Yesterday I went to Walmart and demanded that they give me a cartload of merchandise for free. This demand was not well-received, so I didn’t get to the second part of my plan which would have involved criticizing the job performance of the people who were giving me free stuff.

Okay, I didn’t really go to Walmart and demand free stuff. You probably knew that because it sounded ridiculous on face value. We all understand that no entity can survive for long if it gives away its resources while asking nothing in return. And this leads me to my point: In the United States, 51% of adults pay zero federal income tax, and yet they have the right to vote. That’s the very definition of a system that can’t last.

I’m not sure where the tipping point is. So far, the power of the non-tax-paying majority has been blunted by the influence of political parties and the misdirection of the media. If the majority ever figures out that they can legally confiscate the wealth of the minority, tax rates will double overnight. My best guess is that the United States will go into a death spiral at about the point that 55% of adults pay no federal income taxes. We’ll probably get to that point as baby boomers continue to retire in large numbers.

The minimum requirement for a war is that everyone has to understand which side they are on. Paying zero federal income taxes draws a dangerously clear line. As soon as someone influential (Limbaugh, Beck, Palin, etc.) coins a catchy name for the non-tax-paying majority, everyone will automatically know which side they are on. That’s when the United States will unravel.

My recommendation for putting a safeguard on the state of the union is that every adult citizen should pay federal income taxes, even if it is just one dollar per year. For the benefit of the country, it is important to blur the line between rich and poor. By analogy, no one cares that senior citizens get discounted movie tickets, but it would be an issue if the tickets were totally free. Every theater would be clogged with senior citizens and the theater owners would go broke. There’s a huge psychological and practical difference between discounted prices and free.

I realize that taxing the poor produces little income. That’s not the point. What matters is that everyone understands we’re ultimately on the same side. I think our system of government needs that. The poor obviously pay a variety of other governmental taxes, and that probably helps blur the lines. But it can’t be healthy that the people who have the power to control the federal government’s budget don’t have any responsibility for funding it.

[Note: The best way to quote me out of context is something along the lines of “Cartoonist recommends increasing taxes on the poor!”]

Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +88
  • Print
  • Share


Sort By:
Jun 23, 2011
Scott -

You seem to forget that for the majority of our history, America did not have an income tax. It was added by FDR to raise money for work projects and end the Great Depression. Like most things, it did not work as promised. Many economists agree that World War II is what actually ended the depression and put everyone to work.

So, in my opinion, in order to safeguard the union we should abolish the income tax. People should be taxed on what they spend and not on what they earn. A national sales tax would make sure everyone is involved in funding the federal government. The rich would obviously pay much more in taxes because they spend more. The poor would pay much less since they spend much of their money on food. Food, except for yogurt and mushrooms (i.e. mold and fungus), would not be taxed.

Another advantage would be that rich people would not need to "hide" their money in tax shelters, foreign banks, or under their mattresses. Without an income tax, they would probably prefer to keep their money in an FDIC-insured bank. This would greatly increase the money banks would have for investing, loans, etc.

Even illegals and criminals buy stuff, so their illegal incomes and cash-under-table incomes would be taxed.
Jun 17, 2011
It's not true that 51% of workers don't have their incomes taxed. It is true that 51% of workers don't pay Income Tax. However, this does not take into account Payroll Tax. Another 24% of the workforce don't pay Income Tax but still have their incomes deducted by Payroll Tax. The difference is that Income Tax is money deducted from money that's coming into your possession, while Payroll Tax is money deducted from money that's leaving a company's possession.

Furthermore, let's not forget that when we spend money, plenty of it goes to the government thanks to taxes on Sales, Gas, Alcohol, Tobacco, Property, etc.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 9, 2011
I don't understand how taking the vote from people who don't pay taxes will stop the hedge fund managers, investment bankers, and inherited billionaires from buying Congress and running the government just they way they do now. They don't need to vote.
Jun 5, 2011
To: efriese (and anyone else who is "paying thousands every years" into Social Security and believes they "will never see a dime" from Social Security.

Please consult an attorney to see if you can create a binding contract and I will gladly pay $1,000 for the right to receive all of your Social Security payments. This way you will see 10,000 dimes and I will get to bet on my faith in the system. I think the latest trustee's report says that all benefits will be paid in full thru 2036 and then about 78% or so thereafter. They may have made some errors in their calcs, but in order for future retirees to not receive a dime, taxes collected will have to be close to zero which means that wage income will be close to zero. That seems unlikely.

My offer is not extended to people who have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses. Sorry.
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 5, 2011
The poor actually pay the exact same amount into FICA (social security) which is 6.2% of their check (their employer pays another 6.2%) and Medicare which is 1.45% of their check (their employer pays another 1.45%) as everyone else, at least below the tax ceiling limit of ~$100,000.

Our tax system is hosed in general. A person making $1 billion is in the same tax bracket as a person making $500,000. That seems a bit odd. I think it is purposeful by the uber-rich to help them court the just barely "well-to-do" into their camp. And taxes on capital gains, sales on stock (ie something that gives little value to society), can be much lower than someone's income tax bracket. IE the whole Warren Buffet has a lower effective tax rate than many Americans.

Clearly the solution is simple, a couple more tax brackets for the very rich, raise taxes a bit on everyone, and hike the FICA and Medicare taxes on people 50 and older (baby boomers), ie... the people who have done a brilliant job bankrupting the nation to this part and those that are looking to squander Social Security and Medicare.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 4, 2011
Most rational people don't mind paying taxes to pay for national defense and law enforcement, public education, medical and other scientific R&D, the arts, environmental protection, other essential functions of government (legislature, courts, international relations). It's the waste we can't stand and resent.
But do you really resent the elderly, unemployed, full time students and assorted others who don't pay income tax based on their lack of income (but do pay sales tax and other consumption taxes)? I think most of that population either have paid their share, will pay their share or would gladly pay their shares if they could.
There are cheats and criminals of course. The tax code is a mess, yes. And citing that 51% figure is fodder for a good strip, perhaps. But really it's a stat that allows for more spin and rhetoric, and unfortunately distracts us from solving our nation's real fiscal problems.
Jun 4, 2011
I laugh at the comments that mention that the poor pay social security and that's a tax. That's not a tax, that's a ponzi scheme. What's really a crime is that I'm paying thousands every year into social security and I will never see a dime.

In addition to not paying income taxes, poor people are also very reliant on their refund every year. I know someone that works for H&R Block and she tells me stories (without details of course) about people who burst into tears because they need the refund to buy something. If the government actually made them pay taxes, there would be a revolt.
Jun 3, 2011

You're missing a key point: For the last 30 years, the poor have been paying into Social Security, <a href="http://bloggingdan.com/2011/04/15/social-security-surplus-kept-taxes-artificially-low/">but most of what they paid was used to fund government while giving tax breaks to the wealthy</a>. The scandal isn't that 51 percent don't pay the federal income tax - though they certainly do pay a lot of other income taxes. The scandal is that 51 percent of Americans aren't making enough to pay income taxes - but still get socked with huge payroll taxes that the wealthy largely escape.

I suspect you already know this, but you really missed the mark on this one.
Jun 3, 2011
Simple answer - Fair Tax! Everyone pays taxes at the same rate, including illegal immigrants. It is so simple. Taxes are paid at consumption, so taxes are paid by everyone, no matter where their money came from. Learn more about it before you knock it, it would be the best thing that happened to our country in a long time.
Jun 3, 2011
For the guy with the arithmetic about what percentage of their lives Americans pay tax: Since when are no taxes paid until after college? I started paying tax when I got my Social Security card at age 13. Since when is the retirement age 60? I'm still working past that age, even though I have two pensions.
+12 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 3, 2011
It seems a false premise that those paying zero income tax are providing zero funds to the government. Via consumption, these same people are contributing directly to state and local governments (sales tax) and indirectly to the Federal government by supporting income taxes on corporations (and the income taxes of those employed by those corporations). In short, participating in the US economy on any level accrues value to the US government, at least at the margins.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 3, 2011
You instantly jump to the conclusion that you need to pay tax in order to be entitled to vote, but you fail to explain why. By that logic, billionaires would pretty much have a veto vote. We all know that they in fact do, but I do find that very democratic. Democracy is about how many people want a particular thing, not how much money they pay.
-6 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 3, 2011
Nah, don't tax the poor. Just take the vote off them and send them down to work on my estates
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 2, 2011
You must have an endless supply of pointy sticks.
Jun 2, 2011
"How can we live in freedom and maintain that we are entitled to *anything* that we can't get without the labor of others?

Remember,if we are entitled to the labor of others, that makes slaves of those others."

(Marilyn vos Savant)
Jun 2, 2011
Bring back the poll tax, sure it will cause chaos and outrage but good will come out of it. It will make people appreciate their right to vote and perhaps give them reason to do so after the demonstrations and riots. But on the other hand perhaps complete apathy will set in as people have so little time to do those time consuming functions of demonstrations. This could become interesting... Lets hand the keys of our government to the wolves and just sit back and watch the fun.
Jun 2, 2011
Scott - you're right - this is fun. Just lay out the bait and they can't wait to jump all over it.

And by doing it on your own blog you're sort of a "Master Troll" (and I mean that as a compliment). The amusement value is priceless. Thanks...
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 2, 2011
Everyone is missing the obvious quote.

"Cartoonist says 'Let's declare war on the poor. Just think of the nutritional possibilities. Remember Jonathan Swift and A Modest Proposal.'"

Also how about reinstituting the Poll Tax and repealing the rest. Would make sure that the people paying would be making the decisions and would also make sure that the voters would actually have a reason to research the candidates and the issues.
Jun 2, 2011
I disagree. Everyone is already paying some tax. Gas tax, Social Security, etc. And since cash is fungible, so are tax types. Looking at Red states vs Blue states, it looks to me like people with higher income are voting for higher taxes and vice versa. And I don't think it's because they don't realize what they are voting for. It has to do with values. This post only makes sense if the income tax is the only tax and people only valued money. Neither is true.
Jun 2, 2011
That's because in the US monetary system taxes don't really do any funding. Think about it if you own a central bank with its own money that everybody is forced to use on pain of jail, why the devil would you bother collecting it for funding purposes. Much easier to continue running up the overdraft.

So taxes exist to serve some other purpose, and that purpose is to prevent inflation depending upon the strength of the economy.

It would be far better to switch to a straight land tax and get rid of all the other nonsense. It can then be wobbled up and down as required to control inflation alongside interest rates.
Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog