The American Jizya

Mark Steyn on our system of representation without taxation:

…for an increasing number of Americans, tax season is like baseball season: It’s a spectator sport. According to the Tax Policy Center, for the year 2009 47 percent of U.S. households will pay no federal income tax. Obviously, many of them pay other kinds of taxes – state tax, property tax, cigarette tax. But at a time of massive increases in federal spending, half the country is effectively making no contribution to it…. Half a decade back, it was just under 40 percent who paid no federal income tax; now it’s just under 50 percent. By 2012, America could be holding the first federal election in which a majority of the population will be able to vote themselves more government lollipops paid for by the ever-shrinking minority of the population still dumb enough to be net contributors to the federal treasury. In less than a quarter-millennium, the American Revolution will have evolved from “No taxation without representation” to representation without taxation. We have bigger government, bigger bureaucracy, bigger spending, bigger deficits, bigger debt, and yet an ever smaller proportion of citizens paying for it.

Tax Day is a dreaded symbol of civic responsibility for millions of taxpayers, but for nearly half of all U.S. households, it’s simply somebody else’s problem. About 47 percent of U.S. households will pay no federal income taxes for 2009, either because their incomes were too low or because they qualified for enough credits and deductions to eliminate their tax liability, according to projections by a private research group.

… United States income tax is becoming the 21st century equivalent of the “jizya” – the punitive tax levied by Muslim states on their non-Muslim citizens: In return for funding the Islamic imperium, the infidels were permitted to carry on practicing their faith. Likewise, under the American jizya, in return for funding Big Government, the nonbelievers are permitted to carry on practicing their faith in capitalism, small business, economic activity and the other primitive belief systems to which they cling so touchingly…

Congressman Paul Ryan pointed out recently that, by 2004, 20 percent of U.S. households were getting about 75 percent of their income from the federal government. As a matter of practical politics, how receptive would they be to a pitch for lower taxes, which they don’t pay, or lower government spending, of which they are such fortunate beneficiaries? How receptive would another fifth of households, who receive about 40 percent of their income from federal programs, be to such a pitch?

And what’s to stop this trend? Democracy decays easily into the tyranny of the majority, in which 51 percent of voters can empty the pockets of the other 49 percent…

When you think about it, that 53 percent of American households prop up not just this country but half the planet: They effectively pick up the defense tab for our wealthiest allies, so that Germany, Japan and others can maintain minimal militaries and lavish the savings on cradle-to-grave entitlements. A relatively tiny group of people is writing the check for the entire global order. What proportion of them would need to figure out the game’s no longer worth it to bring the whole system crashing down?

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