This Week’s Mtg: Is the Tax Revolt Ebbing?

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:

  1. The actual direction taxes have gone in recent years, and what tax increases are seriously on the table
  2. The major reasons cited why the public hates taxes.
  3. 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.


  1. How have tax levels changed in recent years?  Who is paying more and less?
  2. What justified these changes?  Why did those justifications work?
  3. Why do Americans historically abhor taxes?
  4. Has anything changed in the recent past to change their minds?  If not, is taxophobia “fixable” at all at this point?
  5. What tax increases are on the table now, and for what reasons?  Will the public now accept them?
  6. 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?



The meeting will be at Filter, as usual.


One response

  1. Numerous psychology studies tell us that the wealthy are significantly more selfish than the general population: they tip less, are less likely to help another person in trouble, etc. Studies also show that the more a person thinks about money the more selfish the person tends to be. So I think that you get a self-reinforcing cycle among those people who are the top moneymakers to compete with each other to be #1 in income and to want less to give any of it out unless it benefits themselves personally. Add to this the current belief that corporations are only about making money and that any other concern is somehow bad. So this group of top corporate executives will always be anti-taxes barring a change in what is acceptable behavior in our society. Since lower-status people tend to take their values from the higher-status ones, this sort of selfish attitude should tend to spread through society.

    On the other hand, recent studies claim that ordinary people’s values are shifting away from monetary things, which is in agreement that poorer people tend to be more generous. So perhaps there is becoming another split in society with some people being willing to sacrifice for the good of the whole and others who are not. The question is which group is growing more at this point. Though I think we should know which group will be the more powerful in setting legislation.

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