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Maybe it is the season to be jolly, but California taxpayers are still getting over their sticker shock on higher property tax bills, and the extension of steep income-tax hikes that were supposed to be “temporary.” Governor Jerry Brown, a born-again tax hiker, promoted that extension and has also been playing the sinecure Santa by handing out lucrative board positions to positions to political retreads. These developments prompt a meditation on the government’s process of give and take.
Government cannot give anybody anything it does not take from somebody else. Politicians aim to “redistribute wealth,” the same thing thieves do, and thieves, like politicians, pay close attention to “ability to pay.” As Frederic Bastiat noted in The Law, “See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.”
Politicians also imagine that a tax cut amounts to a gift from the government. Actually, to allow a worker to keep more of what she or he has earned is not to “give” them anything. Workers should be aware that government already gets their money before they do, in the form of withholding from their paychecks. This World War II policy was also supposed to be temporary but the pillage people kept it in place. Government still gets the money first, and what a worker receives back in April is not a gift but his or her own money.
As a matter of basic rights, nobody should get workers’ money before the workers themselves. Any politician serious about reform should drop withholding, junk the current tax code, and simplify the system so everybody pays the same rate. That might not make bureaucrats jolly, but it is the right thing to do.
California politicians, led by Jerry Brown, cry “bah humbug” to all that. In the nation’s least tax-friendly state, the ruling class prefers to celebrate government’s fathomless greed. As Jon Coupal explains, “No matter how high taxes are increased, it’s never enough for public officials and bureaucrats who live off taxpayer funded paychecks.” Happy holidays everybody!