The colonists argued that they had no representatives in Parliament and therefore their concerns weren’t being addressed. The British claimed they were being “virtually” represented. Tensions rose.
In 1773, colonists violently rejected a proposed tax on tea imports at the so-called Boston Tea Party. What exactly transpired that night is under dispute, but the end result was that Britain retaliated in an escalating chain of events that ultimately led to the American Revolution.
To clarify: the initial Tea Party conflict was never about the government’s authority to collect taxes in the colonies; that point was not in dispute. The colonists were simply opposed to the decision-making process that determined how their tax dollars were being used without any formal representation in the British Parliament.
Which brings us to present-day America, where the ‘1 percent’ is currently the only constituency being represented in both houses of government, and yet somehow the economic elite feel no obligation to pay their fair share of taxes to uphold the system that has been so good to them. Supposedly, they hate big government.
Mind you, this is the same big government that radically altered the face of the American economy in the 1980s when it changed all the tax codes and privatized America’s industrial base for the sake of unfettered capitalism. President Reagan began deregulating American industry while systematically weakening the unions and privatizing billions of dollars in public assets. The undermining of a progressive tax code shifted the burden off of corporations and investors and onto workers.
‘Reaganomics’ effectively dismantled our once-booming economy. When Reagan was elected, the top marginal tax rate was 70 percent. He eventually cut that down to 28 percent by the end of his term. The top tax rate is currently hovering around 36 percent.
More food for thought: in January the U.S. Public Interest Research Group reported that the country is losing trillions in tax revenues due to the prevalence of illegal offshore tax evasion; in a related development, global mega-bank HSBC was recently accused of helping its wealthiest clients — mostly Americans — to avoid paying taxes, sometimes using highly ‘creative’ methods.
America’s corporations are sitting on close to $2 trillion in offshore bank accounts in places like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. That’s cash that is not being used to create jobs, build factories or improve infrastructure. In a country where upward mobility is virtually impossible, corporations have become less committed to workers’ well-being and more contemptuous of their communities.
The current notion that the 1 percent should be allowed to avoid paying tax is morally bankrupt, un-American and economically stupid. History has shown that when you give tax breaks to mega-corporations and the super-rich the money goes offshore where it can maximize returns. Give a rebate to working people and small business owners and the money is re-circulated into the local economy, stimulating bottom-up demand.
Instead of viewing our responsibility as tax payers as analogous to being mugged by the “big, evil government,” we should think of it as more of a tithing or a fee that we pay to enjoy the comforts of modern life. Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said that “Taxes... are dues that we pay for the privileges of membership in an organized society;” Oliver Wendell Holmes put it this way: “I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization.”
In civilized countries, social benefits are paid for through taxation. The codes are straightforward, taxing income from labor and pensions progressively so that those with higher incomes pay more. In many cases the government does all of the calculations for you and simply sends you the bill. No need for H&R Block or TurboTax equals more savings. Although taxpayers are entitled to dispute the amount, most gladly pay up because they know what they’re getting in return.
Throughout history, taxes have been the lifeblood of civilization. If the government is basically good, then so are taxes.
When politicians talk about cutting taxes in America, they’re not talking about lowering taxes for working people. They are talking about cutting taxes for their benefactors: multinational corporations and millionaires. That’s their sole constituency; working-class stiffs like you and me don’t count.
I pay plenty of taxes and I get nothing but misery and humiliation in return. As it stands now, my tax dollars are being used to uphold an evil system committed to doing exactly the opposite of what I would choose to do with my money.
It’s time for another tea party.