The Politics of Fairness in Taxation

26 Apr

Here’s a brief piece of an editorial by Walter Williams, a professor of economics at George Mason University:

“Instead of focusing on how the federal government has grown from 3 or 4 percent of our GDP — as it was from 1787 to 1920 — to today’s 24 percent, our attention has been diverted to tax fairness demagoguery. Let’s look at tax fairness. According to Internal Revenue Service data for 2009,  the top 1 percent of American income earners paid almost 37 percent of federal income taxes. The top 10 percent paid about 70 percent of federal income taxes, and the top 50 percent paid nearly 98 percent. Roughly 47 percent of Americans pay no federal income tax. Here’s my fairness question to you: What standard of fairness dictates that the top 10 percent of income earners pay 70 percent of the income tax burden while 47 percent of Americans pay nothing?

“The fact that the income tax burden is distributed so unevenly produces great politically borne fiscal problems. People who pay little or no income taxes become natural constituents for big-spending politicians. After all, if you pay no income taxes, what do you care if income taxes are raised? Also, you won’t be enthusiastic about tax cuts; you’ll see them as a threat to your handouts.”

I think he makes a good point.  How about you?


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