Tax Day is traditionally an occasion to bemoan the state of U.S. tax policy — and rightly so, as it is a mess. This year the focus is on “fairness,” driven in part by the president’s calls for raising taxes on the so-called rich.
Fairness is, of course, in the eye of the beholder, so one shouldn’t expect the fairness debate to ever really be resolved. Nevertheless, I think it is important that fairness not be narrowly considered from the perspective of annual tax payments.
More importantly, they get their government for free. Everything the Framers envisioned for the federal government — national security, infrastructure, basic research, etc. — is paid for largely by income taxes. Nearly half of Americans pay no income tax and the top 5 percent pay well over 50 percent of the income taxes.
When a tiny fraction of Americans is paying for all of the government that every American enjoys, why is it fair to make them pay more?
Fairness is important, but focusing the fairness debate on the income taxes of a handful of Americans simply distracts from the greater injustices in federal fiscal policy.
— Douglas Holtz-Eakin is president of the American Action Forum.