Why So Emotional About Taxes?

By Graham Glover

At some point next month, Congress will begin putting together a budget (or at least a continuing resolution. They don’t seem keen on passing actual budgets these days). As that conversation gets started, there will likely be a lively debate on taxes. Specifically, how much the Federal Government should tax individual and business incomes, profits, etc. I look forward to that debate and hope there is some meaningful dialogue on whether tax rates should be adjusted, and if so, how and why.

I suspect anyone reading this article already has an opinion on taxes. While nobody likes to pay them, we all accept the reality that we always will. The question, at least in a democratic republic, is how much we should pay and exactly what should be taxed. Again, I’m pretty sure most of our opinions on this topic are fixed. I highly doubt my thoughts will sway yours.

But what I’m curious about and what continues to perplex me is why we get so emotional about taxes. In other words, why is this issue so divisive in our politics?

I understand why issues pertaining to our right to freely assemble and practice our faith, issues affecting ours and others right to live, and issues dealing with America’s involvement in foreign affairs are divisive. These issues speak to very essence of how we understand and practice liberty. Our very freedom is deeply connected by these issues.

But taxes? Can we really say the same about how much money the government requires us to return to them? Are tax rates a reflection of whether we are truly free?

I know, I know: no taxation without representation. But unless you are a resident of the District of Columbia, all of us are duly represented by the government entities that tax us (whether you support that representative is an entirely different question!). So, simmer down with your revolutionary calls to liberty.

Why is it then that we are so emotional when it comes to our opinion on tax rates? Honestly, I think people get more emotional on how much they pay in taxes than on any other issue. Tempers flare on this topic more than those I previously noted and even more than the recent happenings in Charlottesville or the pending issues of immigration, health care, etc. And I think this emotional response is rather silly.

Look, I’m not suggesting that any tax rate would be acceptable, nor am I suggesting that we shouldn’t pay taxes. Both of these extreme positions are equally absurd.

What I am asking, though, is why it matters. Not why it matters practically or economically (this is why a healthy debate by our elected officials would be beneficial), but why it matters to us emotionally. Why is this issue so important to us?

For my conservative friends, would it be that horrible if our income taxes were raised a few percentage points? What if these dollars helped fund alternatives to abortion and further funded our military?

For my liberal friends, is it that awful to cut rates on businesses, eliminating taxing the same income two or even three times? Wouldn’t a more business-friendly tax code allow small businesses to thrive in some of our most economically deprived areas?

For both sides, I ask this: Is this the issue that defines your politics? Are tax rates really that important to our body politic?

I think our emotions could be better exerted elsewhere, focused on issues that affect our liberty in much more profound ways.

But that’s just me. And I suspect I’m not changing your thoughts on taxes any time soon…