Every year the average American worker confronts the federal government in a more disturbingly intimate manner than during any other so regularly and widely experienced encounter. On April 15, Americans must pay tribute to the state on the basis of their income.
To be more precise, the coerced payment occurs continuously as every dollar is earned. Ever since World War II, Americans have had their income tax withheld by their employers, so they don’t realize all at once how much they’re being milked and revolt. Government funding runs more smoothly, especially in larger amounts, when the taxpayer is soaked gradually.
Although the grand larceny is unremitting, April 15 still has its unique significance, for it is this date by which most Americans have to submit their tax forms, often exhausted from an excruciating effort to accurately account for their financial affairs from the past year, dreading that an arithmetic error or misreading of the illegible tax code might land them in federal prison. It is an onerous imposition for millions. It is a reminder that the government is essentially an extortion racket. If it happened closer to election time, campaign rhetoric would perhaps be more interesting.
It is notable how little concern there is for the oppressed taxpayer coming from the progressives, the liberals, and the left. Although they might complain about poor priorities and busted budgets, few of them attack the institution of income taxation for what it is: violent exploitation of the worker by the most monopolistic, immense and predatory corporation to be found, the national government.
This of course goes for all the payroll taxes, not just the income tax. It should be obvious by now that Social Security is not an investment, and no more voluntary than the income tax.
The hardship of taxation is most clear to the worker on tax day, when the proletariat must consummate their economic enslavement over the previous year with an intimidating and self-deprecating paper ritual. Having paid rent on their lives to the corporate state, a large fraction of which payment has financed slaughter, persecution and further oppression of workers, the tax serfs must prove to the state to its satisfaction that the right amount has been extracted from them. If they fail, they go to jail.
The percentage of the workers’ production that goes to the state, incidentally, is considerably larger than the cut the capitalist pockets from what a worker produces. The comparison, however, is unfair, since the worker has some choice of employers. Opportunities are certainly scarcer than they should be, especially due to the regulatory trappings set by the bureaucracy to keep the populace in a place most easy to track and control. But the employee can ultimately leave and seek other work. The state, in contrast to the most parsimonious taskmaster in the private sector, is vastly more unrelenting, unforgiving and inescapable. It has its grip on the whole country. Even Americans who expatriate have to keep paying their annual ransom to Uncle Sam.
It’s funny how much a $2.00 ATM fee will set the left off, meanwhile the state loots the average American on every transaction to bankroll various ventures in state capitalism and state socialism — ventures on which the taxpayer covers the risk and the mega-bureaucracy, the military industrial complex, and their cronies reap the profits. One might expect a real partisan of the rights of the worker to be alarmed by the state’s encroachment on the worker’s right to the fruits of his labor and production.
Just thinking of how much people would have to freely save and give and spend and invest, to build their communities, pursue their dreams and support their families, if it weren’t for income and payroll taxes, sure makes me more upset about the state than about minor banking annoyances. For all the federal government supposedly does for the downtrodden, does the left not see how much more it takes away? Giving Labor Day to the worker in exchange for Tax Day for the state appears an exceedingly unfair trade.
Why does the egalitarian left speak so little of the fundamental inequity involved between the $2.7 trillion exploiter and the hundreds of millions of workers who labor constantly to keep the scam afloat? I suppose that some liberals have been tricked into believing in the necessity of taxation. Others are actually not so concerned with the well being of the worker as they are with protecting government power.
The organized conservatives, for their part, complain about taxes and yet favor the most extravagant and vulgar spending projects. They are smart enough about economics to understand the contradiction. They are not really anti-tax. It was the Republicans who gave America the Income Tax, under Lincoln and then more permanently through Taft. The GOP has always been for the big tariff, too. When push comes to shove, the right has always found ways to make others pay for its wars and police brutality. Despite the pervasive misconceptions, Republicans characteristically jump at the chance to raise taxes and inaugurate new ones, and when they do cut them, the cuts are nearly always an illusion.
Regarding the extent of exploitation, over the years, under the care of both parties, the federal budget has blossomed into the largest government budget ever. Its growth continues to be tremendous. And the enormous income tax doesn’t even come close to covering the total. As Ron Paul pointed out, the personal income tax could be wiped out and the U.S. government would still have a larger budget than it did in 2000.
That was the last year of Clinton. Bush and the Republicans have spent so much on their wars and graft, their welfare and police statism, that we can accurately attribute the entire personal income tax burden to the cost of their programs!
In other words, income tax is the price we pay so the Bush administration can continue to wreck civilization. Here and abroad.
There was a time many years ago when liberals recognized the problem with taxation, the impossibility of making it just, the danger of unleashing the taxing power of the state that corresponds so well to its destructive power. Then the left turned to the state as a potential friend, rather than the unambiguous foe, of the working man. Conservatives have long complained about paying up, even as their totalitarian bureaucracy has been financed by burgeoning direct and indirect taxation. Nowadays, the establishment left and right both care nothing of the suffering taxpayer and the foundational evil of taxation. Anyone with a vested interest in big government will just stare off into space if you point out that it’s theft, conducted at the barrel of a gun. In the long run, it is this point we should emphasize — that taxation is simply plunder, and any organization that executes it must be watched closely.
As for the working class, every tax day the libertarian side of each wage earner emerges anomalously like the Groundhog on its day. April 15 is, in this sense at least, Libertarian Day. I get the feeling from news of Mr. Bush’s declining popularity that this year in particular the people will be enraged by the humiliation of filing those forms, that insult of procedure added to the injury and exploitation of taxation.
Anthony Gregory [send him mail] is a writer and musician who lives in Berkeley, California. He is a research analyst at the Independent Institute. See his webpage for more articles and personal information.