Matt Stoller, a self-described “thought leader in the internet wing of the progressive movement,” writes about how proud he was to pay his taxes today. There’s nothing wrong with that sentiment — we should all take pride in being contribuing members of our society who help pay to make it work. But merely expressing that simple thought would not justify Stoller’s status as a “progressive thought leader,” so he moves quickly to his main purpose, attacking conservatives.
According to Stoller, “the right-wing likes to pretend as if taxes are a burden instead of the price of democracy.” But while some taxation is the price of democracy (or virtually any other form of government) excessive taxation is, by definition, an undue burden. Excessive taxation is also harmful to our society, unless one believes that there’s no level of taxation that would throw our economy into a downward spiral and/or take too much control of spending decisions out of the hands of citizens.
Stoller then takes his faulty construct one step further, stating “if you hate democracy, as the right-wing does, then taxes are the price for paying for something you really don’t want.” The intellectual dishonesty of this statement is apparent. Conservatives argue for all sorts of things when it comes to taxes: lower marginal tax rates, lower capital gains taxes (or none), a flat tax, the replacement of the federal income tax with a national sales tax, etc. But I know of no conservative who argues for no taxation. Nor can Stoller show any relationship between current levels of taxation and democracy. We’d be no less democratic if our representatives voted to cut our tax rates in half or institute a flat tax. Thus, it’s hardly anti-democratic for conservatives to advocate such measures or to regret, especially on “tax day,” that they have not been adopted.
One also wonders whether there’s any tax rate that thinks would justify a complaint. Would he consider it unpatriotic for middle class Americans to feel aggrieved about paying 90 percent of their yearly income to the government? Clearly, the debate here is about what constitutes reasonable tax rates, not who believes in democracy and who is a patriot.
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“Arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” Winston Churchill