Life and Taxes

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Time to contrast this Grover Norquist gem:

I want to shrink government down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.

with this passage from my own denomination’s social statement on economic life:

Government is intended to serve God’s purposes by limiting or countering narrow economic interests and promoting the common good. Paying taxes to enable government to carry out these and other purposes is an appropriate expression of our stewardship in society, rather than something to be avoided. Government often falls short of these responsibilities. Its policies can harm the common good and especially the most vulnerable in society. Governing leaders are to be held accountable to God’s purposes: “May [they] judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice. . . . May [they] defend the cause of the poor of the people” (Psalm 72:2).


While these sentiments touch the respective edges of the Overton Window on taxes, the question for 2009 and beyond is how much of Norquist’s venom remains coursing in the veins of the body politic.

Paul Krugman thinks the poison pill — “in corporate jargon… a financial arrangement designed to protect current management by crippling the company if someone else takes over” — has been fully digested.

As I read the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center’s analysis of the presidential candidates’ tax proposals, I realized that the tax cuts enacted by the Bush administration are, in effect, a fiscal poison pill aimed at future administrations.

True, the tax cuts won’t prevent a change in management — the Constitution sees to that. But they will make it hard for the next president to change the country’s direction.

Exhibit A would be John McCain, whose ideas, such as they are, should be irrelevant, but Obama?

Why doesn’t Mr. Obama propose raising more money? Blame the Bush poison pill.

First of all, Mr. Obama — like, to be fair, his main rivals for the Democratic nomination — isn’t willing to challenge the Bush tax cuts as a whole. He only proposes rolling back tax cuts for those making more than $250,000 a year.

Second, Mr. Obama proposes giving back a substantial part of the revenue raised by this partial tax-cut rollback in the form of new tax cuts…

The problem, I believe, is that even Democrats have bought into the underlying premise of the Bush years — that the best thing you can do for American families, or at least the only thing that can win their votes, is to give them a tax break.

That’s it in a nutshell. The Grover Norquist’s of this world have shifted the Overton Window to unprecedented levels of acceptability for anti-social thinking. Taxes engage you in your government. Remember those homey declarations, such as “I’m a taxpayer and I know my rights!” Isn’t that soooooo 20th Century?

Thus, as Krugman implies, the best thing you can do for American families is to disengage them a little more from their government.

The root problem is, taxes are too high for too many American families — local property taxes, that is. But when you lop the rates off high brackets, Mr. and Mrs. Average wind up holding the bag.

Here’s a homey old saying to shift the Overton Window back a bit: “To whom much is given, much is expected.”

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One response to “Life and Taxes

  1. The Glenn Beck Review

    Interesting post. I have a review of Overton’s Window, the political theory, on my blog that might interest you.

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