Where Every Day is Tax Tantrum Day

May 12, 2008

One of the quickest ways to determine if someone is a dolt is to ask if he celebrates Tax Freedom Day. If he says “Yes,” then there is a distant possibility he may have one or two opinions or arguments worth taking seriously, but the preponderance of evidence is against him.

Since most grownups understand that a densely populated state in the 21st century can’t be run like a 16th century farming village, and that a large amount of government guidance and regulation is required simply to keep things from spinning off into chaos, the idea of government as an evil outside force that exists only to take money from people and spend it carries little force. Or it should, at any rate.

One of our New Jersey columnists tries to explain it in terms even a Republican can understand:

The notion that government taxes too much and spends too much money is hardly a unique political position. Republicans and conservative groups invented “Tax Freedom Day” to dramatize the issue.

So, you see the point. New Jersey residents spend more than four months just making enough money to pay their taxes. That means that government must be really awful. That’s what boosters of “Tax Freedom Day” want you to believe: it’s all the fault of Big Bad Government.

But the logic of all this falls apart very quickly.

First things first: as much as people hate paying taxes, the notion that people work until May just to pay the government ignores the myriad of services all of us get from government. Some of the conservative zealots out there may snicker at that, but one must assume they like driving on highways, or riding on airplanes that meet government safety standards.

It’s true that some people use more government services than others. But whether it’s municipal, state or federal, just about everyone benefits from government services every day.

Do your kids go to public school? A majority of them do, of course. Do you ride a train to work?

So, the notion that people are working for the government and no one else for more than four months a year is sheer nonsense. That very same government is providing them with needed services,

Of course, most Republicans understand this just fine, though their party affiliation requires them to pretend otherwise. These are, after all, the same people who publicly declare “government doesn’t work” while privately they work the government. They may call May 7 Tax Freedom Day, but on the Republican calendar, every day is Tax Tantrum Day.

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