Tax Freedom Day is the date after which we no longer work to pay taxes, and we typically view it in the abstract; i.e., by measuring the number of days we toil for the growing Leviathan. It is liberation day.
But this year reminds us of the role war plays in bloating government, and how war has energized the creeping movement of Tax Freedom Day from January to April.
American taxpayers toil for more nearly three months to pay their federal and state tax bills. Historically speaking, much of the former has bankrolled war.
Tax Freedom Day And War
In the early 1900s, the Tax Foundation reports, tax freedom day was January 20. It stayed there for years, until 1917, when it was Jan. 22. Then World War I broke out, which pushed Tax Freedom Day to Feb. 6 in 1918, then Feb. 20 in 1921.
In 1917, Americans worked seven days to pay federal taxes. In 1921, they worked 32. “In the years after World War I,” the foundation reports, “America’s tax burden fell significantly, but it never reached its pre-war levels.”
After Franklin Roosevelt and his light-fingered, socialist boodlers hatched the New Deal, Tax Freedom Day crept further into the year. By 1940, it was March 3. Then came World War II; by 1946, Tax Freedom Day was March 31. Americans worked 72 days to pay federal taxes that year.
Again, Tax Freedom Day never returned to pre-war levels. Then came more domestic government and another war in Korea; Tax Freedom Day crossed into April. After that, we got the Great Society and Vietnam: “The Vietnam War, coupled with the Great Society programs of the 1960s,” the foundation avers, “increased the total tax burden to well over quarter of the nation’s income, pushing Tax Freedom Day back to April 16 by 1970.”
During the Era Of Clintonian Socialism, Tax Freedom Day jumped to April 30, although it has improved slightly since then. This year it is April 19. Americans will work 74 days to pay federal taxes.
What It Means
Conventional conservatives blame welfare and public education for big government, but they are only partly correct. Being militarists, they deny the connection between big military budgets and Leviathan’s growth. They won’t finger America’s unconstitutional wars and global meddling as a coequal culprit in the confiscatory taxation that not only robs hard-working Americans but also diminishes their liberties.
Liberals, again partly right, view it the opposite way. They bemoan military spending, but want more unconstitutional welfare loot to bribe their constituencies, principally militant minorities, frightened old people and indolent freeloaders.
The real truth: Warfare and welfare are symbiotic. One complements the other.
During the Bush years, government spending has increased at least $800 billion. Health spending soared 106 percent; education spending, 32 percent. Who knew we were that sick and stupid, but in any event, some time soon, the full bill for the war in Iraq will come due, as will the bill for the new homeland security bureaucracy.
Already, the war has cost at least $80 billion. Over the next six years, the president wants to spend more than $2 trillion on the Pentagon, presumably for the rest of World War IV.
Barring a radical change, Tax Freedom Day will never be what it was before war socialism became settled public policy.
As Randolph Bourne said, “war is the health of the state.”
April 16, 2003
Syndicated columnist R. Cort Kirkwood [send him mail] is managing editor of the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg, Va.