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Should Paying Taxes be a Requirement of Citizenship?
by Robert R. Eberle, Ph.D. http://www.gopusa.com/
7 July 2003

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?
Uncle Sam


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 every turn.

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 Security benefit.

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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