It’s Tax Day, Not Tax Freedom Day

By | April 15, 2019 | 1 Comments

Slightly overburdened?

No, this isn’t Tax Freedom Day – it is just Income Tax Day. It is the day when our tax returns are due. But we must continue to work longer, until we have earned enough to pay our taxes and begin working for ourselves and our families.

Each year, the Tax Foundation announces Tax Freedom Day. So far, this year Tax Freedom Day seems to be sometime in late April. In 2018 it was April 19. But 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 2019 actually is.

Tax Freedom Day varies by state, so states with low taxes have an earlier day. We see that the state with the earliest day is Alaska, while the latest is New York. The differences are substantial, but the tax burden is heavy everywhere.

The Internal Revenue Code is about 6550 pages in length, but in addition there are about 60,000 pages of case law interpreting the regulations. Even experienced CPAs have difficulty preparing returns. Hugely long, extremely complex laws bedevil citizens, but they empower bureaucrats who interpret the regulations. How can people ever know for certain that they are in compliance?

The essence of tyranny is not iron law; it is capricious law. – Christopher Hitchens

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.

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.

Question: 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, slavery is a 100% tax rate.

Would it be an exaggeration to claim that the average American is about 30% 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 106th anniversary of the income tax. The tax was authorized by the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified in 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.

When Speaker Pelosi was asked what part of the Constitution empowered the federal government to control health care, she replied, “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.

The photo of the overburdened donkey makes two points: (1) The poor beast is suffering. (2) The excessive load prevents any more forward progress from being made. It is a striking illustration of the Laffer Curve: When tax rates go too high, tax receipts actually fall, because people are less motivated to be productive. But big-government, high-tax enthusiasts refuse to accept this obvious fact. And they call the donkey a stupid ass.

We can have Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak sitting in their garage, dreaming up new things for us to use. Or we can have Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sitting in their Washington offices, dreaming up new ways to regulate our lives. But we have to choose ‒ we can’t have both.

I wish you a happy and a thoughtful Tax Freedom Day…whenever it will be.

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