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Should Paying Taxes be a Requirement of Citizenship?
by Robert R. Eberle, Ph.D.
|With the passage of President Bush's two tax cuts, ten million more Americans no longer pay income taxes. Should these non-taxpayers have a say in how America is run?
There is a
classic slogan in America that is probably as old as the country itself.
You've heard it many times, and it goes like this: "There are only two sure
things in life: death and taxes." Unless the fountain of youth is discovered
or secret advances are made in human cloning, I think we can still count
on passing from this earth at some point. However, the paying of taxes
is not the certainty it once was. With each passing tax bill, more
and more Americans are no longer paying income taxes. Thus, the question
arises: "Should these non-taxpayers have a say in how America is run?"
With the passage of President Bush's two tax cuts, ten million more Americans
no longer pay income taxes. Last month the Senate voted to extend the $400-per-child
tax credits to minimum-wage families, most of whom are currently not paying
income taxes. What this does is give people a credit or rebate for something
they have not paid into in the first place. Even with a Republican plan,
we are still seeing the redistribution of wealth that should be avoided at
The tax burden of the entire country is being shifted more and more to fewer
and fewer Americans. As it stands now, the top 5% of wage-earners in
this country pay 50% of all income taxes collected. The bottom 50%
of wage-earners pay only 5% of income taxes collected.
Just as people have little to argue about in an election result if they do
not go out and vote, should Americans who don't pay income taxes have a say
in how America is run? Should the paying of income taxes be a basic
requirement of all American citizens? My response to this question
is an emphatic yes! It is only when Americans feel they have a stake in the
system that they will fully work to its betterment. If they feel they
are getting a "free ride," there is much less incentive to move ahead.
The government is sending the wrong message when it says, "Don't worry...we'll
pay you for being poor."
There will always be programs in place to help the neediest of America's
citizens, but if the financing of America is built upon the collection of
income taxes, then all American citizens making an income should at least
pay some minimum amount. Some will argue that even though the low wage-earners
don't pay income tax, they are still paying other payroll taxes such as Social
Security. First of all, a substantial proportion of those taxes are
returned to the low wage-earner in the form of the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Second, and more importantly, those other payroll taxes are for specific
programs. Social Security taxes are paid to fund Social Security.
The low wage-earner is paying a Social Security tax and will receive a Social
However, the day to day operations of the government -- defense activities,
state affairs, infrastructure, and all the rest -- are funded by the income
tax. If America's military is deployed to defend all of America, then
all wage-earners should help pay for it. It is only fair for all those
who draw protection and benefits from America's services to pay their fair
share to support those services.
Don't get me wrong... I'm not singing the praises of the federal income tax.
In fact, our national tax system should not be based on income at all, but
rather, it should be based on consumption. However, until the system
is changed, and as long as we are stuck with an income-based tax system,
then all American wage-earners should pay into that system. Even if
it is only a dollar per person, it is the principle that matters.
Republicans and Democrats need to look closely at the current tax system
and reevaluate the definition of fairness. To lower the income tax
rates for all wage-earners is the right thing to do. To remove wage-earners
from paying any income taxes at all is not. The few should not provide for
the many. In a country as idealistic as America, we should all do our
part to provide for the common defense and the general welfare. That
is the American way.
Bobby Eberle is President and CEO of
GOPUSA (http://www.gopusa.com/), a news, information, and
commentary company based in Houston, TX. He holds a Ph.D. in mechanical
engineering from Rice University.
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