Apr 182010
Authors: Kevin Hollinshead

When Tax Day came and went last Thursday, so too did anti-tax Tea Party rallies across the country.

Signs proclaiming taxation as evil, unfair and a threat to liberty littered protest sites along with the usual implicitly violent –– One I saw in Denver read, “End Democrats’ Tyranny with Ballots or Bullets” –– and racist ones –– anything about President Barack Obama’s citizenship.

Prominent conservatives vigorously fanned these flames. Chicken Littles ranging from ultra-conservative congressmen and senators to other ideologues like Sarah Palin gave apocalyptic speeches about how people are being taxed to death or how eliminating tax breaks for millionaires are somehow going to destroy the working class among myriad silly statements.

Here’s where reality kicks in. Tax rates have actually fallen –– yup, fallen –– during Obama’s presidency. In fact, we’re paying the lowest overall tax rate in 60 years, according to William Gale of the Brookings Institution.

The Obama administration cut taxes for more than 95 percent of Americans, which makes it the largest middle class tax break ever. Even a majority of Tea Partiers think their current tax rate is fair, according to a recent New York Times poll.

Tax revenues as a percentage of the GDP have also plummeted. The conservative think tank Heritage Foundation found that federal tax receipts have averaged about 18.2 percent of the GDP since 1945, but will amount to a mere 14.8 percent this year –– the lowest figure in, again, 60 years.

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com found that total U.S. federal, state and local tax revenues amounted to 28 percent of the GDP, good for fifth lowest among the 30 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD, including Canada, Mexico, Australia, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and the members of the European Union.

The study also found that the U.S. has the most uneven distribution of income after factoring in tax collection of all OECD countries. This puts a hole into the argument that the rich are paying too many taxes.

When all else fails, conservatives pull their trump card claim: Taxing the wealthy hurts the economy since money cannot “trickle down” to those in lower tax brackets. Reality inconveniences them again in this area.

There’s no persuasive statistical evidence linking tax increases with negative economic impact, nor tax cuts with economic growth. The gigantic Bush tax cuts in 2001 actually helped depress the economy, along with two wars that weren’t paid for.

The average grade school kid can tell you that the idea of trickle down economics is complete bull. To create the most opportunity and prosperity for the most people, you spread opportunity and prosperity from the get-go, as opposed to giving it all to the wealthy and hoping that it will trickle down –– it hasn’t in the past, it isn’t today and it never will.

Conservatives aren’t complaining about taxes with the best interests of the middle and lower classes at heart. Rather, wealthy conservatives are just playing to their audience and looking out for their own wallets, and less well-off conservatives are too absorbed in dogma to notice.

It’s no coincidence that the aforementioned New York Times poll found that Tea Party supporters tend to be wealthier and better educated than the average citizen.

The tax burden isn’t too high on the rich, but instead it’s too low. If people railing against current tax codes as “unfair” wanted to do the right thing, they would support increasing taxes on the richest 10 percent of Americans, and cutting taxes for those who have to break a sweat to stay afloat.

After all, taxes don’t just benefit the poor. They create shared prosperity by better funding everything from the subsidized post office, infrastructure improvements that create jobs to water, parks, schools, police and firefighters, veteran and disability benefits and pretty much every other public commodity that helps in everyone’s day-to-day life.

Kevin Hollinshead is a junior political science major. His column appears on Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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