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!”]