Robert Reich is tired of hearing complaints about taxes:
A Short Citizen's Guide to Kooks, Demagogues, and Right-Wingers On Tax Day, by Robert Reich: No one likes to pay taxes, so tax day typically attracts a range of right-wing Republicans, kooks, and demagogues, all of whom tell us how awful we have it. Herewith a short ... guide ... responding to the predictable charges:
1. "Americans pay too much in taxes." Wrong: The United States has the lowest taxes of all developed nations.
2. "The rich pay too much! The top ten percent of income earners pay over 72 percent of all income taxes!" Misleading: The main reason the rich pay such a large percent is they've become so much richer ... in recent years. If you look at what they pay as individuals ... you'll see a steady decline over the years. ...
3. "The bottom 60 percent pay only 3.3 percent of the taxes!" Misleading again. Most Americans are paying more in sales taxes than they ever have. Property taxes have also been rising at a steady clip. And Social Security taxes have also risen (thanks to the Greenspan Commission), while earnings over about $100,000 aren't subject to Social Security taxes. So-called "sin" taxes (mostly beer and cigarettes) have also skyrocketed. All of these taxes take a bigger bite out of the paychecks of people with lower incomes than they do people with higher incomes.
4. "Obama is raising your taxes!" Wrong. Obama is cutting taxes for 95 percent of Americans, by about $400 per person a year... Only the top 2 percent will have a tax increase, but even this tax increase is modest. Basically, they go back to the rates they were paying under Bill Clinton... And they won't start paying this until 2011 anyway.
5. "The huge debts we're wracking up will cause your taxes to rise!" Wrong again. When it comes to the national debt, as I've said before, the relevant statistic is the ratio of debt to the gross domestic product. The only sure way to bring that debt down and make it manageable in future years is to get the economy growing again -- which requires that, in the short term, the government spend a lot of money... In the long term, the biggest source of concern is rising health-care costs. And that's something Obama and Congress are aiming to tackle.
6. "We have a patriotic duty to stand up against Washington taxes!" Just the opposite. We have a patriotic duty to pay taxes. ... President Teddy Roosevelt made the case in 1906 when he argued in favor of continuing the inheritance tax. "The man of great wealth owes a particular obligation to the state because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government."
An acquaintance from law school, now a partner in one of Washington's biggest and wealthiest law firms, explained to me one day over lunch how he and his partners use tax rules to create offsetting taxable gains and losses, and then allocate the gains to the firm's foreign partners who don't pay taxes in the United States. That way, they keep the losses here and shelter their income abroad. I noticed he had an American flag lapel pin. "You're supporting our troops," I said, referring to his pin. "Yup," he replied, entirely missing my point.
True patriotism isn't cheap. It's about taking on a fair share of the burden of keeping America going.