What Taxes Do

Grand-canyon Gail Collins writes that IRS and Obama should stop pointing to single mothers as evidence of that your tax dollars are doing some good. They need a new marketing campaign to reach those Tea Party goers, who aren't all that moved by the plight of single mothers. We should applaud the rich who do kick in a lot of money for taxes, while still maintaining a fabulous lifestyle.

There’s no reason not to show the top taxpayers a little love. Paying a
lot of taxes should be a badge of honor. It proves you made it into the
league of big money-makers, not to mention the fact that you’re
supporting the upkeep of the Grand Canyon. If the I.R.S. had been doing
its marketing properly, little kids would dream of growing up to become
really big taxpayers.

Maybe we need some slick TV commercials that show pictures of the Grand Canyon and other landmarks and end with a simple "Thank You, Rich People." That would be cool.

28 thoughts on “What Taxes Do

  1. We should applaud the rich who do kick in a lot of money for taxes
    That seems like a mistake. It makes me think of the late Roman Republic. Complaining about taxes strikes me as healthy, assuming you actually pay them.

  2. This morning, my daughter was telling me about an argument she had with a friend. The local orthodontist sponsors a reading contest; the class who reads the most pages gets a pizza party. My daughter’s class won. The next month, they thought they’d win again, but another class did. Later, they found out that each class could win only once. S’s friend thought that was unfair. S thought it was perfectly fair.
    Is it nature or nurture? Is S inherently someone at age 10 who believes in sharing/distributing wealth, or has she been brainwashed by her Dirty F-ing Hippie parents? My husband and I express our beliefs, but I don’t really think we impress it on the kids daily or weekly. Honestly, we’re often just too tired to talk much at all; in our house, the vast majority of the talking is done by the 10 year old.😉 I wonder if this is somehow genetic, if people are born to be either resentful of sharing or inherently sharing.

  3. I think what this misses is that what ought to make people anxious is not so much current taxes, but the level of taxes that will be necessary to support the new order that Obama and friends have been creating, as well as perhaps the realization that we may wind up paying lavishly for many programs that will not be around when it’s our turn. We will need to pay out for the new super state but also need to plan for its inevitable decline. It really ought to make you sweat at night to think about what you need to be doing right now to be ensured of a secure and comfortable old age. I’ve personally started thinking of our retirement savings as our hip-replacement and heart bypass fund, which is quite motivating.

  4. I wonder if this is somehow genetic, if people are born to be either resentful of sharing or inherently sharing.
    The research I’ve seen says it is pretty much all situational and/or based on group dynamics.

  5. I really like the idea (I love the National Parks), but I guess some of the other commenter don’t too much. Tax paying and big vs. small government are tender subjects in this country. Tough stuff, a lot of it a result of the many years of brainwashing against “socialism” that’s ingrained in most people. At least that how I see it (in my perspective as a complete outsider/expat).

  6. MH: Wasn’t the willingness of rich patrons to pay for public goods out of pocket one of the few good things the Republican had going for it? There’s a form of patriotism that might actually be worth something.
    Also, the noise about programs that around now ‘dying’ has always been hysteria that the Republicans try to stir up. The only reason SS or medicare are at risk is because their expenses are growing faster than inflation. With SS, this is by design and just means that the elderly are enjoying a better and better retirement. If it grows too expensive we can simply slow the rate at which retirement is improving which is hardly something to get upset about. With health care it’s unclear if medical benefits are growing as fast as costs, but again, I think we will eventually find a way to constrain costs by necessity and I don’t think it’s likely to lead to lower standards of care than we enjoy today (at worst).

  7. MH: Wasn’t the willingness of rich patrons to pay for public goods out of pocket one of the few good things the Republican had going for it?
    They didn’t have TV commercials back then so they had to buy votes directly.
    If it grows too expensive we can simply slow the rate at which retirement is improving ….
    On a certain level, that’s a truism. On another level, it’s an empirical question that has already been answered in the negative.

  8. I wonder if this is somehow genetic, if people are born to be either resentful of sharing or inherently sharing.
    And if you pay no taxes at all in one strata, are you still “sharing”?

  9. “On a certain level, that’s a truism. On another level, it’s an empirical question that has already been answered in the negative.”
    Right. These budgetary things remind me of the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where Calvin has some homework to do and he goes to the future to get his homework from Future Calvin, only to discover that Future Calvin hasn’t done it either. Let’s not do that.


  10. On a certain level, that’s a truism. On another level, it’s an empirical question that has already been answered in the negative.

    You are ill informed on the history of social security. There have been numerous adjustments in terms of who receives benefits, who pays for them (and how much) and how much benefits are received. Most recently, in the early 1970s benefits were increased based on what proved to be overly optimistic economic predictions. So COLA was delayed 6 months in 1983 (among other changes). So yes, it is an empirical question, but you are mistaken: it has been answered in the affirmative.
    Also, I think the idea that you can build prestige in the eyes of the public (and thus perhaps political power) through the expenditure of private funds on public works of great value has a lot going for it. It is how private universities operate anyhow. And it’s certainly a lot better than the ‘you all can rot in hell’ attitude of most of our nation’s wealthy.

  11. So COLA was delayed 6 months in 1983 (among other changes).
    Your only example of a decrease is a six month delay that happened 27 years ago when 99% of the Baby Boomers had all of their own teeth?

  12. Okay, I don’t know what you want, then. The SS fund started generating a huge surplus after the 1983 reforms. The fund is always very close to balance. A 6 month delay in COLA is a 1-2% shift that is actually quite significant in the delta. Subsequently, there has been no need for an adjustment since then. Over 70 years of history and there is no evidence that SS will fail.
    Anyhow, this fear is incoherent at its very heart. Either we’ll cut SS a tiny percentage and bring it back into balance or we won’t. If we won’t taxes will be increased or the budget deficit will grow. Both of those can be accommodated. The doomsday scenario requires that first we refuse to cut SS any bit at all, refuse to increase taxes 1 or 2 percent and then suddenly face a ballooning budget deficit that we address by completely slashing SS. As a scenario it requires a political environment that doesn’t tolerate any adjustment to SS at all and then suddenly one where 100% cuts are acceptable. It doesn’t make any sense at all.


  13. Everything works until it doesn’t.

    That’s not an argument that a program is in trouble. When it’s been plugging on fine for 70 years, the burden shifts to those who wish to argue that it is trouble. The fundamentals for SS are very solid. Any imbalances due to demographic shifts can be fixed without substantial pain. This fear-mongering that SS won’t be there for you when you retire was started up primarily by people interested in getting rid of SS as soon as possible regardless of feasibility. Because it is also factually wrong, I try to discourage it as much as possible.

  14. The doomsday scenario requires that first we refuse to cut SS any bit at all, refuse to increase taxes 1 or 2 percent and then suddenly face a ballooning budget deficit that we address by completely slashing SS.
    That’s not what is happening right now? Despite no inflation and huge unemployment, when faced with giving SS recipients a 0% COLA, they tossed them all $250 extra. The last time anybody visited senior entitlements, it was to compete to give them more coverage for Rx medication. Obama was promised not to increase taxes on people making less than $250,000. There aren’t enough people over that limit to close the gap. The Republicans are even less willing to increase taxes. I thought the deficit was ballooning under Bush and it’s only gone-up from there.
    …then suddenly one where 100% cuts are acceptable.
    I don’t expect a 100% cut across the board. It won’t fail, it will become an anti-poverty program that pays no benefits to wealth seniors. I’d prefer not to give several hundred dollars a month for an un-means-tested program when they are going to means test the payments I get when I turn 65 (or more likely, when I turn 70 because they keep pushing the age higher). There are currently just over three people getting social security for everybody paying it. It will crack.

  15. When it’s been plugging on fine for 70 years, the burden shifts to those who wish to argue that it is trouble.
    I would have agreed with that until Fannie Mae and Lehman Brothers and others came along.
    The fundamentals for SS are very solid.
    Compared to Medicare, they are. However solid SS is, the structure of entitlements to senior citizens is most assuredly not solid.

  16. “I don’t expect a 100% cut across the board. It won’t fail, it will become an anti-poverty program that pays no benefits to wealth seniors.”
    That’s what I would expect, too. I also expect that the bar for “wealthy” will be pretty low.

  17. I agree that medicare is problematic because you can’t do simple stuff like just cut benefits 5-10%. How do you cut healthcare spending by an amount like that? It doesn’t work that way. So you’ll get no argument from me that our society still requires a dramatic reform of the way health care is delivered. But SS is in a different boat. And I don’t think means testing will be the solution we come up with. First, that would be a path to a quick death for SS. But secondly, all the forces aligned to prevent SS cuts today would be the same forces opposing means-testing it.
    Remember even Bush I raised taxes. While it’s possible that this new version of the Republican party will succeed in burning the empire to the ground, I think it’s much more likely that current seeming iron will against tax increases will break and we’ll either get uncapped FICA, an increase in contribution or a slowdown in COLA.

    I would have agreed with that until Fannie Mae and Lehman Brothers and others came along.

    And this argument is still flawed. The lack of failure of an institution is not evidence that it is about to fail. People were predicting problems with investment banks and Fannie Mae for specific, well-grounded reasons.

  18. I think it’s much more likely that current seeming iron will against tax increases will break and we’ll either get uncapped FICA, an increase in contribution or a slowdown in COLA.
    An uncapped FICA would help and it would also seriously hurt the re-election chances of whoever uncapped it. A slow-down the COLA will help much less unless it is strong enough to seriously diminish the quality of life for those who depend on SS for their retirement income.
    The lack of failure of an institution is not evidence that it is about to fail.
    That’s not what I was saying. I’m saying that the long existence of an institution is not evidence that it won’t fail. Nobody in any position of influence was predicting problems in investment banks or Fannie Mae in 2004. By 2006, sure. That’s not a very long lead time.

  19. No issues yet for me, though my better half has had her conference in Abkhazia cancelled, as the other speaker was supposed to arrive from England. And her trip to scenic Wuppertal, Germany, later this week is looking distinctly iffy. Lack of business travel is a benefit of underemployment.

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