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Do less, tax more
March 16, 2010 5:43 PM   Subscribe

A NYTimes columnist just comes out and says it: America's taxes should be higher. The Perils of Pay Less, Get More.

Previously, about the tax problems in Colorado Springs
posted by The Devil Tesla (218 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Let's start by adding brackets up to twice what we have now. Then we can negotiate the DoD budget.
posted by DU at 5:44 PM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]




America's taxes should be higher.

You first.
posted by jonmc at 5:48 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Don't tax you, don't tax me; tax that fellow behind the tree.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:52 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Bottom line, as with most articles about the economy....

we're screwed...

wait, I'm old as dirt...

My kids and grandkids are screwed...
posted by HuronBob at 5:53 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's forget about "should"... America's taxes will be higher. We're at the limit of our borrowing, and Medicare costs will only continue to grow. We have no other mechanism for providing health care to retirees; we must continue to fund Medicare. To do so will require increasing tax revenue.

One way to increase tax revenue would be to have a massive immigration program bringing people from developing countries in to do low-wage manufacturing work. Compete with China, in other words. But this would just move the demographic bump out into the future, it would force down standards of living, and it would probably be politically unpalatable. So taxes will have to go up.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:56 PM on March 16, 2010


jonmc: okay. I like taxes, because I like society, and I like government, and the government is the only one of the top ten most powerful organizations in America that's even theoretically beholden to the likes of me. My voting algorithm is pretty simple: "if (viable) R, then D, else G, if raise taxes (other than sales tax) yes, if lower taxes no, if raise sales tax use judgment." (I've only voted against a sales tax hike once, but that one was so clearly regressive that it warranted complicating the algorithm.)

So, uh, I guess "you second" is what I'm saying to you.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 5:58 PM on March 16, 2010 [17 favorites]


The American people aren't really invested in having a civilization.
posted by The Whelk at 5:58 PM on March 16, 2010 [38 favorites]


I've always wondered how Republicans got away with acting like they were brave when making tax cuts. Tax cuts are handing out the dessert before dinner. Balancing the budget that's bravery. Responsibility is bravery.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:01 PM on March 16, 2010 [29 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the IRS doesn't penalize people for paying more than they owe.


So why don't you?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:01 PM on March 16, 2010


Wagner's Law as explained in the column makes it sound like richer people actually prefer higher taxes. I don't think that's the case. Instead, the trend is neatly explained by the "stationary bandit" model of government.
posted by grobstein at 6:03 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


That said, the underlying thesis of this article is infuriating: of course the NYT, mouthpiece for the few people rich enough to profit from the final death throes of the American economy (or at least, the version of the American economy featuring a large middle class rather than a small rich predator class and a large abjectly impovershed prey class), of course the NYT would become hysterical about deficits exactly when massive Keynesian stimulus is needed.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 6:04 PM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


ZenMasterThis: Because it's a team sport.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 6:04 PM on March 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


But anyway dudes, let's not pretend that our taxes are low. Government is about one third of the US economy, or in excess of $3 trillion. Basically that's like more money than's ever been spent on anything. The thought that shit would be so much better if we could just have a little more betrays a complete lack of sense of proportion.

That said it is a little silly that the marginal income tax rates top out when your income hits the low six figures.
posted by grobstein at 6:08 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's ok for someone to be anti-taxes. Completely. However I never want to hear a word from them about "patriotism". Not a single fucking word.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:09 PM on March 16, 2010 [33 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the IRS doesn't penalize people for paying more than they owe.
In my experience, they send back the excess.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 6:09 PM on March 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


How about, "shit would be so much better if the money was spent on the right things"?
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:10 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Our taxes are in fact pretty low, especially considering that we're supporting the most expensive military the world has ever seen. These are old figures, but the relative numbers haven't shifted that much in the past five years.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 6:11 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


GDP is $14B. Federal Budget $3B. About a third? About a fifth? Somewhere in there?
posted by Edward L at 6:14 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually the "Conservative thinkers" like Andrew Sullivan, etc are all for more taxes, so long as rich people don't have to pay them. They love the idea of a VAT or even carbon taxes (because that's still a consumption tax)

Or see the Paul Ryan plan that reduces revenue, but actually raises taxes on 95% of Americans (but not the rich, of course)
posted by delmoi at 6:18 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've always viewed taxes as payments for services rendered. I don't know why this isn't the prevailing opinion about them, because that's exactly what it is.

Yes, we should have better controls on how efficiently the money is used, but overall, I have no qualms of paying taxes, period. It's what bankrolls this group experiment we call Our Country.
posted by hippybear at 6:19 PM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


If it were me I would switch from a consumption/income tax framework to a wealth tax framework. Instead of paying for the money you make you pay on the money you have. That means someone living paycheck to paycheck ends up not paying any taxes, while middle class people who save a few $k a year would pay a little, and the richest people would pay a vast majority of the money, since wealth is even less evenly distributed then income.

Obviously that would disincentivize savings, but it would incentivize spending and it would incentivize work. But spending and work is what makes the economy go, while hording money just slows it down.

The wealth tax would take the place of inflation in motivating people to spend money, which, given the super-low inflation rates we've been seeing is something we need.
posted by delmoi at 6:26 PM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'm an American. I want to pay more taxes.

I think of a lot of the services the government provides are important. They need to be payed for. Not ten, twenty, or thirty years from now, but today. By me. By all of us. By everyone that benefits from them and can afford to pay for them.
posted by dephlogisticated at 6:26 PM on March 16, 2010 [15 favorites]


Saxon Kane: "How about, "shit would be so much better if the money was spent on the right things"?"

This. I really don't mind paying taxes but I wish that so much wasn't going to corrupt military contractors and corporate welfare.
posted by octothorpe at 6:30 PM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's funny, because earlier today I was reading the New York Times article about for-profit colleges and trade schools (e.g., University of Phoenix). The article explains that these schools basically thrive on government money: They approach students who would qualify for federal grants, hard-sell the students into enrolling in their "programs," and pocket the federal money (which the students will answer for, later). This is so profitable for the schools, in fact, that they can apparently afford to write their own private loans to some students, knowing they won't be repaid, just to satisfy a government requirement allowing the loans to keep coming.

According to the article, next year these "schools" will collect about $10 billion in federal money. So...raising taxes? I think there are a couple more knobs we could adjust before pushing the big, red button.
posted by cribcage at 6:31 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


GDP is $14B. Federal Budget $3B. About a third? About a fifth? Somewhere in there?

1. Those should be trillions.

2. The federal budget is more like $3.5T for 2009. (Probably more this year.)

3. The federal budget does not exhaust government spending, because many functions are paid for by the states. I don't have good figures, but I think if you total all government spending for 2009 you may be looking at $5T or $6T.

Of course right now we are spending much more than we are raising, so those are taxes that we're not paying right now (though we're definitely going to pay them eventually).
posted by grobstein at 6:36 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm an American. I want to pay more taxes.

Maybe you and I can make a mutually beneficial deal.
posted by grobstein at 6:37 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


The American people aren't really invested in having a civilization.

No, the American people have been VERY interested in having one, to the point of spending enormous sums of money they don't have in order to make one. And those giant debts are a huge drag on our ability to prosper going forward.

Conservatives want to spend money beating up people overseas, liberals want to spend money feeding people at home, but the key driver there is that they always want to do it with other people's money, taking it by force instead of forming voluntary associations. And when enough of the population objects to having the money taken from them for programs they don't like, both parties are more than willing to just go ahead and borrow the money instead. This forces our children to pay for today's consumption. Children, you see, can't vote, and don't object to stupid, wasteful spending, even though they'll have to pay for it.

So, yay, let's make a fantastic, phenomenal civilization, way past our ability to actually afford, and fuck the people coming after us up the ass. We want it all now, baby.
posted by Malor at 6:40 PM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


they always want to do it with other people's money, taking it by force instead of forming voluntary associations.

A variation on Godwin's Law should state that in any discussion of taxes including at least one Libertarian, as the length of the discussion increases, the odds of "MEN WITH GUNS MEN WITH GUNS MEN WITH GUNS" approach one.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:43 PM on March 16, 2010 [13 favorites]


Warren Buffet has said “There’s class warfare, all right,” Mr. Buffett said, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

In the article by Ben Stein Buffett points out that the rich in the US pay a lower proportion of their income than most people do in tax.

The next question is how this compares to other countries.
posted by sien at 6:54 PM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


One of the points that I had to make repeatedly with my Repugnican friends was that George W. Bush did NOT cut taxes. Not in any way shape or form. Because his tax "cuts" were not matched with spending cuts, they were simply tax deferrals. All that money he and Cheney borrowed to kill a lot of brown people will have to be paid back, with interest.

Deferring (or "cutting", if you're a Repugnican) taxes while running a deficit (like Reagan and Bush 43 did) is a particularly craven form of political cowardice, because the people who ultimately will pay the bill for their spending sprees have no vote, and thus no voice in the matter. I'll give credit to Bush 41, though - he had the balls to raise taxes to try and cover the gargantuan Reagan deficits, but look where it got him?
posted by deadmessenger at 6:55 PM on March 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


I'm already paying pretty close to 40% of my income in taxes. How much more money do you think the government should be able to squeeze out of me?
posted by gyc at 6:55 PM on March 16, 2010


America's taxes should be higher.

You first.


TAXATION DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY
posted by DU at 6:59 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm already paying pretty close to 40% of my income in taxes.

And that's the other thing Republicans, conservatives and other government haters love to exploit (and therefore produce more of): Ignorance. In this case, of marginal tax rates.
posted by DU at 7:02 PM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


And that's the other thing Republicans, conservatives and other government haters love to exploit (and therefore produce more of): Ignorance. In this case, of marginal tax rates.

WTF? Maybe you should STFU and stop calling others ignorant when you don't know how much money I made and how much money I paid to the government.
posted by gyc at 7:17 PM on March 16, 2010


In this case, of marginal tax rates.

I wouldn't assume gyc was referring to marginal tax rates. It would be possible for an individual's effective tax rate to approach 40% in the US (though 40% seems a little high). Remember, you need to take local and state income taxes, sales tax, payroll taxes, and property taxes into account. This is actually not a simple accounting problem; do some googling on "effective tax rate" for some attempts to estimate averages.
posted by mr_roboto at 7:17 PM on March 16, 2010


All of you saps who don't mind being taxed more, don't fret, you will be. But don't for a second believe the rich will be paying their fair share, because they won't. They didn't get rich by writing checks. They will hire the best lawyers and accountants to take advantage of every loophole they can have their lobbyists write into law. That's the way it is and always will be.
posted by digsrus at 7:21 PM on March 16, 2010


When the complaint is that socialist countries have 60% taxation, I stop and add up my student loan payments, my health/dental/eyecare insurance premium, my healthcare payments for non-covered services, and my regular taxes, and I hit 60% as it is. Hell, my insurance is almost 30% of my income. If the government wants to tax me at 40%-50% but I get free college and healthcare my paycheck would get bigger.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:29 PM on March 16, 2010 [29 favorites]


NYT columnist favors higher taxes? Word?
posted by Slap Factory at 7:32 PM on March 16, 2010


"All of you saps who don't mind being taxed more, don't fret, you will be. But don't for a second believe the rich will be paying their fair share, because they won't. They didn't get rich by writing checks. They will hire the best lawyers and accountants to take advantage of every loophole they can have their lobbyists write into law. That's the way it is and always will be."

The wealthy do, of course, find tax loopholes. But the vast majority of potential government revenue lost from the upper class has been due to tax cuts. And these tax cuts were pushed through legislation by exploiting anti-tax sentiments among the American public; specifically, the non-upper class citizens who were eager to trade the benefits of civilization for a $300 rebate check.
posted by dephlogisticated at 7:37 PM on March 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


but the key driver there is that they always want to do it with other people's money, taking it by force instead of forming voluntary associations

Well, yes: civilizations aren't voluntary. They never have been. And that coercion is no bad thing. It's the only way civilizations of any useful scope or duration happen.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:39 PM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Taxes are the fee we pay to live in a civilized society. I will gladly pay more for functioning health care, adequate education, food assistance programs, arts funding, and any other programs that help people.
posted by stoneweaver at 7:41 PM on March 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


we already have one of the effective highest tax rates in the world as was noted above. If you look at the effective corporate income tax rate, it is much higher than many other countries. Of course the corporations are forced to pass on this in the form of higher prices to consumers. So everything you buy has already been inflated by this corporate tax rate.
posted by chinabound at 7:42 PM on March 16, 2010


Show of hands: Who's going to out their money where their mouth is and pay more than they owe this tax season, on principle?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:48 PM on March 16, 2010


That should say "put their money," of course.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:49 PM on March 16, 2010


I will gladly pay more for functioning health care...

And you will. The best functioning health care program our government offers, Medicare, is going to get really, really expensive in the next 40 years. And since the old people pick the government, don't expect to see it defunded at all. Expect that 50% of your tax dollars will be spent on heath care for retirees: that's where we're headed.

we already have one of the effective highest tax rates in the world as was noted above.

Oh, show me the numbers for that! I've never seen a convincing accounting of this fact.

So everything you buy has already been inflated by this corporate tax rate.

Yeah, corporate taxes are stupid and counterproductive. It makes much more economic sense to tax consumption than to tax production. I know everyone wants to get the corporations, but there are better ways. I'd like to see windfall taxes on massive bonuses, for instance.

I think it would actually be cool if we eliminated corporate taxes completely and upped dividend and capital gains taxes. Tax the owners of the corporations when the take their profit instead of trying to track an accounting entry in the books of a pseudo-personal corporate entity.

Show of hands: Who's going to out their money where their mouth is and pay more than they owe this tax season, on principle

This is really more a question of national fiscal policy then of some sort of symbolic personal lifestyle choice. These questions are all very easy (i.e. tractable, empirical, data-based) to discuss on a policy level, actually. I don't know why you feel the need to make polemic emotional appeals.
posted by mr_roboto at 7:51 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


chinabound: we actually have one of the lowest effective tax rates in the developed world, as noted above (Mexico and S. Korea are below us, but that's it). Thanks for playing, though...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:55 PM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


chinabound: No, American personal tax rates are not amongst the highest in the world. See this graph for a super quick introduction.

I live in America. I'd pay more taxes. Perhaps it could be used for education and health care. But given how awful that idea seems to most of America, I'm probably just going to live here for a few more years while I'm enjoying my job, then move to one of those civilised countries in Europe that have already figured out how society works, and pay their higher tax rates, enjoy their better services, and enjoy not feeling like my presence is indicating approval of the apparent American ideal of fucking over everyone you possibly can.
posted by jacalata at 7:56 PM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


ZenMasterThis: I consider the charitable contributions I make to organisations in my area that provide what are in other countries government services, as the 'extra money where my mouth is'. I can send you details if you'd like to match them.
posted by jacalata at 8:00 PM on March 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Conservatives want to spend money beating up people overseas, liberals want to spend money feeding people at home, but the key driver there is that they always want to do it with other people's money, taking it by force instead of forming voluntary associations.

The problem is that these are matters of a common good. If the conservatives are the only ones paying for national defense (which, at least theoretically, is what all these dumb preventative wars were supposed to be), the liberals still benefit from it. When you have an issue that any individual can ignore without being affected unless everyone else ignores it too, you have a situation that requires cooperation.

To put it (rather clumsily, I admit) in libertarian "property rights" terminology: people who choose to opt out of defense spending are "stealing the service of protection" provided to them by the military (at least, ignoring the question of whether what recent administrations did with the military actually increased our security). People who choose to opt out of paying for social programs are likewise "stealing the social safety net," and also the aesthetic and health benefits of not having our streets littered with the homeless, and also the safety benefit of a society where relatively few people are desperate enough to kill them for their wealth, etc.

But there's more to it than that. Because, in practice, "voluntary" associations aren't always realistic. Money is power. People with more money have more power. To borrow the classic socialist argument for a second, those who own the land and means of production really do have power over those who don't, and there's nothing voluntary about the need of the "have-nots" for food, water, and shelter. If every human on Earth emerged from the womb with full ownership of the necessities for the rest of their lives, then libertarianism might work out in the obvious manner you suggest. But we don't. Human beings are already born with involuntary constraints of class, gender, race, nationality, etc. thrust upon them, and redistribution of wealth is actually about removing those involuntary associations so that only the voluntary ones are left.
posted by Xezlec at 8:04 PM on March 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the IRS doesn't penalize people for paying more than they owe. So why don't you?

I'm pretty sure I do, because I don't hire accountants who will use every potential and quasi-legal means to avoid taxes. This behaviour is, needless to say, quite unlike that of the ultra-wealthy.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:05 PM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Conservatives want to spend money beating up people overseas

To be fair, the minute the USA stops engaging in war its economy will collapse. Far too much of the GDP is engaged in researching and building weapons of war.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:08 PM on March 16, 2010


Oh, and my taxes are too low. I make middle-class income, but I voluntarily pay nearly 100% of another person's living expenses and I'm still living very well and making more than I can spend. I could easily take a tax hike. Maybe your situation is different, but from my sofa in my apartment full of stuff in front of my 60" plasma, taxes are so low it's silly.
posted by Xezlec at 8:09 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Repugnican

*rolls eyes*
posted by brain_drain at 8:29 PM on March 16, 2010


I was reading the New York Times article about for-profit colleges and trade schools

"tuition that can exceed $30,000 a year. "

Mind you this was 20 years ago... I went to a run-of-the-mill Canadian community college (trade school) for a three year electronics technologist diploma.

My tuition was $895 per year.

And 40% of that was covered by provincial grants, the rest by low-interest loans.

That's higher taxes at work.

But I still griped about $200 for text books.
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:48 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'll be glad to pay more in taxes. I suspect I'm already overlooking all sorts of deductions that could bring down my household tax rate. We don't make a point of obsessing over finding every possible avenue for lowering our obligation. Now, as for health care costs, right now, my family insurance through work accounts for roughly 20% of my entire take home pay. I believe health care alone (not to mention daycare service) actually gobbles up more of my take home pay than my entire tax burden does.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:50 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


I could easily take a tax hike.

So send in some more goddamn money, since you don't need it, instead of volunteering everyone else's.

Many people in your situation would be saving, or perhaps trying to open a business of some sort. Since all you're doing is consumption, you might as well write a bigger check to the government. Consumption either way, it makes no difference.

People trying to build something more than what already exists need savings to do it, and high tax rates help ensure they can't accumulate the assets needed to build a better life.

And don't just get into the 'you can just borrow!' line -- because while that's a good lever, that's just using other people's savings. SOMEONE has to save, or the economy doesn't grow. Growth always comes at the cost of current consumption; to get more piglets, you can't eat the pig. To build more factories, you can't use the required materials and manpower to make bombers.

So, yeah, maybe you're just rolling around in an orgy of consumption and can't figure out what to do with all that extra money, but that's most emphatically not true for everyone.

Hell, put it to work in a place like Kiva; the second- and third-worlders need capital desperately. That'd be a lot better for the world than giving it to the US government to beat up on brown people.
posted by Malor at 8:58 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


OMG Taxes again! Yay!

I'm already paying pretty close to 40% of my income in taxes. How much more money do you think the government should be able to squeeze out of me?

This has already been picked apart, but seriously, if you have a 40% effective tax rate then you need to log off MetaFilter and get back to managing your hedge fund. Also, you need to get a better accountant: Warren Buffett's secretary pays Uncle Sam a higher share of her income than he does. Perhaps you work as a hedge fund manager's secretary? If so, ask your boss for a promotion and you'll probably end up paying proportionally less tax.

Much of your payroll tax is not income tax but various forms of government-mandated insurance: disability, unemployment, retirement income. There are, in fact, effectively user fees and not taxes at all. So stop complaining about taxes - your libertarian utopia of user fees is already here.

The US has really high tax brackets and a lot of deductions. Also, don't take away my mortgage interest deduction but a note to other countries: never, ever implement this. It's a horrible deduction. An efficient housing market eats it up in a nanosecond and housing becomes no more affordable while the government loses out on a lot of tax revenue.

Anyway, my argument for taxes is this: if the government stopped taxing you, would you really be better off? First, you'd be no better off relatively speaking - everyone would cease paying taxes and now more money is chasing the same supply of goods and services so prices would probably rise. Second, there's no guarantee you wouldn't end up paying more in user fees and insurance for all sorts of situations, like civil court. Think being sued is expensive now? Imagine how expensive it will be when you have to pay for the judge and courtroom out of pocket. Just as countries with socialized medicine cap costs, the government caps costs for all sorts of services which in a really free market would cost a LOT of money. How much do you think your water bill would go up if water was privatized and deregulated? Trash collection? And imagine about the people who really do opt out - how many suburban homeowners would simply keep their trash in their backyard instead of paying to have it collected? That would be unplesant.

But the libertarians are right to a degree. The US needs slightly higher taxes but it could use with a big cutback in spending. Personally, I'm all for cutting back on the military. Honestly, they haven't really achieved much net good in the last 40 years, though it's not the fault of soldiers.
posted by GuyZero at 8:59 PM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


high tax rates help ensure they can't accumulate the assets needed to build a better life.

This statement is disproven by the existence of every other first-world nation.
posted by GuyZero at 9:00 PM on March 16, 2010 [20 favorites]


I'm already paying pretty close to 40% of my income in taxes. How much more money do you think the government should be able to squeeze out of me?

Depends on how much you make. If you're pulling down seven figures, probably 10-20% more, easy. Take a look at historical tax rates in the US [pdf].
posted by jedicus at 9:04 PM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm already paying pretty close to 40% of my income in taxes. How much more money do you think the government should be able to squeeze out of me?

You do recognize, of course, that you're getting things with that money, don't you? It's not just vanishing. It's providing roads and schools and scientific research and police protection and military protection and insurance for many aspects of your life (unemployment, disaster, old age, many aspects of medical care for many people).

Sure, the money is not all well spent and we each have things that we wish our government did not spend money on. But on the whole, I feel like I'm getting a pretty good deal out of the taxes that I pay. I think the shared investments of our infrastructure, our civilization, our shared security, and our commonwealth generate much more happiness and well being than the private purchases that people make.

There was a funny article recently about people in Arizona being upset because the state was running out of money and so it started shutting down highway rest stops. People just don't get it. They want a place to pee, but they don't want to pay for it. They think it should just magically come for free.

Well, here's the deal: it doesn't. Your parents and grandparents paid taxes to build this country. They paid higher taxes than you do now and they did not whine about it and you are benefiting from that every time you drive on a highway or take a drug that's been approved by the FDA.

You will have to pay taxes to maintain and continue building this country, or the country will stop functioning. It doesn't just run by itself, for free. If you want a country that runs by itself, for free, you can visit libertarian paradise. I think you'll find that you like a country with taxes better.
posted by alms at 9:13 PM on March 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


Funny how the best times were those where taxation recognized how wealth really works. Should be essentially the inverse curve of wealth x a scalar: the more you have, the more you pay percentage-wise in taxes. You're always left with more, much more, than the peons and other little people; but you also benefit from a healthy, educated, well-ordered society far, far more than they do. Hell, your very wealth depends upon it: they can get by without you, but you can not get by without them.

Fair times are better times. We need tax reform back to what used to be considered normal.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:15 PM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


There needs to be a Godwin's Law variant for Somalia and discussions of taxation/libertarianism. It's been done people.
posted by GuyZero at 9:17 PM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I voluntarily pay more in taxes. I overpay which gives the government use of my money for several months. I don't know that they collect interest on it but if they don't, they should. I also deliberately don't write off charitable contributions. Depending on how well I'm doing any particular year I may not choose to collect my EIC. I would willingly pay more. My dad told me that "Republicans borrow and spend, Democrats tax and spend." Libertarians have a problem with the "spend" part of that but it's the "borrow" part that irks me.
posted by irisclara at 9:26 PM on March 16, 2010


I make middle-class income, but I voluntarily pay nearly 100% of another person's living expenses So, your boyfriend is a guitar player?

Seriously, though, your previous comment was right on.
posted by carping demon at 9:28 PM on March 16, 2010


Come to California, we decided in 1978 that we don't want to pay higher taxes. The state is nearing collapse.

We showed em who's boss.
posted by pianomover at 10:05 PM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]




redistribution of wealth is actually about removing those involuntary associations so that only the voluntary ones are left.

Not even so much the redistribution of wealth as it is equalizing the playing field for our youth and those who are struck by misfortune by no fault of their own, ie. getting a 'second chance.' Essentially, taxation is what makes it possible for our children's children to get ahead in life. Gives them a chance to make the most of themselves.

It does this, when done well, by ensuring every citizen has basic shelter, gets a useful basic education, gets opportunity to extend that education toward a contributing-to-society role in society, and can do so in good health.

It gives everyone the chance to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Makes it possible for America to excel. I can't imagine there is any other means by which the US can compete in the new global economy, except by those opportunities it makes possible for those who are motivated.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:18 PM on March 16, 2010


So send in some more goddamn money, since you don't need it, instead of volunteering everyone else's.

The whole point of my comment was that I was willing to. But I and a handful of other generous people can't pay the national debt alone. I am certain that there are other people in my bracket who are in a similar situation, whether they admit it or not.

People trying to build something more than what already exists need savings to do it, and high tax rates help ensure they can't accumulate the assets needed to build a better life.

I wasn't proposing high taxes for the poor. I don't think people like me need a "better life," nor do I believe that our biggest problem is that the US needs to "build more" and doesn't have the money to do so. The US has a lot of capital, and tax rates here are actually low by international standards.

That'd be a lot better for the world than giving it to the US government to beat up on brown people.

That's not fair (particularly the racism implication). The reason I'm in favor of a tax hike is to pay down the exploding debt, which I don't believe can be done at this point via spending cuts alone (at least not without far worse consequences). I'm not in favor of starting any more wars or making the ones we're stuck in now any worse.

So, your boyfriend is a guitar player?

No, I'm not gay. My mom is mentally ill.
posted by Xezlec at 10:18 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh man, would you like to restate that? No offense meant.
posted by carping demon at 10:21 PM on March 16, 2010


alms: "Your parents and grandparents paid taxes to build this country. They paid higher taxes than you do now and they did not whine about it"

Interesting theory; I guess the photographic evidence that the teaparty skews retired suggests they're making up for lost time bitching?
posted by pwnguin at 11:24 PM on March 16, 2010


Malor writes: "And don't just get into the 'you can just borrow!' line -- because while that's a good lever, that's just using other people's savings. SOMEONE has to save, or the economy doesn't grow. Growth always comes at the cost of current consumption; to get more piglets, you can't eat the pig. To build more factories, you can't use the required materials and manpower to make bombers."

This sounds nice, but it's also idiotic. A person can take a loan and start a successful business, then pay back said loan while reaping profits. This is pretty much American Dream 101.

Not that it always happens this way, but economies aren't zero-sum games. At least they haven't been since about the Industrial Revolution. As for piglets, sure you can kill the mom and eat her. Then you raise the babies into new daddies and mommies, have them reproduce, and eat even more delicious bacon.

This is why reducing somewhat complicated economic issues to barnyard analogies is way stupid.
posted by bardic at 12:27 AM on March 17, 2010


And that's the other thing Republicans, conservatives and other government haters love to exploit (and therefore produce more of): Ignorance. In this case, of marginal tax rates.

40% of income does not mean a 40% income tax rate.
When you add up income tax, payroll tax, sales tax, property tax, various fees for this, that and the other, it's not inconceivable that you'd reach 40%.

Hell, between state and federal income taxes and property/school taxes I can reach about 30-35%.

Moreover, a dislike of paying taxes does not equate to a "government hater".
I'm quite fond of the fire and police protection I'm provided. I'm ok with the public school system. I'm even mostly ok with people shopping at Whole Foods on foodstamps.

But there are a whole bunch of things the government does that I honestly think they have no business doing, and I'd much rather they look into dropping some of that before reaching into my pocket once again.
posted by madajb at 12:44 AM on March 17, 2010


It's ok for someone to be anti-taxes. Completely. However I never want to hear a word from them about "patriotism". Not a single fucking word.

Is there a connection between patriotism and approval of government expansion?

-----

I want to pay more taxes.

I don't believe you. After all, what's stopping you? You can go ahead and indulge that desire right now. I suspect that what you actually want is for the rest of us to pay higher taxes. Call it what it is.
posted by BigSky at 2:45 AM on March 17, 2010


This sounds nice, but it's also idiotic. A person can take a loan and start a successful business, then pay back said loan while reaping profits. This is pretty much American Dream 101.

Somebody had to save that money to lend to you. And money that you borrow and invest in your business is money that the ultimate owner can't use for consumption. The money is available to you because they didn't consume it; they saved it. They deferred their consumption of wealth, in order to make more wealth. They picked you as a lending target because you looked like a good way to generate a return.

But if nobody's saving, there's no money for investment. Money you suck out of the system and into consumption programs, like wars and entitlement programs, is unavailable for further invesment. It's consumed, burned and gone.

And you may not think that you need a better life, but there's a huge number of people in this country that would disagree. The process of you generating wealth for yourself, of even simply saving for your own retirement, makes those resources available for others to invest and make their lives better. In turn, your life gets better too.

We have gotten so shortsighted. We should have so much wealth by now that even super-healthy food should be cheap enough to afford for the lowest rung of society. We should be able to easily afford solid health care for everyone; it should be cheap, compared to real incomes. We should have enough money to fix all our infrastructure and educate our kids. In the 1960s, we essentially funded the monumental space program out of spare change we found in the couch. Nowadays, we let our cities drown and rot, while wringing our hands and sobbing, because there's just no wealth to fix anything anymore. And that's because we're pissing it all away.

We're so consumption-based that we can't imagine that things could be better than they are now. Gimmegimmegimmegimme. Oh, and next generation? Too bad, so sad. You can pay for our idiocy, plus yours too.
posted by Malor at 3:15 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


In Massachusetts, AKA Taxachusetts, they lowered the incom tax by about 1/2 of a percentage point a few years back. On the annual tax filing forms there's an option to pay the higher tax rate. This was put there to assuage the no tax cut crowd. Guess how many people volunteer to pay the highertax rate. c'mon guess... Well let me tell you even Senator Kerry didn't.
posted by Gungho at 4:03 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Somebody had to save that money to lend to you. And money that you borrow and invest in your business is money that the ultimate owner can't use for consumption. The money is available to you because they didn't consume it; they saved it.

Not they didn't.

When a bank lends you money, most of the money created on the spot. It's new money supply. It didn't exist before. No-one saved it, no-one is "missing out" on it.

The new money supply allows you to start a business and generate real profits. These could not have existed without the loan.

There is no fixed amount of money in the world. It's not a zero-sum game. The whole economy is not like your own personal budget. By oversimplifying you end up at the wrong conclusion.
posted by dave99 at 4:24 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


WTF? Maybe you should STFU and stop calling others ignorant when you don't know how much money I made and how much money I paid to the government.
posted by gyc at 7:17 PM on March 1


So post your income. Don't brag about how much you pay in taxes if you don't want people speculating. DU's comment was perfectly legitimate.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:32 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


BigSky: "I don't believe you. After all, what's stopping you? You can go ahead and indulge that desire right now. I suspect that what you actually want is for the rest of us to pay higher taxes. Call it what it is."

Well duh. It won't really make much of a difference if I as a single tax payer kick in a few grand extra. It's only effective if everyone does.
posted by octothorpe at 4:36 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't believe you. After all, what's stopping you? You can go ahead and indulge that desire right now. I suspect that what you actually want is for the rest of us to pay higher taxes. Call it what it is.
posted by BigSky at 2:45 AM on March 17


We had this conversation the last time you pulled out your Dr. Ron Paul banners. I'm fine with tax increases across the board except for those making under a certain multiple of the poverty level. Under my ideal tax plan, I would pay more in taxes. However, me simply cutting a check to the federal government will not accomplish America's goals, so until we see a rational tax plan, I spend my disposable income as I see fit. I'm confident that I do so ethically, and not under an ethos of "fuck you, got mine."

Taxes buy us civilization. Taxes are legal. I know that you think you have special Constitutional knowledge that you gleaned from a blurry mimeograph you ordered from out of the back of a magazine, but you are wrong. Taxes are legal and desirable. You can disagree all you want, but I can promise you this: Ron Paul will never be anything more than a crazy Representative from a district no one cares about. The Fed will never be abolished. And for the rest of your life, BigSky, you will either pay taxes, go to prison, or be shot to death by jackbooted government goons. Good morning.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:44 AM on March 17, 2010 [15 favorites]


Under my ideal tax plan

You know what? We're not going to raise taxes because any measure to do that won't get passed. Just like any measure to tax big (ahem, government supported) business won't get passed. And any measure to stop the tax cuts, subsidies, and other privileges those businesses receive from the government won't get passed. Just like any measure to cut military spending won't get passed.

So wtf are we arguing about? Tell me how you will ever pass a tax increase like that. No doubt in my mind that it would be beneficial, but let's get serious, because if it ain't gonna happen then there's no point in wasting our breath talking about it like it is.
posted by symbollocks at 5:03 AM on March 17, 2010


Malor writes: "Somebody had to save that money to lend to you."

It's been a while since people borrowed money from "somebody" to buy a house or start a business. People borrow from banks. And yes, banks fucked up big time recently but we're better off with them then burying our cash in mayonnaise jars and hoping to build a bigger hovel some day.

You are familiar with the concept of interest, yes?

"And money that you borrow and invest in your business is money that the ultimate owner can't use for consumption. The money is available to you because they didn't consume it; they saved it."

No. Wrong. As mentioned, when a bank give you a loan they don't climb down to the dunjon to scoop up a few barrel-fulls of precious gold bullion. They simply cut you a check. A piece of paper that says they are on the hook for the loan, certainly, but again it's not a zero-sum game. Banks invent value out of thin air all the time. When done with proper oversight and regulation this gives us a healthy economy. When they don't, well, we get a meltdown. But that doesn't mean the system properly run is a bad thing. It's what allows people who don't have 700k of cash in the bank to live in houses. Because even very high-income earners rarely have that much in the bank as cash.

"But if nobody's saving, there's no money for investment. Money you suck out of the system and into consumption programs, like wars and entitlement programs, is unavailable for further invesment. It's consumed, burned and gone."

Wrong again. I won't argue that wars can be incredibly wasteful, but are you familiar with the concept of "value added"? If I own some land and borrow money to build a house on it, I create more value than the loan was worth (ideally). This means, indeed, money people responsibly "suck out" if used properly can create wealth for you and then for the bank in the form of interest paid.

You honestly have some very ass-backwards notion about economics. And I'm not trying to sound like a cheerleader for Goldman-Sachs, but modern banking done properly allows us to do some very nice things with our income but not the hard cash on hand. And maybe someone taking a loan will totally blow it, but properly understood (i.e., not handing out shitty loans by the million) banks create wealth all the time ex-nihilo, so to speak. There is no universal cap on wealth, because modern currencies aren't tied to tangible commodities like gold or silver.

"We're so consumption-based that we can't imagine that things could be better than they are now. Gimmegimmegimmegimme. Oh, and next generation? Too bad, so sad. You can pay for our idiocy, plus yours too."

Now you simply aren't making any sense. I'm all for people saving, but hoarding wealth under the mattress is a bad idea in any economy. Again, explain the concept of interest to me -- how is it that if I put money in the bank at 1% (interest rates being incredibly low these days, obviously) I get back 1% gain at the end of the year?

Not. A. Zero-sum. Game.

Finally, there's actually a paradox right now with the American economy. We aren't good savers generally, but ideally this would be the time for people to spend. That would encourage businesses to hire and cut unemployment. But that's a hard thing to ask of people mired in such a crappy economy.

Still, it's miles ahead of your bizarro-world 17th century take on modern economics.
posted by bardic at 6:02 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry for the wall of text, but the stupid is just too strong to ignore: "Money you suck out of the system and into consumption programs, like wars and entitlement programs"

So, let's take public schools and universities. I went to both "entitlement programs" for my education, and they allowed me to earn degrees which can earn me more money. And hence, I pay more taxes (until recently when I moved abroad), and the tax man reaps more income from me. Fingers crossed I don't get run over by a bus, and lo and behold my lifetime inputs into the Federal and state and county treasuries will far outweigh my "sucking out" in the form of a decent public education.
posted by bardic at 6:10 AM on March 17, 2010


When people say they want to pay more taxes (and I would do so as well), they are basically saying they want to live in a civilization that is, well, civilized. One that minimizes inequality rather than maximizing it and that sees the poor and ill as part of "us" not some undeserving, lazy, trying-to-cheat-us "them."

The ironic thing is that the happiest and healthiest countries in the world (Scandinavian, mainly) have the lowest income inequality and the highest taxes. They also have the lowest crime rates, lowest infant mortality rates, and greatest life expectancy in the world.

Americans think that we have the best of everything but they don't bother to find out that that's not true and that a way of living that we demonize as scary socialism actually provides not only a great safety net (including not just health care, but family leave and childcare) but also has high productivity and happiness. We claim to be "family friendly" but have the least child and family friendly policies in the developed world and one of the highest child poverty rates.

What we forget is that sharing-- done voluntarily-- not only helps others, but makes *us* happier. Until we relearn the joy of altruism and stop seeing it as some kind of grim duty or second-best sort of pleasure that really isn't as good as keeping everything for ourselves and being totally "independent," we're not going to improve and we're going to keep wondering why we have such a violent, drug-filled, high-prevalence-of-obesity and mental illness kind of society.
posted by Maias at 6:15 AM on March 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Until we relearn the joy of altruism and stop seeing it as some kind of grim duty or second-best sort of pleasure that really isn't as good as keeping everything for ourselves and being totally "independent," we're not going to improve and we're going to keep wondering why we have such a violent, drug-filled, high-prevalence-of-obesity and mental illness kind of society.

So until then we just sit around and let the world burn? Until finally, one day, every single human being has learned the value of altruism and we live happily ever after? Or until the majority of human beings have learned the value of altruism and can decide to cleanse themselves of the selfish minority? Call me pessimistic, but you have a rather limited view of what human nature is and should be (and a pretty unrealistic view of what it could be).

Also, this worldview of "sit around and wait and eventually we'll all learn (or evolve) to get along" is really getting on my nerves. God forbid you be the change you want to see in the world.
posted by symbollocks at 7:13 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


The ironic thing is that the happiest and healthiest countries in the world (Scandinavian, mainly) have the lowest income inequality and the highest taxes.

Cite? This and this indicate that we're doing pretty well.
posted by electroboy at 7:18 AM on March 17, 2010


I don't believe you.

Fortunately, you're an anonymous stranger on the internet, so I'm not personally burderned by your disbelief. But if you want me to be more precise, I will be: I want everyone, including myself, to pay higher taxes. Not because I want the government to expand, but because I don't want the government to contract, and inevitably it will have to unless we start paying for the programs from which we all benefit.

I remember being a kid and learning about the deficit and the national debt, and being completely confused by it. It was obvious to me at 10 that you can't spend money you don't have; it's just not sustainable. This is bang-your-head-against-the-wall common sense. I didn't like the debt then and I don't like it now.

If there was a way for me to pay off my share of the national debt today so that I don't have to keep paying interest fees on it for the rest of my life, I would. I'm tired of debt being created (and sustained, and expanded) in my name. I pay my bills on time when they come and I think the government should do the same.

After all, what's stopping you? You can go ahead and indulge that desire right now.

Even assuming the IRS started accepted donations, me paying higher taxes alone won't fix anything. But you already know that, you're just being obnoxiously obtuse.

I'm middle class, which puts me in a higher tax bracket than a lot of Americans, and I have absolutely no problem paying more taxes than those who are worse off than I am.
posted by dephlogisticated at 8:50 AM on March 17, 2010


If taxes have to go up, they should go up on everyone by way of VAT or national sales tax.

A majority-tax-payer electorate can engage in intelligent self-governance; a majority-tax-recipient electorate is fast on its way to Detroit.

This is hardly an abstract threat: by next year with the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and the kick-in of health care reform high-income surcharge taxes (if they pass), we will have an electorate a very large share of which not only doesn't pay any consequential share of the total federal tax load but will have no realistic expectation of doing so.

(And, no, social security tax doesn't count. For low and moderate earners, it is a forced savings program subsidized by the standard income tax or deficit borrowing, not any real contribution to the fisc.)
posted by MattD at 8:51 AM on March 17, 2010


A majority-tax-payer electorate can engage in intelligent self-governance; a majority-tax-recipient electorate is fast on its way to Detroit.

hmm do you hear that it sounds like a dog whistle
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:56 AM on March 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


A majority-tax-payer electorate can engage in intelligent self-governance; a majority-tax-recipient electorate is fast on its way to Detroit.

Damn lazy good-for-nothing red states, suckling at the government teat.
posted by electroboy at 9:09 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


If taxes have to go up, they should go up on everyone by way of VAT or national sales tax.

That way the poor can be punished even more than they are now!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:36 AM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


It might be possible to do a VAT tax that doesn't disproportionately punish the poor, for example, if the government automatically sent a monthly check for the projected amount of tax you'd pay, or exempted food, clothing and rent, but the likelihood of something like that happening is slim to none.

The current tax system is pretty complex, and while there's assistance available for lower income people (if you can find it), it seems like a pretty burdensome process to foist on people who are already struggling as it is.
posted by electroboy at 10:12 AM on March 17, 2010


In the spirit of put-the-fuck-up or shut-the-fuck-up, here are GuyZero's normalized 2009 United States of God-Bless-America tax numbers. Income is gross income, purely top-line. No deductions have been put here (it's not AGI or anything like that). Taxes are based on actuals - I have already filed my federal & state returns and have my refunds. Other deductions are based on YTD final-paycheque numbers.
pay	       $1,000.00
federal tax	  $85.30
state tax 	  $33.21
property tax	  $60.90
That's right bitches. I have an 8.5% effective federal tax rate, in spite of being in the top quartile of US household incomes. And that is my correct property tax figure, no joke. Fuck you, Proposition 13.
employee medicare $14.26
social security   $44.81
disability         $6.75
I maintain that these are not actually taxes but instead mandatory savings and insurance.
home/auto insrns     $19.21
medical/dental/vision $9.91
term life             $2.78
Now, wait you're saying, these aren't taxes. Well, I can't very well not pay them, can I? I am legally required to have both home and auto insurance, I'm pretty sure I want medical insurance (and yes my company has good benefits so I don't pay much - I am very much atypical in this regard)
401k          $46.32
Again, you say, this is not a tax! Well, first off I know it's waaaay too low. I need to save more and have increased my 2010 deductions. But I can't very well NOT save for retirement, can I? And if it wasn't for all those other taxes above I'd probably have to save a lot more. Whether you think I'm more likely to lose my 401K or my social security is pretty much an arbitrary bet based on whether you hate the government or the stock market more.

So last year I made $1000 and kept $676.55. I paid somewhere between 8.5% and 32.3% in "tax" depending on what you could as tax. In Canada I paid about 30% of my gross income directly to the federal and provincial governments - the direct comparison here is vs the 11.8% I pay to federal & state.

So US tax rates are looooooooooooooow. Those who say otherwise are crazy.

Also, note that I am employed full-time and made no income last year from dividends or capital gains. This is all straight employment income. The self-employed pay more social security I believe, possibly double the number I have there. Also, as other have noted, too many Americans pay 20% of their income to health coverage vs my 1%. But a lot of Americans who have health coverage through work are in the same situation as me which is why there is so much resistance to reforming the system - many people don't see it as broken. Or it's only broken for "other people". Having been unemployed in Canada, it was no big deal. I am literally fearful of being unemployed in the USA. It would be like being naked in a cage of hungry lions.

Many comment but I guess my only actual conclusion is that yeah, Americans could definitely pay more tax and it would probably not kill them.
posted by GuyZero at 10:22 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Canada has a VAT - the GST - and they do exactly what people mentioned. it doesn't apply to groceries and low-income earners get an annual GST rebate on their income tax. So it ends up being a quasi-progressive sales tax. Rakes in a lot of money too.
posted by GuyZero at 10:23 AM on March 17, 2010


Even assuming the IRS started accepted donations, me paying higher taxes alone won't fix anything. But you already know that, you're just being obnoxiously obtuse.

As if you were constrained from making additional payments now. Come on.

Remember, every little bit helps!

-----

Well duh. It won't really make much of a difference if I as a single tax payer kick in a few grand extra. It's only effective if everyone does.

and

I'm fine with tax increases across the board except for those making under a certain multiple of the poverty level. Under my ideal tax plan, I would pay more in taxes. However, me simply cutting a check to the federal government will not accomplish America's goals, so until we see a rational tax plan, I spend my disposable income as I see fit. I'm confident that I do so ethically, and not under an ethos of "fuck you, got mine."

Hey, what happened to that dopey "Be the change you want to see in the world"? Yes, there's always a reason not to take action, not to put one's money where one's mouth is. And that's what these claims are, self validating excuses. Giving something is unquestionably better than giving nothing, but you're not interested in making an individual contribution. No, what you want is to put your, i.e. the government's, hand in another man's pocket. You, as in you personally, don't want to do a damn thing beyond that.

-----

You know what? We're not going to raise taxes because any measure to do that won't get passed. Just like any measure to tax big (ahem, government supported) business won't get passed. And any measure to stop the tax cuts, subsidies, and other privileges those businesses receive from the government won't get passed. Just like any measure to cut military spending won't get passed.

We will almost certainly be raising taxes. We don't really have any options beyond a dramatic decrease in military spending, which is very improbable.

Take a look at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation for a sobering discussion of these issues.

-----

Banks invent value out of thin air all the time.

No, they don't. They, actually the Federal Reserve, steal value by expanding credit all the time. Money represents a certain amount of purchasing power, and the creation of more money out of thin air is similar to the actions of a criminal forger. In both occasions, all the participants in the economy who are not connected to the "money-creator" are hurt by those actions.
posted by BigSky at 10:34 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think most of the hardcore advocates of a national sales tax in the US are looking for a replacement of the current income tax. I can't find a cite off the top of my head, but I think they estimated a VAT tax would have to be in the neighborhood of 30-35% to replace the income tax.
posted by electroboy at 10:35 AM on March 17, 2010


the creation of more money out of thin air is similar to the actions of a criminal forger

Oh lord.

You know who wrote a good explanation about increasing the money supply: aaron schwartz. Not expanding the money supply can kill the economy. It's kind of the opposite of criminal.
posted by GuyZero at 10:38 AM on March 17, 2010


I'm still living very well and making more than I can spend.

And I guess I'd ask why does this, or the fact that you own a 60" plasma television, necessarily mean that you should be paying more taxes.
posted by cribcage at 11:03 AM on March 17, 2010


the creation of more money out of thin air

Where the hell do you think any money came from? You think we just found a bunch of it lying around at the dawn of civilization that we've been using ever since and we desperately have to conserve the little bit we have left?

At some point, money is necessarily created out of thin air. All that currency is in the first place is a government-secured IOU we exchange for goods and services. It says so right there on the face of it. A dollar bill is a negotiable debt note, no more, no less.

As long as people are still rendering valuable services and producing valuable goods, there's real economic value underpinning the value of all those dollars we necessarily "create out of thin air."
posted by saulgoodman at 11:19 AM on March 17, 2010


We had this conversation the last time you pulled out your Dr. Ron Paul banners. I'm fine with tax increases across the board except for those making under a certain multiple of the poverty level. Under my ideal tax plan, I would pay more in taxes. However, me simply cutting a check to the federal government will not accomplish America's goals, so until we see a rational tax plan, I spend my disposable income as I see fit. I'm confident that I do so ethically, and not under an ethos of "fuck you, got mine."

Taxes buy us civilization. Taxes are legal. I know that you think you have special Constitutional knowledge that you gleaned from a blurry mimeograph you ordered from out of the back of a magazine, but you are wrong. Taxes are legal and desirable. You can disagree all you want, but I can promise you this: Ron Paul will never be anything more than a crazy Representative from a district no one cares about. The Fed will never be abolished. And for the rest of your life, BigSky, you will either pay taxes, go to prison, or be shot to death by jackbooted government goons. Good morning.


Oooooooohhhhhh mmmmyyyyyyyyyyyyyy
posted by Damn That Television at 11:19 AM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


here are GuyZero's normalized 2009 United States of God-Bless-America tax numbers.

A point of clarification, because I can't make your numbers match my experience, is the "pay" column biweekly? Monthly? Weekly?
posted by madajb at 11:29 AM on March 17, 2010


That's my total annual pay. I made $1000 in 2009. Well, I made more than that, but I normalized it to $1000.
posted by GuyZero at 11:32 AM on March 17, 2010


"Hey, what happened to that dopey "Be the change you want to see in the world"? Yes, there's always a reason not to take action, not to put one's money where one's mouth is. And that's what these claims are, self validating excuses."

My desire to pay higher taxes has nothing to do with altruism. You can willfully avoid of the point as much as you like, but it's not making you look terribly good, and it's certainly not winning you any arguments.

I want to pay higher taxes so that I will continue to benefit from the government programs and policies that currently exist. If an opt-in approach to these programs was feasible, I would support it. I would love to not have to listen to anti-tax zealots complaining all the time, and I would love even more to see them struggle and beg when they realize that, oops, they really needed that unemployment/retirement/emergency health-care safety net after all.

But an opt-in approach is not feasible, for reasons that are perfectly obvious. Most government-provided benefits simply cannot be provided piece-meal, either because they fundamentally cannot be distributed unevenly, because of the economies of scale, or because it would be political untenable to have the children of libertarians starving to death because of their parent's short-sightedness. These aren't excuses, they're just reality.

For the majority of government programs, it's all or nothing. It's everyone pays or no one pays. I would prefer the former, you would prefer the latter. That's all there is to it.
posted by dephlogisticated at 11:46 AM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Where the hell do you think any money came from? You think we just found a bunch of it lying around at the dawn of civilization that we've been using ever since and we desperately have to conserve the little bit we have left?

At some point, money is necessarily created out of thin air. All that currency is in the first place is a government-secured IOU we exchange for goods and services. It says so right there on the face of it. A dollar bill is a negotiable debt note, no more, no less.

As long as people are still rendering valuable services and producing valuable goods, there's real economic value underpinning the value of all those dollars we necessarily "create out of thin air."


Where does money come from? Well, when money was a commodity it came from the same place all the other commodities came from - an element of nature recognized by man to have value e.g. see wheat, corn, silver, and livestock for some examples. Money originally "came from" the same place.

Money was the commodity commonly chosen to be the medium of exchange. So long as money is enduring and infinitely divisible, e.g. metals, then the quantity is irrelevant.

By the way, what can I redeem that "government-secured IOU" for? Where do I take it to get redeemed?
posted by BigSky at 11:59 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Taxes buy us civilization.

I actually have a pet theory about this. I believe there's a compelling argument to be made that taxation is literally the one human innovation most responsible for bringing about modern civilization.

The historical record seems to support this view: from the Egyptians to the Mayans, no significant, major human civilization has ever emerged without taxation. Think about it. Is there a single example of a major civilization that didn't impose taxes in some form? Even the smallest human tribes make food offerings and other tributes to the leaders of their villages and pool their resources for the benefit of the young, weak and infirm.

I don't think that's just coincidence either. I think taxation is literally the engine of modernity. And to be opposed to taxation as a matter of principle is to be opposed to modernity and to civilization itself, whether you mean to be or not.

Of course there are specific problems with the tax code. But the fact that the tax code is designed to be progressive is not one of them. And questioning the utility or legitimacy of taxation itself does nothing to help solve the real problems, and instead, merely threatens to create even more serious problems and to destabilize the entire enterprise of civilization.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:02 PM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Where does money come from? Well, when money was a commodity it came from the same place all the other commodities came from - an element of nature recognized by man to have value e.g. see wheat, corn, silver, and livestock for some examples. Money originally "came from" the same place.

Not true. People used non-government debt notes as currency for centuries before the idea of the gold standard came about, and the Romans produced coinage that, while they were made of precious metals, had a market value higher than the raw materials they were made of, which was based on the intrinsic value of the coinage:

Unlike most modern coins, Roman coins had intrinsic value. While they contained precious metals, the value of a coin was higher than its precious metal content, so they were not bullion.

Yes, money has been treated as a finite commodity more recently in history, with conventions like the gold standard, but that's not at all how money has always been used or understood historically.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:08 PM on March 17, 2010


Not true. People used non-government debt notes as currency for centuries before the idea of the gold standard came about, and the Romans produced coinage that, while they were made of precious metals, had a market value higher than the raw materials they were made of, which was based on the intrinsic value of the coinage:

I was not talking about the gold standard. From here, "Money originated as commodity money, but nearly all contemporary money systems are based on fiat money.".
posted by BigSky at 12:13 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


By the way, what can I redeem that "government-secured IOU" for? Where do I take it to get redeemed?

You take it to someone who has goods and services to trade for it.

Presumably, you already delivered goods and services equal to the market value of the note to someone else, and that's how you came to possess the debt note you are in turn paying out for goods and services.

The person to whom you give the debt note is obligated to accept it as legal tender for goods and services, due to its being an authorized debt note "for all uses public and private."

A dollar bill is supposed to represent the economic value you contributed to society to acquire it, not a hunk of gold locked away in a storeroom somewhere. In the past, you had the option of redeeming it for gold, because people had more faith in the value of gold than in the value of currency. But neither of them is intrinsically valuable, and the currency was never understood to literally represent gold--it represents economic value.

The guarantee of some quantity of gold under the old gold standard was really just a backstop measure (a kind of currency insurance policy), to help guarantee that if, suddenly people stopped accepting dollars as legal tender, you wouldn't be left completely empty-handed in return for your economic contributions. Even then, the value of the currency was meant to be backed by gold--it was never a mere proxy for gold.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:19 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was not talking about the gold standard. From here, "Money originated as commodity money, but nearly all contemporary money systems are based on fiat money."

So it's Wikipedia Vs. Wikipedia I suppose, since even Roman currency clearly wasn't strictly "commodity money" (whatever the hell that means).
posted by saulgoodman at 12:20 PM on March 17, 2010


BigSky asking us to just somehow donate extra money to the federal government makes as much sense as us, say, asking BigSky to do without government services like national defense, police, highways, et cetera. Even if he didn't personally use the highways, his food is transported on them; even if his house isn't broken into, a potential burglar was caught by police two years ago; even if he personally didn't go to public school, the anesthesiologist calculating his dose did, and so on. It would be a fucking ridiculous request, if you get what I mean.

However, honestly, the "move to Somalia" request is totally doable for a bootstrap-pulling American. No one is checking your fucking visa, you can stay as long as you want, and you can do whatever you want without government interference. Want to open a burger chain without pesky red tape? Mogadishu is the place. You don't have to pay for other people's police, fire protection, or education. Shit, you can be a fucking pirate if you want. Go have fun.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:28 PM on March 17, 2010 [10 favorites]


But neither of them is intrinsically valuable, and the currency was never understood to literally represent gold--it represents economic value.

This isn't true. Of course gold is intrinsically valuable. If it wasn't it wouldn't have been the commodity commonly agreed upon to be the medium of exchange.

You take it to someone who has goods and services to trade for it.

But it's a debt note though, right? Where do I take it to get the debt cancelled and the ledgers clear?
posted by BigSky at 12:29 PM on March 17, 2010


But it's a debt note though, right? Where do I take it to get the debt cancelled and the ledgers clear?

It's a debt note you are owed. The debt to you cancels when you exchange it with someone else for something of equal value.

This isn't true. Of course gold is intrinsically valuable.

If it were intrinsically value, it's market value wouldn't fluctuate over time without a change in the amount of gold in circulation. It's market value does fluctuate over time, independent of how much of it there is in circulation. That's not much of an intrinsic value.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:34 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


ZenMasterThis: I'm pretty sure the IRS doesn't penalize people for paying more than they owe. So why don't you?
In my experience, if you send the IRS too much money, they send it back.

Technically, I am self-employed. I could save some money by writing off transportation-related expenses etc. But that involves a lot of paperwork, which is the sort of thing that raises my blood pressure for days afterward. So I'm paying more than I might. I'd probably be happy enough to pay even more if they'd simplify the rules and make the whole process less painful.
posted by Western Infidels at 12:40 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm an American. I want to pay more taxes.

I think of a lot of the services the government provides are important. They need to be payed for. Not ten, twenty, or thirty years from now, but today. By me. By all of us. By everyone that benefits from them and can afford to pay for them.


Payed? Oh, you meant "Paid" ... so what about those of us who don't benefit from any government services? Can we get an exemption if we don't use police, firefighters, libraries, the post office, or government run healthcare? Or do we still have to pay for the rest of you?
posted by GrooveJedi at 12:46 PM on March 17, 2010


Well, yes: civilizations aren't voluntary. They never have been. And that coercion is no bad thing. It's the only way civilizations of any useful scope or duration happen.

That's right, because before the (illegal) income tax started in the early part of last century, this entire country was completely uncivilized!
posted by GrooveJedi at 12:53 PM on March 17, 2010


Threads like this remind me of the bit in Iron Sunrise where cstross talks about the origins of the Septagon or Hexagon or whatever (sorry Charlie) as a joke by the Eschaton.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:10 PM on March 17, 2010


GrooveJedi: That's right, because before the (illegal) income tax started in the early part of last century, this entire country was completely uncivilized!

Income taxes are illegal? You're joking, right? You have heard of the 16th Amendment, haven't you?
posted by deadmessenger at 1:10 PM on March 17, 2010


Can we get an exemption if we don't use police, firefighters, libraries, the post office, or government run healthcare? Or do we still have to pay for the rest of you?
posted by GrooveJedi at 12:46 PM on March 17


Yes, let's say that you can get an exemption if you don't "use" them. However, as an American citizen you currently benefit both directly and indirectly from police and fire services and libraries. So no exemption for you.

But there's more: your knowledge of U.S. law and government is frankly terrible and you should be embarrassed. First, the establishment of the USPS is explicitly authorized in the Constitution, in Article I, Section 8, clause 7. I would imagine that a True Patriot would have some knowledge of the Constitution, but I guess that you got an exemption from mandatory taxpayer-funded schooling. Of course, clause 1 explictly authorizes the collection of taxes, but to you that's somehow mysteriously illegal. Also, "government-run healthcare" does not exist here for an overwhelming majority of Americans, and the USPS is not subsidized by taxpayer dollars. Feel free to participate again after you have educated yourself.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:18 PM on March 17, 2010 [9 favorites]


When a bank lends you money, most of the money created on the spot. It's new money supply. It didn't exist before. No-one saved it, no-one is "missing out" on it.

This is very loosely true, but it's not actually useful. You're confusing MONEY -- currency -- with WEALTH. To a first approximation, real wealth is energy, physical stuff, and knowledge. It's the THINGS we use to make other things. Modern currency is not wealth, it's a claim on wealth. It's debt, something you're owed, not a hard asset, something you have. Creating money doesn't create wealth, it issues new claims on the wealth that already exists.

Fundamentally, the saving happens when we don't burn up our energy and stuff making consumption items. If we use a bunch of steel to make a tank, we have just a tank, which sits there consuming more wealth to look threatening. If we use that same steel to make tractors instead, we add to our total systemic resources; those tractors can help make new factories to make even more advanced goods. When we deploy a hundred thousand soldiers to Afghanistan, the massive amounts of energy and materials that takes is not available for investment use back home.

Playing games with currency doesn't change the fundamental physical realities on the ground. No matter how much money the banks create, there's still only so much wealth. A massive influx of currency may convince the economy to go into a paroxysm of debt-based building, but this is typically malinvestment, growth to service the stimulated, temporary demand, not growth to service true long-term needs. If the stimulus is removed, the illusion of increased demand also disappears, and most or all of the built-up facilities turn out to be superfluous, and go out of business. The resulting economic contraction will often take out perfectly viable businesses as well. Everyone becomes horrified at the contraction, but the damage was already done by the currency manipulation, it's just becoming visible some years later.

That's basically, by the way, what just happened 18 months ago; the edifice of debt instruments partway fell over, and the real economic truth peeked out at us from underneath. We've started shoveling massive amounts of currency back into the system to hide the ugly reality, but that won't last forever.
posted by Malor at 1:24 PM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


That's right, because before the (illegal) income tax started in the early part of last century, this entire country was completely uncivilized!

lol good point. you must have gone to smart school and gotten a Phd in good points. Con"Grad"ulations on you're degree ;)
posted by Damn That Television at 1:36 PM on March 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


I think I've harped on this in like four threads in the past three days (sorry!), but GrooveJedi is one of the participants in a trend originating on the right to shorten "Taxation without representation is tyranny," a phrase associated with the American founding fathers, to just "Taxation is tyranny." There's an easy way to tell these two maxims apart: the former is a pithy and clear statement of the main principle underlying representative democracy as a concept, while the latter is dumb.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:39 PM on March 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I hate taxes!!!!! Why yes I happen to be a middle-class white male in the middle of the country who fancies himself something of a rugged outdoor type who doesn't read books very much but still is a bit of a "wordsmith" not to mention appreciates an eppy or two of Dr Who every evening or even a cheesy action flick perfect for some MTS3k-style riffage why do you ask???????
posted by Damn That Television at 1:43 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's right, because before the (illegal) income tax started in the early part of last century, this entire country was completely uncivilized!

i know you're being sarcastic but people shit in buckets and gave kids heroin back then so yeah it kind of was
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:45 PM on March 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Can we get an exemption if we don't use police, firefighters, libraries, the post office, or government run healthcare? Or do we still have to pay for the rest of you?

No no. You don't have to pay, didn't you know that? Just send in a 1040 with the word "ILLEGAL" marked on it and they'll take care of the rest. Happy to help!
posted by dirtdirt at 1:54 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I prefer the flesh-and-blood defense, personally.
posted by electroboy at 2:05 PM on March 17, 2010


"We hold these truths to be self evident that the income tax is illegal and besides only certain people (you know who I'm talking about) use things like mail and roads anyway, White Men shouldnt have to pay taxes, audit the fed free the market be an uberman and FUCK UBISOFT for makeing Assassins Creed 2 have bullshit nazi DRM. fucing pussie bitches All it does it make me pirate more games and punish honest customers. If you are cool Friend me. If yuo're a hater fuck of. I"m done,"

- Abraham Washington or whatever (popularized by WEEDPUBLICAN1978@juno.com)
posted by Damn That Television at 2:06 PM on March 17, 2010 [3 favorites]



For the person who claimed America was one of the happiest countries in the world, here's a cite showing that we don't even crack the top 10 (and guess who is well overrepresented? You got it... Scandinavian countries, just as I said).

In terms of health, we're even crappier-- there's a song about it titled, "We're Number 37."

And to the person who responded to my post advocating altruism with a rant about "What ever happened to be the change you want to see?" WTF? Where in my post did I say anything about sitting around waiting for people to become altruistic? I was advocating activism aimed at increasing altruism by making the points I made, not suggesting that we accept the situation as it is.

In fact, I just wrote a book about what we should do to increase empathy, which is the root of altruism.
posted by Maias at 2:44 PM on March 17, 2010


That's my total annual pay. I made $1000 in 2009.

I've never managed to pay 8% in my grown-up working career.

Care to send a few deductions my way? heh.
posted by madajb at 3:35 PM on March 17, 2010


Obviously while I consider myself average there are a few weird things going on. Mostly that I have a huge mortgage which is kind of cheating I admit, but if someone pays my mortgage off I'll gladly go back to paying the extra taxes. No sense in spending a dollar to get a 28-cent tax refund.
posted by GuyZero at 3:39 PM on March 17, 2010


For all the BigSky bashers in this thread…

Yes, Today I will pay my taxes. Yes, in the Past, taxation by government was responsible for coming about of all known first-world societies. But consider this. How do you know that this will continue to be valid for Future generations: for the quality of their civilizations, or perhaps even their very survival and existence?*

I will cite: Libertarian Socialism. I don't claim to fully understand nor fully agree with the contents of this link. But I hope it opens a few minds here.

We operate on so many rules of thumb. There is so little that we understand.

*Societies tend towards complexity due to ever-increasing per-capita technology and knowledge. It follows that one would expect that the ways of organizing society will evolve.
posted by polymodus at 4:28 PM on March 17, 2010


I will say it differently. What if taxes worked because society/life was simpler back then?
posted by polymodus at 4:35 PM on March 17, 2010


Sure life was simpler. Also, people died younger, of a lot more diseases and were often dirt-broke-poor after retirement. Simpler doesn't mean it was better. All those old people who talk about how great it was? One word: survivor bias.
posted by GuyZero at 5:06 PM on March 17, 2010


Though I'm surprised nobody's mentioned it upthread, the US Department of the Treasury will gladly accept donations...
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 5:37 PM on March 17, 2010


Income taxes are illegal? You're joking, right? You have heard of the 16th Amendment, haven't you?

You have heard it was never legally ratified, have you not?
posted by GrooveJedi at 5:49 PM on March 17, 2010


But there's more: your knowledge of U.S. law and government is frankly terrible and you should be embarrassed. First, the establishment of the USPS is explicitly authorized in the Constitution, in Article I, Section 8, clause 7. I would imagine that a True Patriot would have some knowledge of the Constitution, but I guess that you got an exemption from mandatory taxpayer-funded schooling. Of course, clause 1 explictly authorizes the collection of taxes, but to you that's somehow mysteriously illegal. Also, "government-run healthcare" does not exist here for an overwhelming majority of Americans, and the USPS is not subsidized by taxpayer dollars. Feel free to participate again after you have educated yourself.

Oh, where to even start? Perhaps you should re-read the sections of the Constitution that you referred to. It starts like this:

"The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes..."

The Congress can collect taxes. Nowhere does it say that the Congress has the power to give up these rights to a private corporation and nowhere does it say that this private corporation can setup its own personal collector to collect said taxes.

Nowhere does it allow the collection of income taxes, which is what my post was referring to specifically. As a matter of fact, you will not find the phrase "income tax" anywhere in the Constitution.

You want me to give you the Post Office? Fine, you can have that, although now with the arrival of FedEx and UPS, who needs it anymore and how much money does it lose annually?

I benefit indirectly from the library? Please. I suppose I also benefit indirectly in the form of 'security' with the trillions of dollars we pay to murder innocent people overseas too?

Furthermore, you say that government run healthcare doesn't exist for a majority of Americans but you fail to acknowledge the billions and billions of dollars spent on Medicare/Medicaid which is about to skyrocket even further once all of the baby boomers start retiring.

If you want to debate about the legal merits of the 16th amendment, that's another debate but the facts are against you as it is well known that the 16th amendment was not legally ratified, although perhaps not by too many folks on metafilter. ahh well
posted by GrooveJedi at 6:06 PM on March 17, 2010


As a point of interest - Guyzero, in the United Kingdom your total annual pay would not be taxed. I'm probably unusually interested here because I have just filled in my (very late) tax return, but the first £6,035 (very roughly $9,000) of monies earned in the last tax year come under "personal allowance" - that is, I pay no income tax on them. I don't know what this encourages in broader economic terms, but it does seem that it means that very low earners (assuming a living wage in the UK of a minimum of about £10-12,000) get to see proportionally more of their money, before spending it on things which have VAT added - and relatively high VAT (sales tax) of 17.5%. That said, both food and books are VAT-exempt, which is pretty much what I'd do, I think.

I'm aware that the UK is running a ludicrous debt at the moment, and that taxes will probably need to go up and spending down, and further that nobody really seems to have a sense of how that happens (there is a public outcry about cutting radio stations that cost £9 million a year, so God knows what happens if hospitals start closing). Nonetheless, generally this taxation doesn't seem stupidly onerous, barring the bureaucracy, which is infuriating.
posted by DNye at 6:19 PM on March 17, 2010


People who wish to not pay taxes are people who wish to do without civilization. In which case they should move somewhere where there are no taxes: it's not hard to do that. Pick any of the war-torn, 4th-world countries. Makes way the hell more sense than trying to overthrow the government, that's for sure.

It is literally impossible to live in the West without benefit of public services. Everything in our lives is possible only because we have so much public infrastructure. Not one person who reads my writing has done so without a huge public investment in their education, healthcare, highways and bridges, water supplies, technologies and research — literally everything that is great in their lives came about because of public infrastructure.

I can't help but to see a Westerner's anti-taxation arguments as a huge Fuck You against myself personally. And it is personal: there is absolutely no doubt that one way or the other, my tax dollars have helped you. Honestly and truly, I have paid and you have benefited.

Of course, they won't put their money where their mouth is: you won't see a single one of these lousy, whining, anti-tax loons and creeps pack their bags and move to a country where they can live without paying their fair share. None of them will live in some 3rd world tribal nation. They're greedy jerks who want all the bennies and none of the financial responsibility.

Worst are the ultra-wealthy who object to paying taxes. More so than any one of us, they benefit the most through the public infrastructure. Hell, without the public infrastructure, they would not be able to have any of their financial success. It'll take me an entire lifetime to reap as much reward from our civilization, as the ultra-wealthy do in a year. In a month, some of them. So much more of their success is predicated on our public infrastructure, that most of the public infrastructure should be provided through their tax roles.

We need more, and more-fair, taxation. 90% of the nation's wealth is held by 1% of the population. Taxes should be based on that reality.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:25 PM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


DNye: $1000 isn't his income, it's his income normalized to $1000. That is, every value is multiplied by ($1000/$his_real_income). That gives us the ratios, without revealing his actual income.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:27 PM on March 17, 2010


I will cite: Libertarian Socialism. I don't claim to fully understand nor fully agree with the contents of this link. But I hope it opens a few minds here.

You're right, you don't. "Libertarianism" outside the US generally means Libertarian Socialism; it is the politics of anarchist communism and left Marxism. It is the politics of the syndicalists. It has nothing whatsoever to do with BigSky or with American Libertarianism.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:30 PM on March 17, 2010


You want me to give you the Post Office? Fine, you can have that, although now with the arrival of FedEx and UPS, who needs it anymore and how much money does it lose annually?

About the U.S. Postal Service: A Very "Business-like" Semi-governmental Agency:
Around [a piddling!] $96 million is budgeted annually by Congress for the "Postal Service Fund." These funds are used to compensate USPS for postage-free mailing for all legally blind persons and for mail-in election ballots….

…the law does not require that the Postal Service make a profit -- only break even. Still, the US Postal Service has averaged a profit of over $1 billion per year in each of the last five years.
I have only unkind things to say about your uninformed and dishonest arguments in this thread, so I'll let it go at that.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:38 PM on March 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


People who wish to not pay taxes are people who wish to do without civilization.

Some of you keep stating variations of this. It is simply an illogical statement in general. There's evidence, but no proof of it.
posted by polymodus at 6:51 PM on March 17, 2010


Do you really believe taxation is a requirement for civilization? If this were true, that would mean all advanced life in the universe would employ some form of centralized government with mandatory taxation. That, to me, is hard to believe.

There's taxes and the practice/culture of taxes as we know it now, and there's civilization. They may actually be orthogonal phenomena.
posted by polymodus at 6:54 PM on March 17, 2010


You're right, you don't. "Libertarianism" outside the US generally means Libertarian Socialism; it is the politics of anarchist communism and left Marxism. It is the politics of the syndicalists. It has nothing whatsoever to do with BigSky or with American Libertarianism.

I cite that, but only to suggest that there are ways to organize society that haven't even been attempted yet, inside or outside America. Every extant form of government is a grand experiment. I don't care that much about transitory politics.
posted by polymodus at 6:57 PM on March 17, 2010


It has nothing whatsoever to do with BigSky

Apparently it does because another poster interpreted his/her comments as derivative of Ron Paul political stances.
posted by polymodus at 6:58 PM on March 17, 2010


People who wish to not pay taxes are people who wish to do without civilization.


May I also point out that writing like this is not concrete, and inflammatory, and rhetorical, etc, and doesn't help clarify the problem.
posted by polymodus at 7:03 PM on March 17, 2010


If you want to debate about the legal merits of the 16th amendment, that's another debate but the facts are against you as it is well known that the 16th amendment was not legally ratified

It's not well known by anyone who knows well.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:09 PM on March 17, 2010


And I guess I'd ask why does this, or the fact that you own a 60" plasma television, necessarily mean that you should be paying more taxes.

What it means is that I can afford to. The fact that we, a nation of 300,000,000 people, collectively owe somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000,000,000,000.00 is the reason I should.
posted by Xezlec at 7:12 PM on March 17, 2010


Do you really believe taxation is a requirement for civilization? If this were true, that would mean all advanced life in the universe would employ some form of centralized government with mandatory taxation. That, to me, is hard to believe.

There's taxes and the practice/culture of taxes as we know it now, and there's civilization. They may actually be orthogonal phenomena.


Can you cite a single counterexample?

They might only be orthogonal, but since there's an easy case to be made for causation (since the pooled wealth of tax revenue is literally what we use to fund public infrastructure, the central organization and coordination of public services, and the legal and enforcement systems needed to preserve the rule of law--and incidentally, the initial research that made the sophisticated communication medium we're using to debate this point right now possible--all of which seem like pretty common-sense requirements for the development of modern civilizations to me), the two are more than merely orthogonal phenomena from where I sit.

And not necessarily, to your point about alien civilizations. It's not hard for me to believe you've got to have some kind of central government pooling resources and investing in public projects to pull of anything nearly as complex as a modern American city.

Is that the only form civilizations can take? I don't know. Maybe somewhere out there is a planet without scarcity, where all the native lifeforms evolved without a sense of self-interest and just behave cooperatively because its in their natures (if we ever met them, we'd hunt them down before their philosophy was allowed to spread to earth of course). Or maybe there's even a libertarian dream planet out there somewhere, populated by one extremely successful, utterly isolated and autonomous being who just sits there being awesome and spinning out the fruits of civilization through the sheer power of self-determination.

Apart from that, how would you propose anything like what we call civilization forming? I find it next to impossible to imagine civilization forming spontaneously without any mechanism for funding or organizing the creation of public works. Never mind the absence of legal systems. You take public works out of the picture (even things as basic as storm water management systems), and you can't really call it a civilization so much as a free for all. Even feudal systems employ taxation in the form of tributes to the landlord. There just doesn't seem to be any alternative to societies based on some form of taxation and central organization.

Even ants and bees sacrifice the fruits of their labors for the benefit of the colony and organize their societies around their queen. So taxation and central governance, in a certain sense, aren't even a strictly human phenomenon.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:34 PM on March 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


the US Postal Service has averaged a profit of over $1 billion per year in each of the last five years.

I don't closely follow the economics of the US Postal Service, nor do I particularly consider "About.com" to be an authoritative source. But if there is any truth to that statistic, then I'd wonder why the Postal Service is being taken even a little bit seriously in its plea to discontinue Saturday delivery.

it is well known that the 16th amendment was not legally ratified

In all seriousness, I don't think you can fairly say that it is "well known" what the Sixteenth Amendment even says. Or how a constitutional amendment is ratified. Facts that are "well known" in this area are few and far between.

But I'll be more specific: I don't "know" that the Sixteenth Amendment wasn't ratified. So I looked in Westlaw and found the argument.
Thomas is a tax protester, and one of his arguments is that he did not need to file tax returns because the sixteenth amendment is not part of the constitution. It was not properly ratified, Thomas insists, repeating the argument of W. Benson & M. Beckman, The Law That Never Was (1985). Benson and Beckman review the documents concerning the states' ratification of the sixteenth amendment and conclude that only four states ratified the sixteenth amendment; they insist that the official promulgation of that amendment by Secretary of State Knox in 1913 is therefore void.

Benson and Beckman did not discover anything; they rediscovered something that Secretary Knox considered in 1913. Thirty-eight states ratified the sixteenth amendment, and thirty-seven sent formal instruments of ratification to the Secretary of State. (Minnesota notified the Secretary orally, and additional states ratified later; we consider only those Secretary Knox considered.) Only four instruments repeat the language of the sixteenth amendment exactly as Congress approved it. The others contain errors of diction, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling. The text Congress transmitted to the states was: “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.” Many of the instruments neglected to capitalize “States,” and some capitalized other words instead. The instrument from Illinois had “remuneration” in place of “enumeration”; the instrument from Missouri substituted “levy” for “lay”; the instrument from Washington had “income” not “incomes”; others made similar blunders.

Thomas insists that because the states did not approve exactly the same text, the amendment did not go into effect. Secretary Knox considered this argument. The Solicitor of the Department of State drew up a list of the errors in the instruments and-taking into account both the triviality of the deviations and the treatment of earlier amendments that had experienced more substantial problems-advised the Secretary that he was authorized to declare the amendment adopted. The Secretary did so.

Although Thomas urges us to take the view of several state courts that only agreement on the literal text may make a legal document effective, the Supreme Court follows the “enrolled bill rule.” If a legislative document is authenticated in regular form by the appropriate officials, the court treats that document as properly adopted. Field v. Clark, 143 U.S. 649, 12 S.Ct. 495, 36 L.Ed. 294 (1892). The principle is equally applicable to constitutional amendments. See Leser v. Garnett, 258 U.S. 130, 42 S.Ct. 217, 66 L.Ed. 505 (1922), which treats as conclusive the declaration of the Secretary of State that the nineteenth amendment had been adopted. In United States v. Foster, 789 F.2d 457, 462-63 & n. 6 (7th Cir. 1986), we relied on Leser, as well as on the inconsequential nature of the objections in the face of the 73-year acceptance of the effectiveness of the sixteenth amendment, to reject a claim similar to Thomas's. See also Coleman v. Miller, 307 U.S. 433, 59 S.Ct. 972, 83 L.Ed. 1385 (1939) (questions about ratification of amendments may be nonjusticiable). Secretary Knox declared that enough states had ratified the sixteenth amendment. The Secretary's decision is not transparently defective. We need not decide when, if ever, such a decision may be reviewed in order to know that Secretary Knox's decision is now beyond review.
United States v. Thomas, 788 F.2d 1250, 1253–54 (7th Cir. 1986).

That seems pretty straightforward to me.
posted by cribcage at 10:12 PM on March 17, 2010


The Federal Reserve makes over 40 million dollars PER HOUR on interest from loans to the United States Government. Every single penny of every single tax dollars of every single American collected by the (illegal and private) IRS goes to pay off that interest. Not the roads, the police or anything else.
posted by GrooveJedi at 11:04 PM on March 17, 2010


cribcage - fair enough if that's what you choose to believe. Personally, I stopped reading at:

"The others contain errors of diction, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling. The text Congress transmitted to the states was: “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”

That's when I realized it was bullshit. :)

In the end, we all have our own 'credible' sources and will choose to believe whatever sounds more logical. :)
posted by GrooveJedi at 11:07 PM on March 17, 2010


I am curious, GrooveJedi: what about that section in particular seems to be bullshit?
posted by jacalata at 11:30 PM on March 17, 2010


In fairness to GrooveJedi, I was unclear about what I was quoting, and I apologize. That excerpt is taken from a 1986 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. It was written by then-Judge Easterbrook, now the court's Chief Judge and one of the most esteemed (and cited) judges in America today. It isn't a treatise or an Op-Ed column, and its "credibility" isn't really at issue, at least regarding its legality. It's an actual decision by the Seventh Circuit. (The U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari on October 6, 1986.) It reflects the law.
posted by cribcage at 12:35 AM on March 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


five fresh fish: And that's why I shouldn't post post-pub, as it were. All very clear in the cold light of day.
posted by DNye at 2:57 AM on March 18, 2010


(illegal and private) IRS

Please cite any reputable or credible source that backs the claim that the IRS is either illegal or a private corporation. You don't even have to do both.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:26 AM on March 18, 2010


The IRS is illegal because the United States never really adopted the 16th amendment despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and extraterrestrial civilizations might not have taxes, therefore
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:52 AM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


In the end, we all have our own 'credible' sources and will choose to believe whatever sounds more logical.

I agree that we all will believe what sounds more logical, but only to a point. Sometimes people just want to believe something, and have such an investment in believing that which have already professed to believe that they are unwilling (or unable) to see the logical sense in disbelieving. It would be a blow to the ego and to the lizard brain. You'll find this situation a lot at the bottom of contentious MetaFilter threads. I've done it, and I am sure I am not alone.

I'm afraid that the assertion that income tax is illegal is one of these things. You can't really believe it based on 'logic', because everything logical points to the opposite. A minor technicality, that had nothing to do with the intent of the law, was lawfully judged to be ignorable nearly 100 years ago and we've all (well, most of us) followed this law since then. It's law. It's legal. It really, truly, undeniably is. It might be attractive to think that it isn't, and it's a fun little legal curiosity to think about, but using that as an argument that Federal income tax is illegal is silly, and you'll really be happier and better off if you hang your hat on a different hook.

Hell, say it's immoral, or that you don't believe in it, or that you don't want to do it, or whatever. Those are plausible. Saying it's illegal, when it obviously is not in fact or practice, is just embarrassing.

A side note: Googling "United States V. Thomas" lead me unwittingly to a completely unrelated case also called "United States V. Thomas" on Wikipedia. Jesus. A horrifying case.
posted by dirtdirt at 7:14 AM on March 18, 2010


I respectfully disagree with your assessment of the law, but I am more than open-minded. So, can anyone in this thread please point me to the law that requires a U.S. Citizen to pay an income tax? Thanks.
posted by GrooveJedi at 9:13 AM on March 18, 2010


Please cite any reputable or credible source that backs the claim that the IRS is either illegal or a private corporation. You don't even have to do both.

Please cite any reputable or credible source that backs the claim that the IRS and the Federal Reserve are government agencies. You don't even have to do both. You see, in the end ... your credible sources are not credible to me and vice versa. :)
posted by GrooveJedi at 9:14 AM on March 18, 2010


GrooveJedi, that's not how this works. You're making an assertion. It's your job to back up your assertion with citations. See also: Russell's Teapot.
posted by workerant at 9:20 AM on March 18, 2010


Please cite any reputable or credible source that backs the claim that the IRS and the Federal Reserve are government agencies. You don't even have to do both. You see, in the end ... your credible sources are not credible to me and vice versa. :)
posted by GrooveJedi


The IRS is a division of the Department of the Treasury. Please tell me why this source is not credible or reputable; I am dying to know.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:23 AM on March 18, 2010


I am dying to see the law that requires a U.S. Citizen to pay an income tax. kthxbye
posted by GrooveJedi at 9:29 AM on March 18, 2010


Let's do yours first. You asked "Please cite any reputable or credible source that backs the claim that the IRS and the Federal Reserve are government agencies." I did. Now you are ignoring that and asking an entirely different question. Why can't you just answer me, as I answered you? Why should I point out these things for you if you're not discussing this in good faith? Why should I waste my time answering your latest question if you're going to ignore it, just as you have my last response?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:42 AM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just want to thank GrooveJedi for posting in this thread. It's been years since I've listened to Coast to Coast A.M. with Art Bell, and this is just like old times. All we need is a commercial for Gold Bond medicated powder and the illusion will be complete.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:42 AM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Would an askme about Gold Bond do it for you?
posted by electroboy at 9:45 AM on March 18, 2010


GrooveJedi: "I am dying to see the law that requires a U.S. Citizen to pay an income tax. kthxbye"

You could do an experiment GJ, just don't pay your taxes for a few years and then see what law they charge you for violating. Then you'd have your answer and plenty of free time in jail to study the constitution.
posted by octothorpe at 9:51 AM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Or you could analyse Al Capone's case, being the most famous instance of someone jailed for income tax evasion. Let us know when you find something that Capone's lawyers overlooked.
posted by jacalata at 10:16 AM on March 18, 2010


or more recently there was Wesley Snipes. He even tried some of the tax protest arguments, so there should be some good discussion around that.
posted by jacalata at 10:19 AM on March 18, 2010


I am dying to see the law that requires a U.S. Citizen to pay an income tax. kthxbye

Here you go. Note that "There is hereby imposed on the taxable income of [some group of individuals] a tax" appears several times.

There. Now you've seen such a law.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:26 AM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ahh yes, good old Title 26. Thanks for posting the link. I'm well familiar with Title 26, I've read it a million times.

In the regulations under Section 863:

"The taxpayer's taxable income from sources within or without the United States will be determined under the rules of Secs. 1.861-8 through 1.861-14T for determining taxable income from sources within the United States." [26 CFR § 1.863-1(c)]

26 USC § 861(b) of the statutes and 26 CFR §1.861-8 of the regulations are to be used to determine taxable domestic income.

That is a long ride down the rabbit hole to determine what is and what is and isn't taxable income and beyond the scope of this thread so I'm not even going to bother. I've done my due diligence and am confident of my findings. By no means do I expect to convince anyone but at the same time I feel like I have the right to at least voice my opinion, despite the snarky responses that usually follow on metafilter ;)

Time and time again tax protesters and patriots such as Aaron Russo and others have specifically asked members of the IRS including former president and current chairperson to show the American people the law that states we are required to pay an income tax.

Time and time again they could not. There are many people who quit their jobs at the IRS once they realized it was a scam. Title 26 actually proves that what we consider INCOME today is not considered income as the law was written.

But go ahead and believe what you want to believe and I'll do the same. Cheers. :)
posted by GrooveJedi at 11:08 AM on March 18, 2010


You know I couldn't find any good data past 1994 but up to that point Germany's household savings rate was 50% higher than the USA's. That such a socialist state would manage to save so much money in the face of their high taxes and government-funded trips to the spa.

Perhaps the key problem is that Americans, en masse, are simply selfish and greedy. I mean, it's a possibility. Of course none of the American's here are that way. Just those other Americans.
posted by GuyZero at 11:08 AM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are many people who quit their jobs at the IRS once they realized it was a scam.

Really? Perhaps they were simply afraid of catching fire, what with being MADE OF STRAW.
posted by GuyZero at 11:09 AM on March 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


dirtdirt - The entire concept of the Federal Reserve is illegal under the United States Constitution. Where do you think the income tax came from?
posted by GrooveJedi at 11:09 AM on March 18, 2010


And if Congress passed a law tomorrow that was clear and unambiguous, you's be all happy and just start sending in your tax cheques quarterly?
posted by GuyZero at 11:14 AM on March 18, 2010




Income taxes are illegal? You're joking, right? You have heard of the 16th Amendment, haven't you?

You have heard it was never legally ratified, have you not?
posted by GrooveJedi at 8:49 PM on March 17 [+] [!]


I've heard that, yes, but only said by lunatics that believe that Ohio wasn't a state. Here in reality-land, though, it was ratified, and is a full and operating part of the US Constitution.
posted by deadmessenger at 11:19 AM on March 18, 2010


But go ahead and believe what you want to believe and I'll do the same.

What you believe is factually incorrect. All you are showing is how little you know about how the law works.

There are plenty of examples of people who make exactly the arguments you're making, and get their asses rightfully handed to them in court. You are no different. Your beliefs about the law are irrelevant if you can't get a court to agree with you. That is how it works. If courts consistently rule against you, then what you argue is the law is quite plainly not the law, and your "findings" about the law are incorrect. This is a fact; it is not open to interpretation.

If you want to believe that you have special knowledge that proves that income tax law is unenforceable, unconstitutional, or nonexistent, then fine—but that's now how the real world works.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:22 AM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


The entire concept of the Federal Reserve is illegal under the United States Constitution

What words in the Constitution make the Fed illegal?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:23 AM on March 18, 2010


GrooveJedi: time and time again the law has stated that the 861 argument is not legally valid and jailed those who argue otherwise. (See: Wesley Snipes). What would have to happen for you to believe that income tax is legal? If you're going to argue over 'what is income' then aren't you implicitly agreeing that Congress does have the power to levy income taxes?

Finally: do you pay taxes? If so, why?
posted by jacalata at 11:27 AM on March 18, 2010


I respectfully disagree with your assessment of the law, but I am more than open-minded.

We have a fundamental problem here, in that you don't really understand what you're talking about. I don't mean that condescendingly; I mean it literally. What I quoted above is not an "assessment" of the law. It is the actual law.

Take the Second Amendment, for example. If you read an article about gun rights in the New York Times, or Patrick Charles' book, or even the relevant chapter from West's Constitutional Law in a Nutshell, then you are reading an "assessment" of the law. There is a third person, the author, between you and the law. However, this is not true when you are reading a case or a statute. In those instances, you are reading the actual law.

This brings us to DirtDirt's point, above. District of Columbia v. Heller is a U.S. Supreme Court case expressly holding that the Second Amendment "guarantee[s] the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation." ("Holding" is a term of art. It means, the Court has just stated what the law shall be. The Court has authority to do this.) Now, you might criticize the decision and say, "I disagree with the Court that an individual right to bears arms should be the law." And that's fine. But that is very different from saying, "I disagree with the Court that an individual right to bear arms is the law." In the latter case, you would be flat wrong.

And I'm sorry, but you are not "open-minded" on this issue. For instance, you post your own evidence but refuse to read rebuttals. You impugn the credibility of sources you haven't read and don't understand. You say outright that you intend to continue believing what you believe, regardless of what's presented. It's a bit weird that you would claim to be "open-minded," in fact, because you seem to be making a deliberate showing that you're not.

So I'll leave you to that, I guess. But for what it's worth, let me say this. I haven't studied the income-tax issue, and I don't have a dog in the fight. That makes me about as neutral an observer as you'll come across, I'd think. And from what you've said, it is clear to me that you have done a lot of reading about this issue...but also that you don't really understand what you've read. Maybe that's true or maybe it isn't, but either way, it is evident. You might think about how to change that.
posted by cribcage at 11:37 AM on March 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


Obviously the courts will side with their masters, which is why I pay my taxes. :)

That does not make the Federal Reserve a legal entity.

I'm pretty positive there's something in the Constitution that states that only Congress shall have the power to print and regulate currency. I'd look it up for you but my corporate masters might fire me ... strict Constitutionalists are pretty much akin to terrorists these days. :)

Yes, Congress has the power to levy an income tax. The Powers that be (namely the Federal Reserve) may have weaseled this law into place but it is my belief (and the belief of many other Americans) that this law was never legally ratified and even if it was, is unconstitutional. For crying out loud, the high taxes in England and the tyranny of the Royal Bank of England was one of the main reasons the founding fathers left.

It is a simple fact that every penny of every tax dollar goes to pay the interest that the U.S. Government owes the banks. This is undeniable. Anyone who challenges the concept of the Federal Reserve and income tax will be thrown in jail or heavily fined (See Wesley Snipes). By no means does that make any of this Constitutional. Read the Constitution and when you're done reading it, read it again. Google Aaron Russo who explains this entire matter quite eloquently.

Also, I would like to say that while I think the income tax is illegal and hate paying it, I would gladly pay even MORE taxes if the government actually helped people with that money instead of pouring it into a black hole of inefficient and incompetent bureaucracy over and over again.

"Congress shall have the power to coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures" - NOT THE FEDERAL RESERVE.
posted by GrooveJedi at 11:50 AM on March 18, 2010


The Constitution did not intent for members of Congress to go around and do everything personally by hand. I've never seen any Reps hanging around NIST calibrating reference volumes either. Doesn't make the gallon unconstitutional.
posted by GuyZero at 11:56 AM on March 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Do you want Congresspeople stamping coins themselves down at the Mint?
posted by entropicamericana at 11:56 AM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


cribcage - based on your last post and the logic that's underlined in it, the second amendment "guarantee[s] the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation."

Yet, this country has seen a gun ban in Washington D.C., which, based on the same logic, was technically the LAW in D.C., right? So how did that law get passed? It was eventually overturned by the courts but what if the courts upheld it? Does that suddenly make it Constitutional? Do the courts ever make mistakes or are they correct in terms of Constitutionality 100% of the time? Do you not even consider the possibility of a corrupt court system? I certainly do.

If the courts suddenly decided that the 16th Amendment was unconstitutional or not properly ratified and demanded a repeal of that amendment, what would that say of the so called income tax law between 1913 and now? Could we recoup our income tax over the last X years? You see where I'm going with this.
posted by GrooveJedi at 11:57 AM on March 18, 2010


Lisa, I want to buy your rock.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:58 AM on March 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Doesn't make the gallon unconstitutional.

No, it totally does. But Big Measurment keeps it in play anyway. They also killed the metric system in this country.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:00 PM on March 18, 2010


The Constitution did not intent for members of Congress to go around and do everything personally by hand. I've never seen any Reps hanging around NIST calibrating reference volumes either. Doesn't make the gallon unconstitutional.

I guarantee you the founding fathers did not intend for a private corporation to print the nation's currency and CHARGE THE GOVERNMENT INTEREST on each dollar printed. Are we just going to continue to ignore the fact that this is one of the main reasons they left England? Do we want to continue to live in this bubble of a Matrix that says this practice of a private company charging interest and printing money with nothing to back it is moral or even Constitutional? Come now.
posted by GrooveJedi at 12:00 PM on March 18, 2010


Do the courts ever make mistakes or are they correct in terms of Constitutionality 100% of the time?

This is tautological. The courts were created to determine what is and isn't constitutional. They're correct by definition.
posted by GuyZero at 12:00 PM on March 18, 2010


Seriously, can I get your assessment on whether the US gallon is constitutional or not? I mean, it has not been personally approved by a single member of Congress.
posted by GuyZero at 12:01 PM on March 18, 2010


Snark away, meanwhile our dollars are being devalued right before our eyes by the very fraudulent system you claim is the law of the land and constitutional. It's fun and games hardy har, but it's a very very serious problem and until this country unites around this fundamental problem in our system, things will continue to get worse and worse regardless of who is in office.
posted by GrooveJedi at 12:04 PM on March 18, 2010


Snark away

It's not snark. It's actually a pretty incisive response to your bizarre argument about the fed, actually.

Gold standard, right?
posted by mr_roboto at 12:06 PM on March 18, 2010


In what way are US dollars being devalued? The economy goes into meltdown and the US dollar remains hugely strong globally. It's slipped a tiny bit in the last few months but overall it's been pretty stable. Besides, if you want to revitalize the US manufacturing industry the US dollar needs to be devalued globally to stimulate exports. Honestly every blue-collar American should be praying to see the US dollar devalued.
posted by GuyZero at 12:10 PM on March 18, 2010


"Congress shall have the power to coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures" - NOT THE FEDERAL RESERVE.

What the hell are you talking about? Congress created the Fed. Congress also created the National Bureau of Standards (now NIST). Nobody's exceeding their Constitutional authority.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 12:23 PM on March 18, 2010


I guarantee you the founding fathers did not intend for a private corporation to print the nation's currency and CHARGE THE GOVERNMENT INTEREST on each dollar printed.

For the benefit of nontrolls who might be curious, many of the founding fathers were still in government when the First and Second Banks of the United States were chartered as both private companies and agents of the United States government in 1791 and 1816.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:24 PM on March 18, 2010


I am not a troll, thank you very much. Regardless of whether or not Congress created the Fed, it is unconstitutional. You're not seriously claiming that the Federal Reserve is a government entity, are you?

Yes, many of the founding fathers were still in government when the First and Second banks of the United States were chartered, what is your point? There was no centralized system of banking at that time, nor did the founding fathers ever even THINK of giving any bank the power to print and regulate currency.
posted by GrooveJedi at 1:05 PM on March 18, 2010


Regardless of whether or not Congress created the Fed, it is unconstitutional.

On what basis?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 1:05 PM on March 18, 2010


How could the Bank of England be the main reason for the Founding Fathers leaving England when most of them were born in America?
posted by jacalata at 1:13 PM on March 18, 2010


You're not seriously claiming that the Federal Reserve is a government entity, are you?

Who appoints the Head of the Fed again? Just remind me.
posted by GuyZero at 1:14 PM on March 18, 2010


I have no real interest in directly addressing you, groovejedi.

For the benefit of others who may be curious about this point and don't know much about American history:

nor did the founding fathers ever even THINK of giving any bank the power to print and regulate currency.

That was a central purpose of the Second Bank of the United States, giving rise to one of the classic cases of federal power, McCulloch v. Maryland, where the Court specifically confirmed that Congress has the power to regulate currency through the method of chartering a Bank of the United States to do the actual regulation.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:23 PM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I love that the last twenty comments by groovejedi have been like fucked up alternate universe chuck norris facts

FACT: GEORGE WASHINGTON CHARTERED A BANK.IT WAS THE BANK OF KICK YOUR ASS FOR NOT BEING A REAL PATRIOT
FACT: THE FEDERAL RESERVE DOES NOT FOLLOW THE RULES OF REGULAR BANKS. IT MAKES IT'S OWN
FACT: IF YOU HAD A TIME MACHINE YOU WOULD SEE THAT THE FOUNDING FATHERS HATED BANKS ESPECIALLY HAMILTON HE HATED BANKS. UM AND HE WILL MAKE U CRY.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:41 PM on March 18, 2010


Did you know that Hamilton is supposed to be on the hundred BUT BANKERS WANT TO KEEP HIM DOWN?
posted by GuyZero at 1:47 PM on March 18, 2010


Also, come 2012 I am going to start trolling message boards full-time to complain about the unconstitutionality of the gallon and the conspiracy behind the NIST. Best end of a Mayan world-cycle EVAR.
posted by GuyZero at 1:49 PM on March 18, 2010


Can you cite a single counterexample?

As a species, humans are neither centrally governed nor taxed. And yet as a species, we describe ourselves to have this thing, Civilization. I know, this is a cheap/corner case example that hinges on how you view/draw boundaries of the system, but I assert this to be a real example.

Taking it further, suppose you live in the year 3010. Would you accept a Global tax* in the service of a population of 7 billion? Would you not question whether taxation as we currently do it could successfully scale to that level of complexity.
*or even just "Euro-American tax".

Here's a non-real counterexample that I have always found to be inspiring:
"The economics of the future is somewhat different. You see, money doesn't exist in the 24th century… The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of Humanity."
--Capt. Jean Luc Picard, Star Trek: First Contact

Even ants and bees sacrifice the fruits of their labors for the benefit of the colony and organize their societies around their queen. So taxation and central governance, in a certain sense, aren't even a strictly human phenomenon.

Taxation is a formal system of redistributing wealth. Nonhuman animals don't use taxation. Cooperative behavior != taxation. Suppose even that "taxation" happens in the animal realm. Well, they aren't anywhere civilized. And logically, if they are, that would mean taxes aren't a "human innovation", as you put it: this would bring biological and evolutionary forces into play.

I actually have a pet theory about this. I believe there's a compelling argument to be made that taxation is literally the one human innovation most responsible for bringing about modern civilization.

I understand, it is appealing to have simple, intuitive causes that explain complicated experiences. My crackpot detector warns me that strong statements like "Taxes imply civilization" is one of these.

There just doesn't seem to be any alternative to.
I don't know.
It's not hard for me to believe you've got to have some kind of central
Just imagine. That's all.
posted by polymodus at 2:16 PM on March 18, 2010


"The economics of the future is somewhat different. You see, money doesn't exist in the 24th century… The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of Humanity."
--Capt. Jean Luc Picard, Star Trek: First Contact


we don't live in a post-scarcity economy

also you and groovejedi would hate living in the commietopian united federation because the prime directive disallows the rational action of raping and pillaging native cultures as god and ron paul intended
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:24 PM on March 18, 2010


Here's a non-real counterexample that I have always found to be inspiring:

I liked the part where they have anti-gravity too. That's always inspired me. Also, the part where it's utopian fiction.
posted by GuyZero at 2:25 PM on March 18, 2010


I'm all for post-scarcity economics but only once we are... wait for it... post-scarcity.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:36 PM on March 18, 2010


I already said it was a non-real example. :)
posted by polymodus at 2:45 PM on March 18, 2010


Staying on topic—it would be a big intellectual win if someone could settle the questions: 1) Is taxation is sufficient for sustaining an advanced civilization?
2) Is taxation necessary for it?

That's the point I was trying to get across with my "year 3010" example. As human civilization grows in unprecedented complexity, with its individual members progressively more skilled/educated, does taxation as we know it still make sense?

These are open problems, but the overall sentiment in this thread sees it otherwise, with appeals based on "common sense" and "the way we've done it throughout all history".

The Star Trek example I merely cited; I do not explicate a close reading of it here; the purpose was bring in a creative flavor. I am not particulary enamored of "post-scarcity economics"; I am not taking any stance like that here.

One could alternatively argue that the single greatest human innovation that drove civilization was the Enlightenment, and within it, specifically the scientific revolution. Taxes are so trivial compared to that.
posted by polymodus at 3:19 PM on March 18, 2010


Shared resources must be paid for. Even jurisdictions "without tax" like, say, Alberta, merely tax one thing (oil extraction) instead of another (residents' incomes). Whether futuristic methods of wealth transfer will be called a tax is merely a matter of semantics.
posted by GuyZero at 3:31 PM on March 18, 2010


A tax is:
1. Compulsory for the members of society.
2. Received by a state.

A tax is a mandatory payment exacted by an authority.

This is what we are discussing when we posit that "taxes are the price of civilization". Any other process of resource allocation in society would, by definition, not be a tax.

If you want to the discourse to use "any system of wealth transfer means taxation", that works too. But then you'll have a taxonomy of taxes, and we'll continue the debate between those classifications.
posted by polymodus at 4:06 PM on March 18, 2010


So is an oil extraction tax, placed upon companies, a tax by your definition? What if the company isn't a "member of the society"? Shell isn't a member of Nigerian society and yet it remits taxes to the Nigerian government.

What is Nigerian law required Shell to pay a fee based on extraction rate to a private organization that paved roads? An organization owned by private shareholders that receive a dividend from profits? Would that be a tax?

What if Shell needs to pay a private company to staff its drilling sites with armed guards to prevent the local population from blowing up the wells? It's not like they can stop paying for the service. Is that a tax?

Anyway, it's not so much a taxonomy as a question of breadth. Also, look up what "externalities" means.
posted by GuyZero at 4:13 PM on March 18, 2010


So is an oil extraction tax, placed upon companies, a tax by your definition? What if the company isn't a "member of the society"? Shell isn't a member of Nigerian society and yet it remits taxes to the Nigerian government.

Yes. This oil extraction tax is compulsory and received by the Nigerian authorities. It's not my definition, I copied the basic one in Wikipedia. I'm not a U.S. citizen; I can't vote here, yet I will be taxed this April. So what.

What if Nigerian law required Shell to pay a fee based on extraction rate to a private organization that paved roads? An organization owned by private shareholders that receive a dividend from profits? Would that be a tax?

The government is spending tax revenue as they see fit. What's the inconsistency?

What if Shell needs to pay a private company to staff its drilling sites with armed guards to prevent the local population from blowing up the wells? It's not like they can stop paying for the service. Is that a tax?

I could have made criteria (1) clearer. According to Wikipedia, taxes are mandatory because the state makes it so. In this specific case, the state is not requiring anything from Shell.

Anyway, it's not so much a taxonomy as a question of breadth. Also, look up what "externalities" means.

You are now basically saying taxes are an inevitable part of society, because any resource re-allocation is really a tax. That's not how a tax is defined.

Taxation is compulsory in the domain of the state, and directly benefits the state. It indirectly benefits members of state as a whole. There's no proof that this is the only way for humans to organize society.
posted by polymodus at 4:34 PM on March 18, 2010


Before I get jumped on using "there's no proof", I shall point to my post on "open problems" upthread.
posted by polymodus at 4:38 PM on March 18, 2010


It really makes a difference to you if I hold a gun to your head and demand $100 versus the state asking for $100? You're out $100 either way.
posted by GuyZero at 4:50 PM on March 18, 2010


Well, more practically, back to externalities - lots of people* are going to generate wealth by benefiting from externalities. There will have to be some sort of mechanism for equalization otherwise people are just not going to play along. Educational costs are an externality - companies don't pay for kids to go to grade school but any society with educated kids is going to be wealthier than one with kids throwing rocks in the streets all day. But no company is going to pay for it unless every company will pay for it.

So, sure yes, maybe there's some setup out there without taxes but so far we have neither found one nor theoretically conceived of one. And, per Rule 34, we've thought of a lot of stuff.

* where I mean some sort of entity, individual or collective, like a company
posted by GuyZero at 4:56 PM on March 18, 2010


So, sure yes, maybe there's some setup out there without taxes but so far we have neither found one nor theoretically conceived of one. And, per Rule 34, we've thought of a lot of stuff.

Agreed.
posted by polymodus at 5:13 PM on March 18, 2010


It would be sweet to be so fucking stupid that you could literally make shit up and believe it to be true. But why wouldn't you just give yourself super powers instead? Why waste time with trivialities if you can literally give yourself retractable adamantium claws????
posted by Damn That Television at 10:14 PM on March 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


And polymodus, it's always nice to see someone that I disagree with (radically) at least making good faith arguments and asking interesting, if a little biased, questions.

Staying on topic—it would be a big intellectual win if someone could settle the questions: 1) Is taxation is sufficient for sustaining an advanced civilization?
2) Is taxation necessary for it?


I think the best way to address this is to define, in clear language, the term "advanced civilization." (My answer for both is a very positive yes, by the way, but I'm thinking about the most convincing and water-tight evidence, both historical and logical.)

(On preview, a lot of what GuyZero says is what I'm thinking, so let me try to approach this from a really strong world history standpoint.)
posted by Damn That Television at 10:22 PM on March 18, 2010


I understand, it is appealing to have simple, intuitive causes that explain complicated experiences. My crackpot detector warns me that strong statements like "Taxes imply civilization" is one of these.

Oh, well, if your crackpot detector says so...

Look, how we define taxation really isn't all that relevant. The opponents of taxation simply define it as something crudely like "requiring members of a society to share the fruits of their labors for the benefit of the common good." You'll note that the most strident opposition to taxation in this thread is based on the argument that no one is obligated to contribute anything for the good of society. To that specific argument, I would say it's pretty blinking obvious that without some set of mechanisms for sharing resources, you can't organize a society.

When ants and bees bring food offerings to their queens and soldiers, how is that not essentially just a less sophisticated way to accomplish the same social ends as taxation?

The specific mechanisms of tax collection we've developed over the years are innovations that humans have used to achieve the same ends. There are no even moderately cooperative and social creatures in nature that I know of that don't employ some set of less sophisticated mechanisms for the same basic purpose.

We could just as easily not be given rights to the fruits of our labors at all--as under feudalism, where the land and its produce belong only to the landlord and the serfs merely toil on the landlord's behalf for the privilege of occupying the land and other protective benefits. But such systems haven't proven stable over time, nor have they yielded as much cultural development and technological progress as modern states with taxation schemes.

I offer this argument as conjecture, not a simple claim. Even without appealing to common sense, I don't think it would be too terribly difficult to make a more rigorous academic argument in support of the idea. And I've yet to see a specific factual counterexample here that weakens the appeal of the argument.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:56 AM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


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