10 June 2004
Are Americans Wimps and Socialists?
by Craig J. Cantoni
Why aren’t Americans storming the castle and overthrowing the overlords who have consigned them and their offspring to lives of tax servitude? Are they wimps and socialists?
They are neither. They are frogs.
You may know that if a frog is put in hot water, it will jump out. But if it is put in a pot of cold water on a stove and the heat is slowly turned up, the frog will stay put and boil to death. The same is true for taxpayers.
If government expenditures suddenly increased by 300%, taxpayers would grab their pitchforks, overthrow the House of Lords in Washington and put the heads of the tyrants on pikes on the Memorial Bridge over the Potomac. But because expenditures have grown over 104 years instead of overnight, taxpayers have sat like boiling frogs as government spending has increased threefold since 1900 as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product.
Imagine the revolution that would have occurred had the government increased spending by 300% in 1900 in one fell swoop. It would have made the Boston Tea Party look like tea and crumpets at Buckingham Palace.
Americans also have sat still as transfer payments, which are a euphemism for neighbors stealing from neighbors, have ballooned like a bullfrog’s throat over the last century from 2% of government spending to 40%, or 20-fold. Imagine Americans being told in 1900 that 40% of their taxes would be stolen by their neighbors and special-interest groups. The nation would have seen its second civil war.
And imagine taxpayers being told in 1914, which was the year following the ratification of the income tax amendment, the 16th Amendment, that the federal income tax per capita would be where it is today, at $2,500. That is 352% more than per-capita income taxes in 1914, in inflation-adjusted dollars. Or imagine taxpayers finding out on April 15, 1914, that they had to pay an accountant to file their taxes because there were suddenly 4,000 pages of tax forms, as is the case today.
It would have been unimaginable 100 years ago for Americans to think that federal spending would ever reach today’s astonishing level of $21,671 per household.
If President William McKinley had said in his inaugural speech in 1900 that he was going to increase government expenditures by 300% and taxes by 352%, his assassination would have occurred on the spot instead of in 1901. And his assassin would have been lionized instead of vilified. There would be a statue of him in the Capitol Rotunda next to other revolutionary heroes.
There are other reasons why Americans are behaving like boiled frogs instead of people who love liberty. First, most taxes are hidden and not paid directly by taxpayers. For example, for homeowners with mortgages, property taxes are paid by the mortgage company and not directly by the homeowner. Likewise, sales taxes are tacked on bills and not paid separately. The same is true for income taxes and FICA taxes, which are withheld from paychecks and never seen by workers. And corporate taxes are passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices.
It’s not surprising that the self-employed and small-business owners tend to be fiscal conservatives. They know what they pay in income and FICA taxes, because they write quarterly checks to the government for the taxes.
It’s also not surprising that per-pupil spending has skyrocketed over the last 25 years. That’s because Americans have no idea what they pay in public education taxes over their lifetime. (They pay over $150,000 per household.)
The government demands accurate financial statements from corporations but doesn’t practice what it preaches. Have you ever received a statement from your state, county or city government showing what you’ve paid in taxes from year to year and the percentage that the taxes have increased? Naturally, the government’s coconspirators, the leftist media and government K-12 schools, are not about to tell the public.
Another reason why Americans are behaving like boiled frogs is that they are considerably more wealthy than 100 years ago, in spite of the growth of government. Thanks to the free market—or I should say the 50% of the market that is still free and not socialized or regulated to death—the average income in inflation-adjusted dollars has grown from $8,360 in 1900 to over $40,000 today. During the same period, the portion of income spent on food has dropped from 43% in 1900 to 15% today, and the number of autos has increased from 8,000 to over 132 million. Lower-income Americans have conveniences and a quality of life that only the upper-crust of society had 100 years ago.
I have been writing about taxes for years and have usually been met by yawns from readers, especially from Republican soccer moms in open-toed shoes with their webbed feet showing. Politicians only have to mention the magic words ”children” and ”per-pupil spending” for female frogs to agree to the stove being turned to a higher temperature. Male frogs are just as agreeable, but the magic words for them are ”subsidized sports stadiums.” And older frogs are even more agreeable. The magic words for them are ”send the bills for our medicine to future generations.”
Americans consider the French to be wimps and socialists, and the British call them frogs. Ironically, Americans are not wimps and socialists, but they are frogs.
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Mr. Cantoni is an author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (HAALT). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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