Opinion: Maybe it’s time for tax revolt

November 30, 2012


Congress returned to “work” this week (now there’s a laugh) to complete its lame-duck session before taking another holiday. Spending other people’s money is a taxing experience.

Their task is to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” a geological construct of their own making. It doesn’t take a genius to predict both parties will try to do two things: (1) reach an agreement that will allow each side to take some credit and (2) require those who work for a living to pay government more while they come up with phony, or inconsequential spending “cuts.”

Whatever they do, payroll taxes are going up Jan. 1, and new taxes associated with Obamacare will soon follow. It is beyond argument that additional revenue isn’t the solution to the problem of uncontrolled spending.

According to usgovernmentrevenue.com, writer Christopher Chantrill’s “resource on government taxes and receipts in the United States,” “Total revenue at all levels of government in the United States is ‘guesstimated’ to be $5.5 trillion in 2013.” Unfortunately, our projected debt will be $17.5 trillion. Absent reforms, the U.S. Senate Budget Committee predicts the federal government could be $20 trillion in debt by 2016. Clearly, it’s not lack of revenue that is driving the debt; it is lack of spending restraint.

How much more should we subsidize government irresponsibility? If the answer is “not another dime” perhaps the time has come for a taxpayer revolt.

In 1978, the late Howard Jarvis and his wife led a successful drive to put Proposition 13 on the California ballot. The measure, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters, limited rapidly rising property taxes. According to the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association website, Proposition 13 “has saved Californians $400 billion and allowed millions of Californians to keep their homes.”

What is needed is a leader with the determination of Howard Jarvis who can organize nationally to keep government from constantly pilfering the assets of the productive so politicians can subsidize the unproductive, buy their votes and addict them to entitlements.

As long as taxpayers continue to acquiesce to the politicians in their never-ending search for more revenue, they will keep taking it, all the while attacking “millionaires and billionaires” for not paying their “fair share.”

The tax system in this country is based on willful compliance. It wouldn’t take many “I’m as mad as Hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore” taxpayers to creatively, but legally, withhold from the government some of the money they earn.

Members of both parties are guilty of not reforming entitlements and failing to put the people first. Their intransigence is robbing future generations of their right to economic independence and economic growth.

America was birthed during a tax revolt. Expecting politicians to fix a problem of their own making rarely succeeds. Maybe it’s time to force the issue by having taxpayers go on strike.

Yes, it sounds impractical and some will say it isn’t doable. But what other avenues are open to wealth creators? The government has become an enormous panhandler, constantly asking for ever-greater amounts of other people’s money. Let’s tell them “no more” at least until we see real spending reform and policies that result in economic growth, which by itself would produce more tax revenue.

Absent members of Congress acting responsibly, does anyone have a better idea? If so, send it to me. I eagerly await all legal and credible suggestions.

— Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.


Gandalf 5 years, 4 months ago

Poor cal, can't rant about making President Obama a one term president. So back to the old stand of wanting to cut retirement benefits on the working class and disabled.

Liberty_One 5 years, 4 months ago

Check out the above comment to see how effective government propaganda is.

Keith 5 years, 4 months ago

Check out the above comment to see how clueless Libertarians are.

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

That's not his fault.

He paid SS/Medicare taxes, and reasonably expects to get the benefits promised to him for those.

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

A bad analogy, to be sure.

So you expect him to have paid serious amounts of money to SS/Medicare taxes, and get nothing for them?

Hardly a just outcome, I'd say.

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

If it had been a voluntary decision to "invest" in SS/Medicare, you might have a point. But, as you so often point out, they're not voluntary programs.

So, punishing somebody for something they didn't choose seems way off to me.

Liberty275 5 years, 4 months ago

Our health insurance costs about $900/month. That $900 comes out of our pockets every month of the year. We elect to pay for the insurance and don't complain about taking responsibility for our own healthcare. Tell me the real reason I am 100% against obamacare.

Tell the truth since you seem to think you know it.

Liberty275 5 years, 4 months ago

How exactly does the old stand cut my 401k?

Liberty275 5 years, 4 months ago

Nah, just leave it like it is so people can whine about the old stand cutting it. Makes perfect sense.

Mike Ford 5 years, 4 months ago

ignore eight years of bush and act as if obama and two elections are the problem.... what denial......

Liberty275 5 years, 4 months ago

Bush didn't take people's tax refunds because they wanted a boat more than health insurance. Give it 8 more years and millions of tax refunds kept by the fed. That's when obamacare will come home to roost.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 4 months ago

Wow, Cal, that was some really original thinking.

BTW, how'd the Teaparty do in the last election?

Briseis 5 years, 4 months ago

Half the population pays federal taxes....some revolt that would be.

The other half would feel hurt. Emotionally distraught that the half paying their way is revolting. They would feel so put -upon that they would go as far as spiking the football with comments like how'd the Teaparty... and Bin Laden is dead...

BTW, how's the Brotherhood doing, that Obama, Clinton, and Rice are supporting, in Egypt?

jhawkinsf 5 years, 4 months ago

During the campaign, I was listening to NPR. They gave a pretty good analysis of who are those 47% that don't pay Federal Income Taxes. Once you factor out people like the elderly who have worked their entire lives and are now on retirement income low enough that they don't pay, and once you factor people who are disabled, etc. you're left with about 18% who might reasonably fall into that category of deadbeats.

Whether you believe that number is still too high as to be unreasonable, or whether you believe that justifies our current system in that the number is reasonably low, I'll let you all decide that. But the number is 18%.

Briseis 5 years, 4 months ago

and your point is? One either pays or doesn't.

Half the population pays for the other have.

Your Christian philosophy is showing.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 4 months ago

I haven't a clue as to what you mean by my "Christian philosophy", myself not being a Christian at all. But the point is that we have certain expectations of some people and not others. We might expect a healthy adult to work and contribute to our society while we might not expect that of children, seniors, the disabled, etc. These are generally accepted by the citizenry as a whole. If you disagree, you are free to do so. You might make an argument that will sway us to come around to your way of thinking. But in the absence of a well thought out argument and in the absence of the citizens actually coming around to your beliefs, it will still be incumbent upon you to conform to the norms of our society. Or face the consequences.

Briseis 5 years, 4 months ago

There you see. You live the Christian Philosophy and are not aware of it. I imagine living in a country based in Christian Philosophy is what has formed you into the caring individual you are.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 4 months ago

How kind of you to call me a caring individual. But the fact is, I've been speaking of a consensus that has been well established by millions upon millions. If it were just I that was so kind, I would feel honored you've taken note. But alas, it's the society we not only live in, it's the society we choose to live in. It's the society you choose to live in. So if it's this Christian Philosophy that has permeated my being, it's permeated yours as well. The proof being that you choose to be here. When you choose to be somewhere else, and you do have that choice every day of your life, then I will know you've rejected that Christian Philosophy, whatever that is.

Briseis 5 years, 4 months ago

Hang in there.

Regardless, no matter how hard we try, none of us are getting out of here alive.

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

They created the "cliff" to force themselves to do something meaningful about the deficit and debt issue, without which they probably wouldn't have.

Payroll taxes will rise because a temporary cut will expire, and since they pay for the big "entitlements", it's a good thing, without which they'd be less sustainable.

His numbers don't support his argument - he neatly compares annual revenue to the complete national debt rather than annual deficits, which are significantly lower. And, even though it's true that we are spending more than we take in in revenue, that doesn't mean the problem is only spending-driven. In fact, a combination of increased revenue and decreased spending is the only sensible way to fix it.

According to somebody who lived in SF for a long time, Prop 13 created all sorts of problems there.

At least he's using the rhetoric of "wealth" creators, instead of "job" creators. But wealth can't be "created". Money simply circulates in the economy. When it goes to one place, it can't go simultaneously to another, so it's rather a zero-sum game in that sense. Wealth can be concentrated in various ways, and our current concentration greatly favors those at the top of the income scale.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 4 months ago

Ah, you had me until that last paragraph. Wealth does increase over time. The combined wealth of every person on the planet is much more today than it was a century ago and far more than it was five centuries ago. Generally speaking, the standard of living is higher for everyone today than it was in the past. So in that sense, wealth accumulation does not necessarily mean that someone else has had wealth taken from them. It may simply be that all new wealth has been concentrated, rather than distributed.

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

Perhaps, but it's not "created" by those mythical "wealth creators", right? How exactly does wealth increase over time?

I never said it was taken from them, but it favors those at the top. And, if you look at historical evidence, it's very clear that those at the top have been benefiting far more than those at the bottom and middle. Average salaries are about $28K/yr. right now, and increases in wealth at the top have skyrocketed.

If new wealth is concentrated rather than distributed, that's exactly my point.

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

That's how you look at it.

But, if you look at the facts, costs of living have been rising faster than wages for many in the middle and at the bottom. Wages have stagnated, and benefits declined, for them.

While those at the top are enjoying fantastic increases in their income and lifestyles.

Many people can't afford a $15K car at all, as well. I have nothing against them, and would never spend more than that on a car.

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

That is an ideological stance.

The causes and nature of inflation are not definitely determined, and different economic schools have different ideas about that.

By the way, I agree that we have improved our quality and quantity of life significantly in many ways, although we also have new problems that we didn't have before as well.

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

Not according to my research on the topic.

I was curious about it, since I didn't really understand it, and did a little research. According to that, inflation is a rise in the costs of goods and services. However, what causes that is much more murky. Some economists believe that an expansion of the money supply causes that and others don't.

There are also multiple types of inflation, all of which are seemingly caused by different things.

Also, what you say is true - many economists think that a slow steady rise of inflation is a good thing, but not all of them.

It's a complex subject, and only a small portion of economists believe as you do, that inflation is solely caused by the amount of money in circulation.

beatrice 5 years, 4 months ago

When you consider that no countries are invading our borders, it becomes very clear that our military is bloated beyond belief. We need to cut spending, and that includes military spending. It will not be cuts to entitlements alone, or tax increases alone, that will get us out of our fiscal mess. It will take a combination of both raised revenue and spending cuts.

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

The distinction there is between federal taxes and federal "income" taxes.

Briseis 5 years, 4 months ago

Besides pretty colors and bold type for your hyperbole, do you run naked around the house to get people to notice you? My male friend says he lives next to a guy that does that.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 4 months ago


Class Wars of 2012 by Paul Krugman

"On Election Day, The Boston Globe reported, Logan International Airport in Boston was running short of parking spaces. Not for cars — for private jets. Big donors were flooding into the city to attend Mitt Romney’s victory party.

They were, it turned out, misinformed about political reality. But the disappointed plutocrats weren’t wrong about who was on their side. This was very much an election pitting the interests of the very rich against those of the middle class and the poor.


(W)hat voters said, clearly, was no to tax cuts for the rich, no to benefit cuts for the middle class and the poor. So what’s a top-down class warrior to do?

The answer, as I have already suggested, is to rely on stealth — to smuggle in plutocrat-friendly policies under the pretense that they’re just sensible responses to the budget deficit.

Consider, as a prime example, the push to raise the retirement age, the age of eligibility for Medicare, or both. This is only reasonable, we’re told — after all, life expectancy has risen, so shouldn’t we all retire later? In reality, however, it would be a hugely regressive policy change, imposing severe burdens on lower- and middle-income Americans while barely affecting the wealthy. Why? First of all, the increase in life expectancy is concentrated among the affluent; why should janitors have to retire later because lawyers are living longer? Second, both Social Security and Medicare are much more important, relative to income, to less-affluent Americans, so delaying their availability would be a far more severe hit to ordinary families than to the top 1 percent.

Or take a subtler example, the insistence that any revenue increases should come from limiting deductions rather than from higher tax rates. The key thing to realize here is that the math just doesn’t work; there is, in fact, no way limits on deductions can raise as much revenue from the wealthy as you can get simply by letting the relevant parts of the Bush-era tax cuts expire. So any proposal to avoid a rate increase is, whatever its proponents may say, a proposal that we let the 1 percent off the hook and shift the burden, one way or another, to the middle class or the poor.

The point is that the class war is still on, this time with an added dose of deception. And this, in turn, means that you need to look very closely at any proposals coming from the usual suspects, even — or rather especially — if the proposal is being represented as a bipartisan, common-sense solution. In particular, whenever some deficit-scold group talks about “shared sacrifice,” you need to ask, sacrifice relative to what?"

jhawkinsf 5 years, 4 months ago

Janitors vs. lawyers, that's what an award winning economist comes up with?

Why not just choose a couple of obvious examples. Blacks have a lower life expectancy. Shouldn't they pay less into Social Security or at least be allowed to retire earlier? Men have lower life expectancy than women. Shouldn't they also either pay less into SS or be allowed to retire earlier than women?

Oh, wait, his point wasn't about anything real. It was about his perception of a class warfare that he thinks might be happening, maybe, perhaps, he guesses. Thank you Mr. Krugman and thank you Bozo for sharing this bit of insight with us.

chootspa 5 years, 4 months ago

You'd think with as many times as you've been debunked on that one that you'd come up with new material.

Orwell 5 years, 4 months ago

This is either delusional or an outright lie.

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

It's a clear misinterpretation of an article Krugman wrote.

I read the whole article, and taken in context, he wasn't calling for any such thing.

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

I disagree, having read the article, without a particular ideological bias one way or the other.

And, Keynesian theory posits that the government has a role, not in creating boom and bust cycles, but in mitigating them.

That's one of their fundamental ideas.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 4 months ago

The same argument for why it's a bad idea to raise the retirement age holds for lots of demographic groups-- it hurts them to a significant degree for the sole purpose of avoiding the cancelation of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, who will be hardly affected by a delay in their social security and medicare benefits.

It's still class warfare, as badly as you want to exclude that reality from your world of the meaningless middle ground.

Liberty275 5 years, 4 months ago

"Paul Krugman"

You should do a matched set with Rush Limbaugh.

chootspa 5 years, 4 months ago

How many Nobel prizes for economics has Limbaugh won?

marymo70 5 years, 4 months ago

Could it possibly be we are not being invaded by other countries BECAUSE we have a big military? I know that wasn't the point of your reply but sheesh, put a little thought into what you're trying to say.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 4 months ago

You keep people from invading by having adequate defense forces as well as an adequate diplomatic corps to engage in other countries in reasonable dialogue. 80% of our military spending has absolutely nothing to do with defense, and a good percentage of our diplomatic efforts are designed to meddle in the internal affairs of countries from whom major corporations want to extract resources.

Briseis 5 years, 4 months ago

French Socialist in Mittal Row: We're Just Doing What Obama Does

The French politician who said Indian steel company ArcelorMittal should leave the country has told CNBC that his government is only acting like U.S. President Barack Obama.


Krugman would is a wonderful mouth for Obama and be an excellent Mittal Row fella.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 4 months ago

Actually, he's been quite critical of Obama. But that reality isn't detectable in your black-and-white world.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 4 months ago

Firstable, it was Krugman's statement, not mine.

But it would seem to me that it's you who hates janitors, since you apparently believe they should work longer before retirement just because the wealthy are living longer.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 4 months ago

O.K., Bozo, I just have to ask. What is the life expectancy of a janitor today compared with years ago, say when Social Security was first begun?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 4 months ago

For the specific answer you request, try googling it.

But what's a well-established fact is that life expectancy for working and middle class retirees has increased significantly since the establishment of social security and medicare.

Do you think that's a bad thing?

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

That's why liberals want to fund public education.

John Hamm 5 years, 4 months ago

We do not have a revenue problem, we do have a spending problem.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 4 months ago

You're right-- we pay way too much for the war machine, and for healthcare, and CEO's on Wall Street who trash the economy only to get bailed out by taxpayers.

Greg Cooper 5 years, 4 months ago

I find that to be a very pat, very untenable statement.

Yes, the government has a spending issue that needs to be addressed--badly. But, and I don't think you can find any evidence to the contrary, no amount of cuts, short of catatstrophic loss of vital services, can make up for loss of income from taxes.

I understand your point, but you go only half way in blaming revenue or spending as the culprit responsible for the whole shebang.

Orwell 5 years, 4 months ago

You may have a point. Disastrous giveaways to the wealthy, the cost of two unpaid wars and the need to prevent another Great Depression have turned the Clinton surpluses into major deficits.

And before you gripe about "Bush bashing," the fact remains the explosion of deficits is a direct result of intentional policies of 2001-2008. Whatever happened to accepting responsibility for one's choices? Now it's time for the beneficiaries of those policies to shoulder the load, rather than further dumping the problems on the backs of those already most burdened.

Briseis 5 years, 4 months ago

Dave Bing is all in with this article.

Bing Said City Workers Feel ‘Entitled,’ Says His Job Second Only To Obama’s November 29, 2012 4:20 PM

He added: “Nobody wants to go backwards, but in order for us to move this city forward we’re going to have to take a step or two backwards — and then, I think, all of us have to participate in the pain that’ s upon us right now.


Briseis 5 years, 4 months ago

but, but, but I thought Obama was Forward?! Evolving Forward! Not de-volving backward!!!

tomatogrower 5 years, 4 months ago

Anyone who wants to join this revolt better park your car. You are no longer allowed to drive on any street belonging to us taxpayers.

verity 5 years, 4 months ago

Unfortunately, there are too many people who can't wrap their brains around that simple concept.

beatrice 5 years, 4 months ago

Taxes are lower now than they have been for some time. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/30/us/most-americans-face-lower-tax-burden-than-in-the-80s.html?hp

This tax revolt is akin to conservatives' desire to secede. It isn't grounded in any form of reality, just the perception of being wronged all because their guy lost the election. The Bush tax cuts were not intended to last forever. What part of TEMPORARY do these people not understand?

That said, to pay down the debt, not just lower the deficit, it will take raised revenue and cuts in spending. I am concerned if the first cuts ever mentioned are those in the most need, compared to cuts in other areas, particularly military spending. We need a strong military, but we don't need to spend more than the next 17 nations combined. That is the very definition of excess.

voevoda 5 years, 4 months ago

Cal Thomas wrote: "It wouldn’t take many “I’m as mad as Hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore” taxpayers to creatively, but legally, withhold from the government some of the money they earn." I thought that that was what the ultrarich--Romney, for example--were already doing--how he got his tax bill down to a lower percentage than most wage-earners pay. Taxpayers whose income is too low to be able to itemize deductions or who aren't eligible for deductions beyond, say, mortgage interest or child-dependent don't have a lot of legal ways to withhold more of their money. So is Cal Thomas really trying to encourage law-breaking?

verity 5 years, 4 months ago

One has to ask the question, why doesn't Mr Thomas lead this revolt he is advocating? Why doesn't he put HIS money where his mouth is? Show us how this can be done legally?

Until he does so, his words mean less than nothing.

I became aware of Mr Thomas some decades ago, probably late 80s, because of an interview with him in a religious magazine that my mother received. Because it "wasn't popular in DC" to be a Christian in those days, he was a stealth Christian. Now it seems that he feels comfortable coming out of the closet, but he's still into the stealth business---stir up others to do the dirty work while he sits back with his cushy life and watches.

(I have tried to find that article online, but have not been successful.)

FloridaSunshine 5 years, 4 months ago

And I was just getting into the swing of it...

FloridaSunshine 5 years, 4 months ago

I'm experiencing a melancholy mindset, I suppose. :~)

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 4 months ago

Obvious obfuscation of the real issue by Cal. Pernicious pandering to the quixotic queue of those who romanticize revolt against sagacious solutions and timid taxation. Useless ululation from a viscous and vapid (pre) varicator, wooly-headed wishes consisting of xenophobic (e)xcerpts from yucky yes-men to the zero-intelligence zombies of the right.

Finished it for you.

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 4 months ago

Oh, and knucklehead knights of the right would work...

Alyosha 5 years, 4 months ago

Cal's premise that "The government has become an enormous panhandler, constantly asking for ever-greater amounts of other people’s money" is simply incorrect, at least as far as current revenue is concerned.

I trust Bruce Bartlett, who worked for Reagan and George H.W. Bush, far more than Cal. Here's how Bartlett puts it: “Let me point out something very important. Federal revenues today, right now, are about 15.8 percent of the GDP. That is way, way below the historical average. If we can just get up to the post-war average, we cut $500 billion a year off the deficit.”

As for congressional Republicans, and many commenters here on LJWorld.com (including the site's publisher), I agree with Barlett when he says: "“We need higher revenues, both to restrain spending and to change the dynamics of the fiscal process…Your idea is so goddamn dogmatic. You’re living in a fantasy world where we’re going to balance the budget by abolishing Medicare and other ludicrous ideas.”


jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

How on earth do higher revenues restrain spending?

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