BIDLACK | Paying your taxes is a profoundly patriotic act

Author: Hal Bidlack - April 17, 2018 - Updated: April 17, 2018

Hal Bidlack
Hal Bidlack

Today is Tax Day, the day when the great reckoning arrives for millions of Americans. For some, it is a day of relief, when they finally sit down and crank the numbers for 2017 and find to their delight that they are getting a refund. Others, having delayed until the last possible moment, find that they owe Uncle Sam a chunk of change, or a wad of bills, or whatever your painful metaphor is for owing. Tax Day is a day that many greet with trepidation or even fear. Some argue that even the conceptof taxation is evil, and that taxation is theft. Many others argue that taxation is a necessary evil, but argue vociferously that taxes are too high and are unfairly collected. Only the most foolish would argue that Tax Day is actually a day for celebration.

I argue that Tax Day is actually a day for celebration.

Put a room full of random people together, toss in a question about whether taxes are too high and you will likely get quite the cacophony of comments on who isn’t paying their fair share, and how unreasonable the US tax code is. Again, only the most foolish would argue that Americans pay pretty low taxes.

I argue that Americans pay pretty low taxes.

As it turns out, Americans actually, on a global scale, are taxed at surprisingly low levels. Compared, for example, to the 34 other industrialized nations in what we think of as the industrialized world, we come in 5thfrom the bottom in overall taxes as a percentage of GDP. A 2017 report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago found that the US tax load is even lower, with only Korea, Chile, and Mexico paying less. And it gets tricky when talking about corporate tax rates, something of great interest to Mr. Trump and his GOP partners during the recent tax cut debate (note: they want to call it a “tax reform” plan, but to truly reform taxes, in the minds of most people who study this, the changes should be at or nearly revenue neutral. The GOP bill recently passed and signed by Mr. Trump, according to that “liberal” mouthpiece the Wall Street Journal, will add $1.4467 to the deficit, citing the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. So if you are a typical middle class family, getting roughly $1600 more per year, so enjoy that $30 or so you’ll get weekly. Too bad you are not a millionaire, because then you’d be getting about $1300 per week back, but that’s for another column).

A 2015 study by the Pew Research Center found that just under two-thirds of Americans are bothered by the feeling, as they put it, that some corporations are not paying what’s fair, and over 6 in 10 Americans think the wealthy are not paying what they should. This same survey found that just about half of Americans feel they are paying about the right amount, and just about one-third of Americans actually enjoy or even love doing their taxes. I think we can agree that those last folks are…odd?

But despite any and all unfairness in the tax code, I continue to argue that we as Americans should be both proud and – wait for it – grateful for the opportunity to pay our taxes. Do you really want to go back to a “before time” when there were few if any taxes? Let your mind wander back to the Founding Period, when the vast bulk of the government’s operating funds came from tariffs on imports, and modest taxes in the big cities. Sound good? Well, it could be, unless your house caught on fire. You see, today your taxes pay for the firefighters that come to your home to save you and yours. In colonial days, you had to buy fire insurance from a particular company. If you house burst into flames, they would come and put out the fire, if you had purchased fire coverage from them. If not, fetch the marshmallows.

Perhaps it’s easy for me to argue for taxes, as I spent my entire military career being paid with tax dollars, and frankly, I’m enjoying my military pension from the same source. But as you file your return today, I do ask that you consider the big picture. Your willingness to report your income to the government, and to pay toward keeping our great communities, state, and nation on a firm footing is what makes our liberty possible. It’s true – paying your taxes is a profoundly patriotic act. So be proud and file. And thanks again for the pension.

Hal Bidlack

Hal Bidlack

Hal Bidlack is a retired professor of political science and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who taught more than 17 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.