Let’s Fool Taxpayers And Hide Taxes Behind A New Name: ‘Dues’


By: Warner Todd Huston

Well, it was just April 15th and we all know what that means. It was tax day, the day when we must pay tribute to the Lords in Washington. And on that day, The New York Times published a new spendaholic, high taxing idea to fool America’s taxpayers into accepting more tax by pretending it is something else. Stuffed with bad historic interpretation, Republican slamming, and typical old style Stalinist rhetorical games-playing this editorial by Richard Conniff whimsically dreams the dreamy, dream that we aren’t taxed enough and how we might fool Americans into paying more by just using a different name for them. To whit they aren’t to be called taxes anymore. They’re to be called “dues.”

Conniff begins his uninformed rant against people who stand against high taxes by implying that we are even unpatriotic if we don’t support confiscatory taxation and that our politicians are just too weak spinned to properly lead us to higher taxes despite public opinion.

The word “tax” was never pretty. But it has lately become the ugliest word in the English language, right up there with its evil twin, “death.” Even in time of war, ostensibly patriotic politicians blithely pledge to slay any tax that rears its ghastly head. Public officials dodge work they know desperately needs doing because of the possibility that it may cause an increase in taxes.

Conniff’s is a rather uninformed view of how the concept of taxes has been treated by politicians throughout American history, sadly. He says that taxes have “lately” become an “ugly word,” yet that is not the truth at all. Taxes have been a hot button issue since before the day Bostonians threw the tea in the harbor, so the claim that only “lately” have they become something politicians wish to avoid is simply misinformed.

And, even more ridiculously, Conniff imagines that the only way things get done is by more taxes. He completely rejects out of hand with his editorial the concept that wasteful spending be cut and ways of making the budget more efficient be investigated because he wastes not a word on the subject.

Then Conniff gets into the Republican bashing.

It’s time to take a page from the conservative playbook, the one where they reframe the debate by changing the language — for instance, calling the “estate tax” a “death tax,” or making equal rights for same-sex partners a “protection of marriage” issue. I propose we stop saying “taxes” and start calling them “dues.”

I see. So, only Republicans use verbiage and subterfuge to change the debate, fooling people into accepting a concept despite the truth of the matter? Are we to believe that Conniff believes Democrats and leftists have never done any of that? Aside from the long, long history of rhetorical revisionism that the left is famous for — such as Social Security being presented as an “insurance program” when it is, in reality, just a plain old tax — which side has recently begun to call themselves “progressives” instead of “liberals”? How about how the left calls killing babies in the womb “pro choice”? For that matter, on this very subject, the left has already tried to change the name we call taxes. The left is famous for calling taxes “contributions.”

And then Conniff tries to call Republicans “Orwellian.”

Yes, this is a little sneaky. Some conservatives may even call it Orwellian, and they ought to know.

Hilarious for its lack of introspection in light of the self-loathing currently indulged in by Barack “the Bitter” and his pal Jeremiah “damn America” Wright, isn’t it? The whole “candidate of change” is nothing but Orwellian in that we are being asked to accept Obama’s rhetoric despite the truth under it only to be branded an un-American, racist if we do not.

But, Conniff, ever the socialist-minded worker drone, makes the appeal for “group identity” to fool the people into accepting his new terminology.

But the word “dues” also plays into the psychology of group identity, and that can work to the benefit of conservatives and liberals alike. Consider that “tax” comes from the Latin for “appraise” with punitive overtones of “censure” or “fault,” as if wage-earners have done something wrong by their labors. “Dues,” in contrast, is rooted in social obligation and duty.

See, the thing is, even anti-taxers rarely if ever make that claim that no taxes should be raised. Anti-high taxers are all about the Flat Tax or the Fair Tax, but almost no one is stupid enough, anti-social enough, or so totally unaware of how important taxes are that they’d call for no taxes to be raised by government. So, Conniff’s seeming claim that people need some more “group identity” to accept the concept of taxes is ridiculous.

Conniff’s next paragraph begins with the following line: “‘Look,’ I said to a conservative friend…” Now, if anyone believes that Conniff even knows a conservative, much less calls one a friend, well, I have some swampland to sell you. But, he follows that with a bit of unexplained, illogic and it seems to be the crux of his entire argument.

…”simply saying ‘hard earned’ every time you say ‘tax dollars’ doesn’t make bureaucrats think twice before spending. But spending other peoples’ dues, now that’s not so easy.”

Why Conniff imagines that politicians would find it harder to spend other peoples’ “dues” any more than they find it hard to spend everyone’s taxes goes unexplained by the writer. But he seems to imagine that this is just a fact that needs no explanation.

Conniff sums up his ruminations with the nub of his socialist approach to what government is for and how we, the people, should view it.

So this will be an uphill struggle. But we need language to remind us that this is our government, and that we thrive because of the schools and transit systems and 10,000 other services that exist only because we have joined together. Instead of denouncing taxes, politicians would do better to appeal to the patriotic corners of our hearts that warm to phrases like “we the people.” “Taxation” is a throwback to the time when kings picked our pockets. “Paying my dues,” a phrase popularized in the jazz music world, is language by which we can stand together as Americans.

The claim that we “thrive” because of government is 180 degrees out of phase. We thrive because of the efforts of the people of this country in the private sector. Government does NOT make us “thrive.” In fact, government more often gets in the way of our thriving by overburdening regulations and high taxes. In our system government is viewed as being limited, but Conniff would have that view turned on its head to the extent that government is to be viewed as the only way to prosperity.

Lastly, his allusion as to how the Jazz world uses “paying dues” is completely misinformed. Jazzmen don’t use “paying my dues” as a term to describe a duty cheerfully done. They use the term to describe the pain and agony of life that they’d gone through to get to where they are. Now, I somehow doubt that our pal Mr. Conniff means to portray his “dues” as a pain that cannot be avoided. After all, he is looking to make people cheerfully throw away their hard earned money on useless government programs to prove their “patriotism.”

Conniff and the New York Times really have some gall to plead for bloated bureaucracy on the very day that the tax man wields his scythe across the wallets of Americans everywhere. It does, however, fully inform us of the socialist direction from which the Times approaches the necessary evils of taxes. More is better and don’t ask to hold the government accountable, rather, ask that the people just pay more without complaint.

But one thing is certain. It places The New York Times on the opposite side of the coin from our Founding Fathers and our hundreds of years of tax aversion all at the expense of the health of our private economy.

So here’s to the bloated big government of which Richard Conniff and The New York Times are so enamored. May both forever remain in the minority and may their “dues” never be settled.

And one final thing. If, Mr. Conniff, you should feel so horribly under taxed, you are most certainly invited to pay more of your own free will. That’s the freedom we enjoy as Americans. Just don’t ask everyone else to pay more because YOU think they should.

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