Tax Day Was Awful, And It’s On Track to Get Worse

Most people absolutely dread April 15. Not only is it an utter hassle to figure out an increasingly complex tax code, it’s a painful reminder of how big the federal government has become.

There’s also a decreasing belief among Americans that the amount they pay in income taxes is fair. Gallup writes:

“The slight increase this year in Americans’ view that their taxes are too high may reflect an actual increase in taxes, either direct or indirect, that has occurred recently. Specifically, the expiration of the Bush tax cuts increased taxes and eliminated some previous deductions.”

In other words, taxes went up this year and Americans aren’t necessarily happy about it. And it’s easy to see why. The federal government will consume a full 20.5 percent of America’s total income this year, but what are we really getting for it? Arguably, we’re getting fewer jobs and a smaller economy. As Grover Norquist writes for the Washington Times:

All taxes hurt the economy. Increasing taxes on something raises its cost. Sales taxes make our products more expensive. We buy less. Income taxes make hiring someone more expensive. Fewer people are hired. Raising taxes on a product or service or your job always reduces the demand for them. We tax cigarettes to reduce consumption and then wonder why taxes on jobs — income taxes — reduce the number of jobs.

That’s not to say that all taxes are bad. It’s just to say that Americans deserve to better understand the tradeoffs that their making when mailing that check to the IRS.

Some, like the New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn, fully celebrate Tax Day, and not just because it means that the arduous process of filling out tax returns is over and done with.

“Happy Tax Day,” Cohn writes. “And I mean that sincerely. I don’t like parting with my money any more than you do. But I like what my tax dollars buy.”

For many conservatives, that’s where the rubber meets the road. Our opposition to taxes is not so fundamental as to oppose them in their entirety. It’s just that our skepticism of the federal government’s wisdom in spending our tax dolllars—which has been vindicated time and time again—means that we often don’t like what our tax dollars buy.

Just recently, we don’t like the idea of $800 million going to a stimulus bill with some projects that don’t even pass the laugh test. We oppose the idea of spending billions of dollars on a program that pushes health insurance prices up. And we disagree with the notion that the government should spend $1.03 trillion on means-tested welfare programs each year—the equivalent of giving every poor American a check for $22,000—while not reducing the amount of people in poverty!

And even if you don’t mind how much you’re paying in taxes today, that’s no reason to feel comfortable about where we’re going. The biggest reason is entitlements. Medicare spending is projected to nearly double from $592 billion in 2013 to $1.1 trillion in 2023 due to increases in health care costs. In the same timespan Medicaid costs are expected to more than double, from $265 billion to $554 billion. And spending on Social Security, the largest entitlement, will surge by 75 percent, from $809 billion in 2013 to $1.4 trillion in 2023. Those dramatically higher costs will also require dramatically higher taxes if the government is to avoid the types of crippling deficits and subsequent loss of investor confidence that has plagued other nations.

And as Norquist points out in a separate piece, Obama has attempted to increase taxes in order to fund his priorities.

“History tells us what Obama was able to do. This list reminds us of what Obama wanted to do,” Norquist said in a press release, referencing the 442 total proposed tax increases, which doesn’t even include the 20 tax hikes included in Obamacare.

So forgive us if we dread Tax Day. And if you ask us, without significant spending reforms they’re only going to get worse.