, it's going to be a long time coming.


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