The good, bad, and ugly of taxes

           With the first substantive income tax reform in over 30 years, Trump's triumphant tax cuts with his reluctant Congressional partners is all the buzz.  Despite everyone debating taxes in general, there are unfortunately still too many misperceptions and misunderstandings.  A manipulative ruling elite abetted by an overwrought media are quite content continuing the confusion.

            Press and politicians gladly advance divisive stereotypes that conservatives want no taxes whatsoever and liberals want everything 100% taxed.  Makes it easier to demonize the opposing view.  Both extremes are ludicrous.  No taxation equals no government which is absolute anarchy; and complete taxation equals all powerful dictatorship which is total tyranny. 

            While many liberals (aka socialists) love high taxes to redistribute wealth, most still want some voice in government.  And while conservatives want smaller government for greater liberty, they do accept the need for some albeit restrained government.  So disregard the nattering about stereotypes.  The United States is a republic, so it has a government.  The real debate is how big should that government be.  And the amount of taxes collected determines the size of government, so taxes are an essential and foundational argument.

            The good about taxes is government can buy things the people and nation need, but there is the rub - getting agreement on what the government needs.  The purist interpretation of "common welfare" from the Constitution is that government should provide the three branches of government to legislate, execute, and adjudicate laws.  Beyond the President and Congress, the judiciary expands with the nation to handle the disputes of a growing populace. 

            The federal government must also provide whatever means to collect federal taxes.  The Constitution allows government to "raise and support an army and provide and maintain a navy" for defense of the nation.  Over time the federal government has developed many law enforcement agencies that are widely accepted as necessary to enforce the rule of law.  Large infrastructure projects have also been federally subsumed because a federal giant can tackle projects one or two states might never accomplish.

            After the basics, we start seeing the bad about taxes as we find less agreement on what government should do.  Some want little or no defense spending and others want little or no environmental spending.  Pretty much all government spending is in dispute.  Liberals extol exorbitant welfare spending and decry corporate subsidies; and some conservatives favor corporate subsidies. Just remember, they are all buying votes.

            The bad about taxes is too often an ever expanding government spending your money on things you don't support.  No matter your political stripe, a gargantuan government is misusing funds to buy votes all over the place.  Sometimes we are irritated by the sheer waste, angered by widespread fraud, or incensed by the most egregious misappropriations, like spending tax dollars to abort babies.

            Taxes get ugly in the vote buying.  After the essential functions of government that benefit all, the specialized spending for entitlements or subsidies only benefit special interests.  So the special interests are keen to exempt their taxes and promote taxes that confiscate wealth from others to apply to their particular interests.  Liberals call it wealth redistribution, but it's government sanctioned theft taking from one group to curry favor with another.

            The real ugliness emerges when taxes go from purchasing services for the citizens to feeding the growth of government.  Perhaps unintended, but when government worms into every aspect of life controlling or directing ever larger portions of wealth, it becomes the supreme arbiter, picking winners and losers.  So every special interest willingly colludes with government for a piece of the federal pie.

            It's a vicious cycle.  Government grows with increasing taxes, so more interests must come to government for resources.  Government influence grows with more promises, so more taxes are needed.  At some point, the people no longer pay taxes to have a government; a government has some people to pay taxes solely to sustain itself.

            "Even tax collectors came to be baptized. 'Teacher,' they asked, 'what should we do?'  'Collect no more than you are authorized,' he answered."  Luke 3:12-13



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