April 12th, 2013

Raising Taxes is the Wrong Approach

The following is an op-ed I wrote, published in today’s Standard-Examiner.


As government budgets tighten and the demand for its services either remains constant or increases, politicians and their constituents are exploring how to resolve this apparent conundrum. With a steady population increase in Utah straining the government’s ability to provide for its citizens, what is the proper response?

The state’s Republican Party platform, which calls for a “broad-based rate reduction” and only “limited taxation,” has not restrained some members of its party from advocating for tax increases to try and solve the funding gap. For example, Republican Sen. Aaron Osmond recently proposed raising taxes to better fund education and transportation. Highlighting a “recognition that we need to do something,” Osmond suggested that that “thing” should be to impose higher taxes—or, in other words, to take more money from Utahns that is rightfully their own.

Osmond is not alone. Many Republicans (and their Democrat counterparts) supported bills in this past legislative session to increase taxes. One prime example is Senate Bill 226, sponsored by Senator Wayne Harper (also a Republican), which would have required e-commerce businesses to collect sales tax from their customers in Utah. Another is House Bill 372, sponsored by Representative Paul Ray (another Republican), which would have imposed significant taxes (86 percent of the manufacturer’s price) on e-cigarette nicotine products.

Fortunately, none of this legislation survived. The advocacy to take more money from the pockets of people in Utah demonstrates the arrogance of state officials who want to preserve or expand the status quo rather than looking for ways to cut programs, eliminate waste, and better manage existing tax revenue. More money is not needed—less government is.

The state struggles to finance its services primarily because it has inserted itself into areas it does not properly belong; a government involved in protecting life, liberty, and property need not tax citizens to furnish them with social welfare programs, entice companies to relocate to the state, or subsidize private businesses. Even education is a service which falls outside government’s legitimate scope and which should therefore be left to the market, outside of the purview of taxation.

There is a reason that Chief Justice John Marshall once wrote that “the power to tax involves the power to destroy.” Taxes are not voluntary contributions, freely given to help an organization thrive. They are confiscations of one’s earnings, imposed with the ever-present threat of force against those who fail to comply. As such, it is offensive to casually throw around the suggestion of “raising taxes” as if the resulting revenue magically flowed, without complaint or controversy, from the pockets of taxpayers to the coffers of the state.

With his trademark fiery rhetoric, Tom Paine accurately portrayed both the history and future of taxes. “The greedy hand of government,” he wrote, “thrust[s] itself into every corner and crevice of industry, and grasp[s] at the spoil of the multitude.” Always looking to better fund its operations, “invention is continually exercised to furnish new pretenses for revenue and taxation.” In other words, the natural inclination of the state is to grow—and to force all of us to provide financial backing.

According to the Tax Foundation, Utahns pay on average 9.3 percent of their income in state and local taxes. Added onto this, of course, is the burden of federal taxes which is around 15 percent for the average middle-class American family.

“Greedy hands” indeed — if the government can’t get by with roughly one-fourth of each individual’s earnings, then it’s time to have a serious conversation about the things government has found worthy of our tax dollars thus far.

8 Responses to “Raising Taxes is the Wrong Approach”

  1. April 13, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

    Connor,

    The figures you list are only a small part of the picture.

    The following figures are based upon, official, 2011 statistics taken from each government’s website in the jurisdictions I live in.

    U.S. Per Capita Income (2011) = $26,780.00 +

    City & County Spending (2011) = $ 2,149.00 –
    State Spending (2011) = $ 4,236.00 –
    U.S. Government Spending (2011) = $11,593.00 –

    Total Per Capita Gov’t Spending (2011) = $17,978.00 (67.13%)

    Net per capita income remaining = $ 8,802.00 (32.87%)

    That leaves 32.87% for us to live on. I guess until total government spending gets to 100% we are not paying enough taxes.

    Now I know there are some out there who say we don’t pay that much. Well, that’s where government debt comes in. Some may say, what about the taxes businesses pay? I would ask, where do businesses get their money? I know some will say, what about the taxes the rich pay? The income of the rich is included in the per capita income listed above.

  2. April 17, 2013 at 1:09 am #

    Connor, what should a government interested in protecting life do regarding harmful emissions? Wouldn’t the government have to meddle with free enterprise and industry in order to protect life, even though regulation is counter to the idea of limited government? And then what about the taxation to pay for enforcement of the regulation? Is it not a given?

  3. April 17, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

    Nick:

    The way you have structured your comments sets up a “false dilemma”. You can ask the same basic questions structured in a way that does not do this. In fact if you get rid of your last question “Is it not a give?” Your questions are valid because you highlight an apparent paradox (or conundrum).

    As you say the government is (theoretically) there to secure your rights, which are life, liberty and property. Anyone aggressing against you, such as sending out harmful emissions etc… are violating your property rights.

    Sorry, I have to leave. I will continue later.

  4. April 24, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

    Few of us have access to know all the waste taking place in our local or state governments. And when the occasional reveal occurs regarding idiotic programs our federal government has set in motion and we are paying for, my knee-jerk reaction is not something I want to put in print. I don’t see how all of that will end except when the Savior returns. The sorry condition of our government is a crime against the citizens.

  5. April 25, 2013 at 9:35 am #

    My recollection is that the colonists fought to separate themselves from a King who thought it was his right to take from them what they earned.

    Today, ironically, we are taxed at rates higher than what the King of England taxed the colonists, yet talk of cutting government spending is often met with disdain, fear, etc.

    A free people do not depend on government to provide services…period. Government, if it is even necessary, is only there to protect your rights as an individual. Anything that abridges the rights of the individual is tyranny for what I cannot do to my neighbor, neither should the government do. Taxation is a form of legalized theft. As I am not able to steal from my neighbor, the government should not be able to do that either.

    Well said, Connor!

  6. Kenny
    May 3, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    Public Debt Repayment = Taxes + Interest.

    The debts exist whether you like them or not. We can either pay those debts now by raising taxes, or you can pay them WITH INTEREST later on… but either way, those debts need to be paid. So, I know you hate paying for government, but if we don’t pay the bills we have already racked up, we’re just going to pay EVEN MORE for it later on.

  7. Kenny
    May 3, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

    My recollection is that the colonists fought to separate themselves from a King who thought it was his right to take from them what they earned.

    Michael, your recollection is incorrect. The colonists wanted to have input on how much they were being taxed and on what that tax revenue was being used for.

    “No taxation WITHOUT REPRESENTATION.”

    You, and SO many others like you, latch onto the first half of that and forget the second half exists at all.

  8. May 24, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

    Kenny,

    You are only partly correct when you say… “No taxation WITHOUT REPRESENTATION” was the reason we declared our independence. I think if you would read the Declaration of Independence you will find a few more reasons including what Michael said. Also you could do a little more research into the interactions between the local (citizens of the colonies) governing bodies and the British representatives in the colonies. You will find that the colonists, generally speaking, didn’t like paying taxes.

    As to your comments regarding raising taxes or paying debt later. The fact is that what we get is both. As you can see from my first comments above regarding government spending, the problem is not the amount of taxes. We pay plenty of taxes. The problem is the out of control spending of government.

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