Jonah Goldberg

Of course, this will fuel the national debt, which has soared on both parties' watches ($12 trillion now and heading for $20 trillion in a decade), choking liberty in another way. We are levying tax obligations for generations to come. Our grandchildren didn't have much representation in that taxation.

There's also the simple fact that taxes impede growth, and low economic growth curtails the pursuit of happiness for everyone. Democrats are increasingly skeptical about this transcendently obvious point because they have convinced themselves that since government is better than the private sector when it comes to spending money wisely, it only makes sense to take money from the dumb private sector and let the smart government sector decide what to do with it. Well, no matter how dumb America's wealth-creators might be, they're smart enough to respond to incentives and disincentives. Indeed, since 1950, no matter where their tax rates have been, from as low as 28 percent to as high as 91 percent, the government's take has held at about 19.5 percent of GDP, suggesting that squeezing taxpayers harder doesn't necessarily yield more juice.

Personally, I have never understood liberalism's blind spot for liberty when it comes to taxation. A 24-hour waiting period before a teenager can have an abortion is an allegedly grotesque violation of individual freedom, but a federal government that takes vast amounts of your money -- the means by which you exercise your every freedom -- to distribute as it sees fit is "progressive"? The USA Patriot Act, whose threat to privacy was somewhere between entirely theoretical and nonexistent for the overwhelming majority of Americans, shocked the liberal conscience. But our income tax system -- made idiotically complex by both parties -- that demands countless hours of preparation and requires law-abiding citizens to reveal (and document!) many of their most private decisions to government inspectors every year is "reasonable." Yet many liberals even think complaining about this is a sign of right-wing dementia.

Now, under ObamaCare, the IRS is going to branch out into the field of health care, enforcing mandates and collecting fees. Perhaps it's not entirely paranoid to fear that this will make the IRS's past intrusions of proctological exactitude even less metaphorical.

I bring this up because many in the Democratic Party and in the news media have a hard time understanding what the "Tea Party" crowd is talking about when it complains of incipient tyranny and intrusive government. This might be why much of the media keep making up motives for the tea partiers rather than taking them at their word (as when a CNN reporter told viewers that the tea parties were driven by "anti-CNN" passions). Again, reasonable people can disagree with where the line between necessary taxation and injustice lies. But the line exists. Tax Freedom Day is going to come later and later, no matter what. Maybe we should figure out now where on the calendar we should mark down that line.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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