Skin in the Game

by John Derbyshire

I keep hearing about how half of Americans pay no income tax and so have “no skin in the game” — a bad thing, according to the people who raise the point.

I can’t pin down the location of this meme on the political spectrum. It seems to have its natural home in the center-left, but Republicans apparently aren’t immune.

The notion that we should all have some “skin in the game” by paying federal income taxes strikes me as profoundly un-conservative, and to be resisted. We have “skin in the game” by virtue of being U.S. citizens. The nation’s misfortunes are our misfortunes. I have never heard that being American requires payment of an annual fee, like a golf club membership.

Calvin Coolidge boasted of having reduced the numbers of citizens paying federal income tax:

The three measures already enacted leave our Government revenues where they are not oppressive. Exemptions, have been increased until 115,000,000 people make but 2,500,000 individual taxable returns, so that further reduction should be mainly for the purpose of removing inequalities.

Cal’s boasting was entirely justified. The federal income tax was never intended to be a levy on the population at large. If it had been so intended, the Sixteenth Amendment would never have been ratified. (One Governor of Georgia — I think it was Georgia: I’m working from memory here — when asked why his state legislature had ratified, replied that it was a matter of no importance to Georgians, since nobody in the state made enough to qualify for the income tax.)

Income tax is a lousy idea — a gross intrusion on personal privacy. How are my personal finances any business of a government?

Half of Americans pay no income tax? I wish it were three-quarters.

Better yet nine-tenths; best of all, scrap the whole thing. There you have a good reason to vote for Ron Paul, who swears that abolishing the IRS will be a top priority when he arrives in the White House.

Here’s a good reason not to vote for Ron Paul.  <Sigh>

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