Jonah Goldberg has an interesting column about taxation today. “Democrats have a tough time selling ‘revenue increases’ to the public,” he argues, because they pretend that taxes are like membership dues.
It’s true, taxes aren’t like a gym membership. They do not come with complimentary towels. A country is different from a country club.
Taxes are an obligation and a responsibility. Taking responsibility is what makes you an adult, a contributing member of American society. It is something to be proud of. Unlike membership dues, civic responsibility doesn’t fall on everyone equally. When we go to war, we don’t send the old and the sick, we send the young and healthy, because they can fight. We tax rich people more, not because they have some super-special gold membership to America, but because they can afford it. FDR called this “the only American principle” of taxation.
But Mr. Goldberg doesn’t seem to think responsibility sells well. “The sizzle doesn’t sell the steak,” he says.
Luckily, most Americans disagree. They think their taxes are fair — and they think rich people and corporations should pay more.
So I guess taxes don’t need to be sold. They are selling just fine. But hey, we can always sell more. Does some enterprising pro-tax patriot want to put this Jonah Goldberg quote on a shirt for the I Heart Taxes store?
Every time you cut a check to the IRS, an angel gets its wings.
That’s a pretty bold statement. Actually, a kid gets a check up, a soldier goes to college, a scientist makes a discovery, a construction worker finds a job, and a veteran gets their pension. But sure, maybe an angel gets wings, too.
We already talked about tax amnesia, a terrible disease that causes people and companies to forget all the benefits they have received from American tax dollars. For some of the corporations suffering from this malady, the disease has reached its acute stage. These businesses want to bring their profits home from overseas — but they don’t want to pay their taxes. Instead, they want a special tax repatriation “holiday,” so their money can come home tax-free.
Those taxes have already been on a holiday. They’ve been overseas for years. Now they need to come home and do their jobs. There are roads that need building, kids that need teaching, and an economy that could use some real stimulus. (And giving away another business tax cut ain’t going to do it. It really, really, really ain’t.)
Tax money has job-creating superpowers. We need it here at home. Now. It’s time for patriotic tax repatriation. Patriotic American companies with profits vacationing overseas should bring all their profits home by July 4th. (Apple, we’re looking at you.) And Congress should stop letting our tax dollars waste their time overseas when they have so much to do here at home. Ending tax deferral all together would put American tax dollars, and American people, back to work.
Some of America’s biggest companies seem to be having a dreadful case of tax amnesia, forgetting how much of their success is the result of American tax dollars. Now they seem to have misplaced a bunch of the taxes they owe in offshore accounts. How embarrassing for them! Luckily, we have the antidote: a healthy dose of pro-tax patriotism.
Of course, these details hardly scratch the surface, really. After all, taxes protect these companies’ property, and keep their employees and their customers safe and healthy. There’s a reason Pfizer isn’t located in Somalia!
All in all, these companies all owe America, and American tax dollars, an immense debt of gratitude. If only these companies could remember, we know they’d bring home every dollar right away, and be proud of the taxes they get to pay. Heck, they’d probably want to raise the tax rate, just to say thank you!
Tax amnesia is truly a terrible disease.
A few years ago, General Electric’s CEO, Jeff Immelt, gave a talk at West Point. Here’s what he has to say (pdf) to the young men and women who signed up to defend their country:
Few of us will ever do what many of you will do for duty, honor and country. But America doesn’t expect heroism from all of us. It does expect us to be good citizens of this country where no one’s dreams are too big, a country that is defended so bravely by others. It expects us to honor the sacrifice made on our behalf by making the best use of the freedom you protect. Wherever our talents lie, and whenever our conscience requires, we must all, to the best of our abilities, help keep America the great face for good it has long been. We are trying to do that at GE.
Mr. Immelt must not know that GE doesn’t pay their taxes! They got $3.2 billion in “tax benefits” last year. That’s enough money to house every single member of America’s Armed Forces and their families. A little bit of citizenship from GE would go an awful long way!
Our West Point heroes pay their taxes. In fact, they are paid by tax dollars. If Mr. Immelt would like to do the right thing for our men and women in uniform, paying GE’s taxes is the right place to start.
General Electric actually *made money* from the tax system, getting a “tax benefit” of $3.2 billion in 2010. What would 3.2 billion pay for if GE did the patriotic thing and gave the money back? A quick look at some federal budget numbers….
$3.2 billion is about what we spend on the entire National Park Service. It’s more than we spend on housing for military families. It’s more than we spend on the Food and Drug Administration, and it’s almost twice the Secret Service’s entire budget. With $3.2 billion, we could increase the Head Start program by 40%.
We know they are a busy company, with lots to do, like cutting American jobs. But we think it’s time for American companies to remember where they are from, and pay their fair share for their country.
You can learn more about how GE arranged their special tax deal in today’s New York Times.
You can also call GE and ask them about it.
When I first saw Give It Back for Jobs, I was ecstatic. Here is a website that lets you calculate the value of your Bush tax cut and donate that money back. Another site joining to pro-tax movement!
Well, almost. Unfortunately, the site recommends you give your tax cut to a private charity, not the the U.S. Treasury, where your tax dollars would have gone. Nothing wrong with donating to charity, of course. It’s a nice thing to do. But that’s not giving back your tax cut!
Seeking to “replicate good government policy, outside the government,” as Give It Back suggests, means giving up on the democratic process. It means substituting the opinions of the wealthy for the will of the American people. And it means asking Americans who have fallen on hard times to swallow their pride and rely on charity, instead of getting benefits they’ve earned from a system they’ve paid into. Is this the best we can do with our mighty tax dollars?
Give It Back even points out that your nonprofit contributions are tax-deductible. The site argues that “donations made through this site draft the government as a partner in funding the projects that they support.” I guess the argument here is that your tax deduction is a subsidy from the government to support your charity work. But what a tax deduction actually does is further erode the tax base, increasing the risk of budget cuts for government programs for low- and middle-income people. Programs that are already on the chopping block. So we’re subsidizing our charity but risking what remains of the American social safety net. We can do better!
I think the good folks at “Give It Back for Jobs” need to dial up their pro-tax patriotism. I’d love to see this site take the next step, and direct their visitors to make their donation to the federal government. Because taxes are more than just charity — they are an investment in democracy.
Is Google really avoiding more than $3 billion in tax reponsibilities? That’s a terrible way to thank the country that made their profits possible. Not only did Google’s founders benefit from federal funding, but it was tax dollars that built the Internet in the first place. Now more than ever, when the country is hurting for funds, Google needs to step up and pay their fair share.