Conservative Republicans seem remarkably naïve about American taxes. Many claim that all taxes are theft of honestly earned income, a claim that makes no sense in a democracy, where representatives are elected to decide on taxes and other matters. Virtually all of them claim that American taxes are crushing, an impossible load that is killing all incentive, preventing the country from being wealthy, its citizens affluent. The fact is, however, that American taxes are at the medium-low level for advanced countries, and in spite of our record inequality, we’re still the richest nation in history, with upper echelon wealth no less than during the Gilded Age that brought us the Great Depression. A NYT article on 30 Nov 2012 showed that most people’s taxes today are lower than under St. Reagan.
“All taxes are theft” is a claim that
makes no sense in a democracy.
Not only do Republicans appear naïve about how taxes are assessed, they are naïve about what taxes are used for. Or perhaps more realistically, what they would not be used for if they got their way. The naïvety comes from imagining that we could do without what taxes provide, or from believing that private enterprise could always do better what government does.
It boils down to the question of which things are better financed privately and which better financed by government. The Republican position is that nearly everything would be better financed privately, because the government is inherently incapable of running an efficient and effective agency of any type. Once you accept this belief, you start counting the ways we could save money by privatizing, and you end up privatizing everything.
But they are wrong. In fact, there are few, if any, government enterprises that might be better run by the private sector. Most emphatically, neither retirement savings nor health care would be better run privately. Of these, only health care is privately run at present, leaving millions uninsured, and the cost is literally double what superior national plans cost. That doesn’t sound like efficiency to me. Social Security is managed very well and efficiently. Only those who could do without it believe it is unnecessary. For most of the population that is not true.
There are few, if any, government enterprises
that might be better run by the private sector.
This belief in non-government efficiency is an item of faith no different from a religious belief, no different in kind from the belief that enriching the rich will make everything better, which is upheld in spite of the lack of any supporting evidence and against all objective evidence. Both of these beliefs are demonstrably false. In fact, both have been proven false many times.
This is not at all the same as saying that government programs are automatically better than private ones. In fact, innovative recent private projects in flight and space are being accomplished at a fraction of the cost and time they would require in a government agency. Government bureaucracy assures that anything radically new will take more time because everyone is required to put in their two cents. And for good reason. But that same stubborn bureaucracy and resistance to radical change is just what is needed to deliver long-term services like Social Security and health care.