The Tax Revolt will turn 34 this November (since the 1978 passage of Prop. 13 in California). Since then, the public’s hatred of taxes has been a major factor driving U.S. politics and governance at all levels. But, could the tax revolt finally be running out of steam? We’ve also had 34 years of slowly starving public investment and maintenance of basic public services. Add that to rising inequality and a deep recession that has focused the public’s mind on who does and does not pay their “fair” share, and…who knows?
I still think the public is so reflexively hostile to taxes that any major expansion of government is a liberal pipe dream. But, maybe, just maybe, the public now would be open actually to paying for at least the levels of government they already have! I think we can have a great discussion on this topic if we think in a sophisticated way about WHY Americans hate taxes. Is it really just conservative propaganda and ignorance of who pays what and who receives what from government? Or is it also inefficient and unresponsive government, a maddeningly complex tax code, stereotypes of who benefits from government, or other factors? I’m all over the map already.
So, to frame the issue, I’ll open by explaining:
- The actual direction taxes have gone in recent years, and what tax increases are seriously on the table
- The major reasons cited why the public hates taxes.
- What might have changed recently to defuse taxophobia.
I’d prefer to avoid a long debate over whether taxes need to rise and stick to what forces shape public opinion of tax matters.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –
- How have tax levels changed in recent years? Who is paying more and less?
- What justified these changes? Why did those justifications work?
- Why do Americans historically abhor taxes?
- Has anything changed in the recent past to change their minds? If not, is taxophobia “fixable” at all at this point?
- What tax increases are on the table now, and for what reasons? Will the public now accept them?
- A major reason for taxophobia is that citizens do not link taxes with the benefits they provide on the spending side. Why don’t they? Howe could this be changed?
- [UPDATE: Evidence of ebbing tax revolt. Some states are raising taxes to save basic public services, and their publics don’t seem to mind.]
- Old CivCon post: Who pays taxes and who does not, plus, federal taxes are at historic lows.
- State taxes soak the poor. In all 50 states, the poorest 20% of households pay a greater share of their income in state taxes than does the top 1%! In most states, the bottom 20% are taxed at more than twice the rate as the richest 1% and in five states they pay more than five times the rate! Even in California, the more you make, the LESS you pay in state taxes!
- Why do we hate taxes? From another old post: Some reasons why.
- Quickie summary of options on the table to raise federal taxes. I will briefly explain these.
The meeting will be at Filter, as usual.