Each year, the Tax Foundation announces Tax Freedom Day, the day when average Americans stop working for the government and start working for themselves.
So far, this year Tax Freedom Day seems to be April 23, a day earlier than last year. It is a sign of how serious this problem has become that we rejoice at a one-day improvement. But wait ‒ the new tax plan is still gestating. Like a baby elephant, it seems to require an extraordinarily long time before it is born. When it appears, we will know when Tax Freedom Day 2017 actually is.
In 2016, April 24 was Tax Freedom Day. This happy day came five days later than in 2015. That was the 108th day of the year. That is, we spent 29.6% of the year working to pay federal and state taxes. In primary school I learned that the essentials of life are food, clothing, and shelter. Yet Americans spend more on taxes than for these three essentials combined:
According to the Tax Foundation, we worked:
● 32 days to pay federal individual income taxes;
● 24 days to pay federal social insurance taxes:
● 12 days to pay state and local sales taxes and excise taxes, plus property taxes;
● 8 days to pay state and local individual income taxes, plus federal corporate income tax;
● 3 days to pay other federal taxes;
● 3 days to pay other state and local taxes;
● 2 days to pay federal excise taxes;
● 1 day to pay state and local corporate income taxes;
● 3 hours to pay state and local social insurance taxes.
There, don’t you feel better now? A day later, average Americans started working for themselves and their families – that is, if they could find jobs, or if they could squeeze any profit out of their businesses, despite a host of oppressive regulations.
Here let me ask, what is a slave? You may picture black slaves in the pre-Civil War South, picking cotton for their owners. Or you may picture Israelites in ancient Egypt, building monuments to Pharaoh. But the essence of a slave is that he or she is forced to work for no pay. In fact, one might define slavery as a 100% tax rate.
It would be an exaggeration to claim that the average American is 29.4% a slave. After all, we get many benefits for our taxes. Some of these benefits we even want and need. For example, our government defends us against foreign enemies, doesn’t it? Well yes, it does, unless we happen to be in the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and our repeated warnings and calls for help are ignored.
It would be fascinating to ask Ambassador Chris Stevens, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, and former SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty their opinion as to whether they were getting their money’s worth from the taxes they had paid. Regrettably, they are no longer among us to answer this question.
Unstable, fanatical rulers in North Korea and Iran are developing, or have developed, nuclear capability. We have a right to ask whether all the taxes we have paid since the 1980s, when a missile defense was first proposed, have sufficed to protect us from nuclear-tipped missiles. If the answer is “no” or “well, maybe,” do we have a right to be just a bit perturbed?
This is an example of Murphy’s Law of Priority: The more time and money a person, or a government, spends on nonessentials, the less time and money they have to spend on essentials – defense against homicidal enemies, for example.
Those responsible for the bombing of the Boston Marathon and the mass shooting in San Bernardino were known to the FBI ‒ but nothing was done. Instead, the government occupied itself with groping six-year-old girls in airports. This is classical bullying ‒ harass the small, but avoid the biggest boys in the schoolyard.
Defense against violent attack should be first priority, rather than wasting the government’s time regulating trivia from light bulbs and toilets, to dishwashing detergent and shower heads, to salt shakers and sodas – for our own good, of course. It’s good to have a “green” toilet and shower head. It’s even better to remain alive to use them.
Slaves in the cotton fields also got “benefits” for their labor – free food, free clothing, and free housing, such as they were. The key question is this: How high can taxes rise, and how late can Tax Freedom Day come, before we are, in effect, partial slaves?
I could have titled this column, “Happy Birthday, Income Tax.” This year marks the 104th anniversary of the income tax. The tax was authorized by the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified Feb. 3, 1913. In those remote days, we had the archaic notion that if we wanted the federal government to have a power not specifically granted it by the Constitution, we needed to pass an amendment. How quaint.
Now, of course, we live in enlightened times. We allow the federal government to assume powers not mentioned in the Constitution – but passed by a close vote of Congress with no debate – and upheld by a 5-4 vote of the Supreme Court on the basis of fanciful reasoning. Yes, I’m talking about ObamaCare.
But I’m also talking about standing the Constitution on its head. Its authors stated repeatedly that the Constitution granted only limited powers to the federal government – powers that were clearly spelled out. Now, on the contrary, we are told that the federal government has the power to do anything it pleases, so long as it is not specifically forbidden by the Constitution. And even then, creative interpretation can turn a Constitutional provision into meaningless twaddle. Look what almost happened, and still may happen, to the Second Amendment.
When then-Speaker Pelosi was asked what part of the Constitution empowered the federal government to control health care, she replied, “Are you serious, are you serious?” – while giggling. That giggle was more threatening to our freedom than enemy troops crossing our border.
If we fought hard enough, we could push back an invasion. But what can we do when our highest officials openly express contempt for the document they are sworn to uphold – the document under which they serve? Is the Constitution nothing more than a laughing matter, an essentially meaningless relic? Then these officials have no right to hold office or perform any official functions.
When Elena Kagan, then dean of Harvard Law School, was asked whether the federal government has the power to require all Americans to eat “three fruits and three vegetables daily,” she refused to say no. Instead, she said that it seemed like a “dumb” law, but pointedly added, “Courts would be wrong to strike down laws that they think are senseless just because they’re senseless.” Despite Kagan’s admission that she believes the federal government’s power is virtually unlimited, she was confirmed to the Supreme Court.
If we aren’t more vigilant, Lady Liberty may choke to death on those three fruits and vegetables, as the government seizes more and more power over our lives – for our own good, of course, and funded by our tax dollars.
I wish you a happy and a thoughtful Tax Freedom Day…whenever it is.
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