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Denouncing the government for taxing us into servitude is necessary and right, but it doesn’t actually stop government looting. So how do we rouse a complacent public to rise up and stop the despoilers?
First, move Tax Day from April 15 to November 1 so it will never be more than a week from a national election.
Have you ever noticed how Tax Day is almost exactly equal distance after the last November 1st and before the next one? Perhaps it’s not an accident. Half a year leaves enough time to forget our anger at the past election and it’s far enough from the coming one that other issues will obliterate our memories of the anger at Tax Day. So connect the two tightly. Just when everyone is most ticked off at taxes they can enter the polling booth and take it out on their oppressors.
But, you protest, too many folks will think, “I’m happy ‘cause I’m getting a refund!” not appreciating that the government took dollars and have them back dimes. So what do we do about this?
Second, get rid of tax withholding and have everybody write out checks to the government on November 1st Tax Day. So if someone has a $40,000 salary, they will receive the full $40,000 over the year. Then on Tax Day they will have to sit down and write out checks for federal taxes, state taxes, Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance and anything else the government demands.
The Coors brewing company tried to do something like this in the 1980s. It wanted to give workers their full weekly salary and then have each worker write a check back to the company for the taxes that the company would pass on to the government for withholding. The IRS would not allow it. But a Congress and president could change the law to allow it.
But, you may worry that most people would have spent much of the money and not have saved enough to pay their taxes. It’s true: the tax system would be in chaos. So what? The paternalist politicians would scream that they need the money to pay for all the wonderful programs to help us. We would get serious and ask “What wonderful programs?” They would say “Social Security! Obamacare!” We would reply “401Ks and IRAs! Medical Savings Accounts!”
Maybe some dialogue from Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged would play itself out. The looting head of state is trying to get the productive hero to be economic dictator and get the economy, destroyed by politicians, up and running again. The hero responds “Then start by abolishing all income taxes.” “Oh no!” responds the head of state. “How would we pay government employees?” The great response: “Fire your government employees.”
This is just the confrontation with reality that the American people and politicians need. This is serious because we just can’t continue with the current system. Government debt is already larger than America’s entire GDP. Unfunded future government spending promises to cost ten times the price of all the goods and services produced in the country each year. Continuing on this path would be our ruin.
So let’s link elections with these realities and break out of the tax and spend death cycle in which the politicians have ensnared us.
Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.