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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tax Day (Not Observed)

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States
Don't worry.  Given it's a weekend, you have a couple more days (because people don't do Mondays that well?) because it falls on a Sunday.  This is just the traditional tax day, like when the day when Columbus discovered America for the Spanish doesn't always fall on a day best for sales.  Romney, for instance, apparently is having problems being on time.

Taxation is basic to society, though like various other things (like the mandatory coverage provision of you know what), many rather not think about that too much while enjoying the benefits.  Benefits that they often undersell.  I know someone, e.g., who has long felt only the rich and poor receive much of anything from the government. I note the person's husband worked for the government for quite a number of years.  Another person was upset about needing to pay taxes to a city where he worked but did not live as if his pay came (and the general well being of the surrounding area) is not reliant on just that urban area.  Of course, the felt idea taxes are too high (or low, as it might be) is a major political issue.

The basic legislative branch of Great Britain was created to my understanding centrally to control the power of the purse, still shown by the need for revenue bills to arise in the House of Representatives (along with the power to impeach, the basic power it has over the Senate).  "Taxation without representation" (now translated by the Tea Party as "taxation with representation"*)  is often what many think about when they consider why we declared independence. The power to tax effectively was a major reason we have our Constituent, the national government under the Articles of Confederation largely reliant to requesting states pay, instead of doing so directly.  And so on.

I never was really into fiscal policy, except to be concerned with certain ways the money was spent or broadly how it was collected. I guess, perhaps, if I had more money. Anyways, matters of tax and spending repeatedly are red flag issues for me even if the nuances of finance can go over my head (e.g., why exactly are things so much more money now, even on a relative basis? I guess it has something to do with the dynamics money supply and distribution). I personally think the PPACA is defensible as a tax.  Many experts agree with me though even Justice Ginsburg didn't seem game -- if the law is upheld (knock on wood), I can forsee this as a thing tossed in to unite people (though Breyer and maybe someone else might not agree).  The idea that if it is a tax, it is a "direct tax" (which I don't buy, along with four justices back in the 1890s, even as to income taxes of most types) is to me risible.  The brief linked quotes a few justices back in the 1790s on the point, and I too:

am inclined to think * * * that the direct taxes contemplated by the Constitution, are only two, to wit, a capitation, or poll tax, simply, without regard to property, profession, or any other circumstances; and a tax on LAND.
The law requires you to pay a "tax" based  on a certain "circumstance," namely what health insurance choices you make to address health needs that arise during various activities. A certain blindness is required to pretend this somewhat is a tax merely for breathing, though people apparently seriously believe that.  Well, people believe various silly (and some nefarious) things, so that is understandable on some level.  Employment is also a "circumstance" and a type of "profession" and thus income taxes are indirect taxes (unless on land or back in the day slaves) in my book too.  The Sixteenth Amendment, at any rate, doesn't empower Congress to tax incomes; it eases it along by not requiring apportionment.
The Constitution was framed under the dominion of a political philosophy less parochial in range. It was framed upon the theory that the peoples of the several states must sink or swim together, and that in the long run prosperity and salvation are in union and not division.
Taxes are "to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare," which is why a "tax penalty" can be in place only tangentially (if at all, really) to raise revenue.  We do not tax marijuana just to obtain revenue, but as a sort of "sin tax."  Tariffs encourage domestic manufacturers, even if foreign goods without tariffs might provide more revenue to the federal treasury.  Domestic manufacturing might also promote the common defense in that less reliant on foreign goods can lead to less foreign entanglements, including of the violent kind. 

Tax policy also is not merely a matter to obtain funds.  "Tax fairness" also can be important here, including a progressive tax system in which ability to pay is factored in.  Those who support a flat tax, e.g., to my knowledge do not merely imagine some sort of tithe system.  Certain basic things are exempted first, such as dependents. Flax taxes are regressive because those with more money have a lot more discretionary income.  Even if you do not need the money for immediate use, money might be needed for some later need that arises.  Those with, let's say Romney type money (see Chris Hayes today for his "at home moms are great, unless you are poor, where work is better" sentiments), need not worry even there.

Now, this is where I start to lose track of the policies, but even from personal experience, there are various nuances involved.  Tax time is for one a time when you realize it can matter where you live: certain urban areas will provide taxes on top of state and federal, while other areas can provide different types of taxes (such as property taxes).  There are also various exemptions to factor in, underlining that taxation is a major area for social engineering.  This is seen also in debates related to health care (including reproductive services), religious schooling and sexuality.

Many will not be thinking too much about these things, only what they have to pay or the money they receive back because of a form of governmental borrowing (or personal savings) where they collect an excessive amount and then pay you back the difference at the end of the year.  Still is a pretty important deal and perhaps we can think a bit about it along the way. 


* The name is open to ridicule, including the childish "Tea Bag" deal, which has an added childish sexual slang connotation. The most defensible connection is to the Tea Party of the 1770s, a result of a bit of special favoritism of the tea cartel of the day.  This connects to the bailout and so forth that helped certain corporate types of today, a symbol of overall separation of the government from the regular people.

Okay.  Still, the original Tea Party was part of a wider movement that also believed that far away government was violating local rights, including the fact that the colonies were not directly represented in the Parliament.  All of that is not present here. Also, special interests were favored for years.  Economic downturns do lead to protest movements, but the problem began during the late Bush presidency.  So, why do the Tea Party sorts seem only (I put aside outliers) to support Republicans? 

Writ large, the Republicans should piss them off more. A close look shows that the validity of their case is tainted by special pleading.