There is little incentive for nearly 50 percent of the population to care about a reduction in taxes since they are the beneficiaries of high taxes for everybody else and none for them. To reduce taxes means a reduction in what they might get. At least that’s what they believe.
The numbers indicate that 150 million Americans paid no income taxes in 2009. Compare this with the 34 million tax filers that didn’t pay any taxes in 1984.
What will happen when the checks stop coming? Here’s what an Occupy Wall Street advocate is proposing in a letter to the editor of USA Today:
So maybe they should take up their Second Amendment-sanctioned guns and storm Wall Street and our nation’s capitals. If our country doesn’t change, it could very well come to that one day.
The Index of Dependence on Government published by the Heritage Foundation points out the implications of the disparity.
The rapid growth of Americans who don’t pay income taxes is particularly alarming for the fate of the American form of government. . . . Coupled with higher spending on government programs, it is already proving to be a major fiscal challenge.
“This trend should concern everyone who supports America’s republican form of government,” William Beach and Patrick Tyrrell wrote. “If the citizens’ representatives are elected by an increasing percentage of voters who pay no income tax, how long will it be before these representatives respond more to demands for yet more entitlements and subsidies from non-payers than to the pleas of taxpayers to exercise greater spending prudence?”
Once the 50 percent plus 1 is reached, it’s all over. The tax tipping point will have been reached. Voter dependency will only grow. Many people will lose the incentive to work at high levels because of the taxes they’ll have to pay to subsidize others. Why work hard for diminishing returns?
As Tom Bethell writes in his book The Noblest Triumph: Property and Prosperity through the Ages, the colonists of Jamestown “were indolent because most of them were indentured servants, expected to toil for seven years and contribute the fruits of their labor to the common store.” The “starving time” was the result. People really starved to death. It took a change in government leadership to reverse the curse of socialism. Virginia historian Matthew Page Andrews (1879–1947) wrote the following:
“As soon as the settlers were thrown upon their own resources, and each freeman had acquired the right of owning property, the colonists quickly developed what became the distinguishing characteristic of Americans — an aptitude for all kinds of craftsmanship coupled with an innate genius for experimentation and invention.”1
A similar thing happened in Plymouth, Massachusetts, a few years later. Like the folks at Jamestown, the Plymouth colony repeated their mistakes and shared their disaster. The “common storehouse” arrangement led to starvation. Half the settlers who had arrived in 1620 were dead within a few months.
William Bradford, the colony’s governor, in time understood what was causing the economic collapse. The following is from his Of Plymouth Plantation:
[Every person of the colony] should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves . . . . And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, for present use . . . . This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use.
There is a great incentive to work when someone is not paying for your food and subsidizing your lifestyle. There is a great disincentive to work when someone is benefitting from your labor without having to do any work.
In the end, who will be hurt the most? The people who are living off the productivity of the tax payers. When the checks quit coming, they will revolt. It’s happening in Greece. America may not be far behind.
- Matthew Page Andrews, Virginia: The Old Dominion (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran & Co., Inc., 1937), 61. [↩]