Point/Counterpoint pt1

Tony Cox

Taxes necessary, but need reform

“The American people are afraid of their government,” former Youngstown Rep. Jim Traficant was quite fond of pointing out in reference to U.S. tax policy. For all his faults — and he has many — Traficant is a man who isn’t afraid to call it like he sees it. Jimbo’s legacy will probably have more to do with his ethical breaches and his bell-bottomed britches than his call for the elimination of the Internal Revenue Service. But when it came to tax reform, his oft-repeated battle cry hits the nail on its toupee-covered head.

It’s no secret people don’t like paying taxes. In fact, a friend once told me he would rather be beaten to death with a large sack of quarters than fill out a 1040 income tax form. Of course he was exaggerating — I think — but there is little question that the U.S. tax code is in bad need of reform, and in fact has been for a number of years. In addition to diffusing the ticking Social Security time bomb, President Bush had made simplifying the tax code one of his chief domestic priorities — and with good cause.

There are almost as many different types of taxes as there are people to tax, from the annoying sales taxes to which Americans are subjected on a daily basis, to the estate taxes so exorbitant they border on grave robbery. But when people usually gripe about taxes, they’re complaining about the income tax. Many people never realize just how much money the government steals from them on a weekly (or bi-weekly, depending on your pay schedule) basis. Take a look at your pay stub the next time you pick up your check. Look at how much money you earned, then look at the substantial size of the taxes the government takes out. You’ll see how much of your hard-earned money goes to the federal, state and local governments to be squandered by fiscally irresponsible bureaucrats in Columbus and in Washington. Of course, taxes are a necessary evil, but the extent to which the American people are taxed today probably has the founders spinning in their graves — representation or no representation.

Chris Edwards, director of fiscal policy studies at the Cato Institute, identifies what he calls 10 “outrageous” facts about the income tax. For example, the “tax army” — that is, the legions of professional tax-preparers (accountants, lawyers and computer experts) — outnumber the U.S. military personnel currently stationed in Iraq by 600 percent. As Mr. Edwards suggests, imagine how many more important things these folks could be doing instead of poring over boring forms and virtually incomprehensible tax laws. He also points out that the tax code gives favorable treatment to certain people because of their lifestyles rather than applying an equal standard across the board. This sort of tax only leads to contention and discrimination, which could eventually escalate into more significant conflict.

Mr. Edwards rightly identifies income taxes as “a bad idea that got worse” with time. Constantly changing laws and an inaccurate system of determining income are just a couple of the problems with the income tax that lead to decreases in business investment, family financial planning and efficient government spending.

It’s time for the United States to do away with the income tax and find a more fair system of generating government revenue. There’s no reason why the American people should be afraid of their government, and reforming the tax code would be a big step in the right direction.

Tony Cox is a junior philosophy major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].