Death and Taxes

‘Tis impossible to be sure of any thing but Death and Taxes,” – The Cobbler of Preston by Christopher Bullock (1716)

It’s that time of year again. The day that taxpaying Americans are reminded of just how limited their economic liberty actually is, as they are forced to hand over, at the point of a gun, a good portion of their earnings for the previous year.

Although, most working age people don’t necessarily view it this way. For a lot of Americans tax day is great day in which they receive a gift from the federal and state governments in the form of a tax refund. Of course, it’s only an illusion…for some.

Much of the workforce, when all is said and done, pays nothing in taxes, or even come out on top via credits and redistributive policies.

For those that are net creditors to Uncle Same, automatic payroll withholdings have desensitized them to the bite that the government taxes out of every paycheck. Plenty of Americans are only concerned with the money that actually hits their bank account, and look forward to the ‘bonus’ they often receive when they file their tax papers.

In reality, the average American works a full two weeks out of the year to pay off government. And that’s the average. Higher earners end up working four to five months out of the year to support Big Government programs for everyone else.

Examining pay stubs shows that the Uncle Sam takes an exorbitant amount of your earnings, even when if you’re in the lower rate brackets for income taxes. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid taxes alone take a painful bite out of your hard earned money – all to fund someone else’s needs.

If wage earners in this country were required to pay these taxes out of pocket at the end of every quarter or year, there very well may be a lynch mob headed to D.C. every April. At the very least voting trends would certainly shift to focus on reducing the government sponsored theft that occurs annually.

There are over 3.5 million words in the US tax code, which is akin to 40 full-length novels. It translates to over 70,000 pages. A century ago it was only 400 pages. Do you think the populace would tolerate such mind-numbing complexity if they had to navigate it on their own? Not a chance.

Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.

— Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, 1789

However, many do just that. Business owners and independent contractors wrestle with the Byzantine tax structure every quarter in order to stay in the government’s good graces. Small-business owners, the backbone of the American economy, know all too well the distinct feelings of frustration, loss, and mourning when it comes time for taxes. So many of them find it so unworkable that 1 million accountants are hired every year around tax time to decipher the code and make it all above board.

But despite their importance to the economy, their voting numbers are often drowned out by a majority that would rather receive government benefits financed by you, than respect the property rights of individuals as outlined in our founding documents.

The much maligned 1% actually pay 37% of the country’s taxes, even though they only earn 19% of the country’s total income. A whopping 68% of the total tax bill is picked-up by the top 10%.

The lowest earners earn 13% of the income and pay just 3% of the total tax, and even that figure likely ignores the breaks and credits that put many of those low earners at a net positive after tax day.

Once upon a time, an individual’s right to his or her property was regarded in the highest. In fact, the original ethos of the famous phrase from the Declaration of Independence was ‘life, liberty, and property.’

Similarly, income taxes, especially of the progressive variety, were specifically warned against and opposed by the Founding Fathers.

The principle behind the progressive income tax—the more you earn, the larger the percentage of tax you must pay—would have been appalling to the them. They recognized that, in James Madison’s words, “the spirit of party and faction” would prevail if Congress could tax one group of citizens and confer the benefits on another group.

And that is exactly what has happened. As conservatives scream into a vacuum to reduce and limit the size and scope of government, particularly the taxing and spending sides, the Leviathan grows larger by the day. A tyranny of the majority, a a few bureaucratic degrees of separation between earners and takers, has led to a massive debt, a horrendous spending addiction, and entitlement liabilities as far as the eye can see.

So on this tax day, be sure not to thank Uncle Sam for giving some of your money back interest free, if you’re so lucky. On the other hand, make sure to hold on to those feelings of frustration and resentment and carry it into the voting booth to aim at any lawmakers not intent on reducing the burden and better respecting your right to property.

Oh, and try to ignore that feeling of cold metal on the back of your head today.

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