Sorry, Gail Johnson (featured on the front page of today’s Washington Post). You are indeed “wealthy” (or at least “well off”), and you will indeed eventually be paying higher than George W. Bush-era taxes. But so will a lot of other folks–even those whose incomes are below $250,000/year, I predict–so you’ll have lots of company and not be so “stigmatized” by your “rich-person-who-deserves-to-pay-higher-taxes” label.
The basic math can’t be refuted (still): if we want to keep certain commitments (such as public provision of some health and retirement security through our entitlement programs), and now even add new ones (that are part of President Obama’s plan to “transform” our economy and not just stimulate it), we’ve got to face up to the need to raise federal revenues beyond where they’ve been historically (a bit over 18% of GDP over the past 40 years).
Bruce Bartlett, in his continuing commentary on the anti-tax/tea-party “fantasy” seems amused by the latest (desperate) argument made by tea-party goers:
Finally, in desperation, my critics said that it is not actually the level of taxation today that they are protesting. It’s the implicit tax resulting from large federal deficits that really concerns them.
I might have been willing to buy this argument except for the fact that these same people justified a huge tax cut in 2001 on the grounds that large budget surpluses, which had arisen toward the end of Bill Clinton’s administration, were proof of over-taxation since the government was taking in more revenue than it needed to pay its bills.
Furthermore, the conservative line for the last eight years was that budget deficits don’t matter…It’s at least a bit disingenuous for conservatives to suddenly change their view on deficits simply because their team is no longer in power.
In my opinion, these tea parties had little, if anything, to do with current or projected tax levels. They were just partisan pep rallies designed to make out-of-power conservatives and Republicans feel better…
But I will grant that some of those attending tea parties are now genuinely concerned about our fiscal future even though they weren’t during the George W. Bush Administration. (Where, I wonder, were the protestors when Bush and a Republican Congress massively expanded Medicare in 2003?) But it’s not enough just to complain; specific proposals need to be developed that go beyond cutting foreign aid and earmarks — just about the only spending that conservatives ever talk about cutting.
In particular, anti-tax activists need to explain how we are going to cut Medicare by tens of trillions of dollars when its beneficiaries already represent the largest voting bloc in America and its ranks will grow sharply as the baby boom generation retires. Because of rising Medicare costs, we would be facing massive budget deficits in the near future even if Barack Obama had not been elected, Republicans still controlled Congress, and there had been no economic crisis…
[P]rotestors need to do a better job of figuring out what they are protesting and devise a real plan for dealing with our nation’s fiscal problem. Otherwise, their efforts will amount to nothing more than hot air.
And even though Gail Johnson doesn’t want to pay higher taxes (and seems to suggest it’s unfair), Marc Friedman–featured in the same article–has a different perspective:
Not all business owners are complaining. Marc Friedman, who earns about $350,000 a year operating Ace Hardware stores in the District and Baltimore, said he wouldn’t mind the extra $35,000 to $50,000 he stands to lose to the IRS.
“The small-business community feels there’s a disproportionate amount of tax placed on us, and it’s true,” Friedman said.
But government services “can’t be paid for equally by everyone,” he said. “It’s a big burden, but we’re fortunate to be successful.”