Commentary surrounding two recent tax cuts reveals the backwards thinking about taxes that is common.
A New York Times editorial from May 11, 2006 asks this question: “Whose taxes will be raised in the future to pay for today’s tax giveaways?”
A question like this reveals several prevalent lines of thinking: First, that the government has a legitimate claim on a large part of our incomes, and that if the government “gives” any of that claim back to us, it somehow has to be paid for. Second, it’s the people who “give” tax money to the government, not the government who “gives” it back to the people in the form of tax cuts. If the government reduces taxes, the government “gives” us nothing. It simply takes less of what is ours in the first place.
This backwards thinking about taxes happens even close to home in Kansas. As reported by David Klepper in the May 12, 2006 Wichita Eagle: “They [Kansas lawmakers who supported the cuts] consider the cuts a wise, $128 million investment to spur new investment by business, new jobs, more economic activity and, consequently, higher tax receipts.”
Further in the same article: “Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, who first proposed the business machinery tax cut, agreed. ‘We’re not giving away money for the sake of giving it away,’ she said. ‘I’m hoping that the economic growth will actually help fund the school plan that we just passed.’” (emphasis added)
It is quite revealing to hear the Governor of Kansas equate letting people keep more of the money they earned with the state “giving it away.” Furthermore, the motives of the politicians are revealed: they are “investing” in tax cuts in the hope that the state will collect even more tax money in the future. What their remarks really reveal is that high taxes are a drag on our economy.
There is one thing the New York Times editorial got right: “Neither Congress nor the public has the stomach to slash government programs anywhere near enough to bring spending in line with revenues.” That is the heart of the problem. Government at all levels spends too much, crowding out private initiative. Government at all levels should cut both taxes and spending.