and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column

Percentage of tax supporters adds up
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, July 23, 2009

"From bondage to spiritual faith ... to great courage ... to liberty ... to abundance ... to selfishness ... to complacency ... to apathy ... to dependence ... to bondage."

-- Attributed to Alexander Fraser Tytler,
Edinburgh University, at the time of the American Revolution.

With Massachusetts legislators at the National Conference of State Legislatures in Philadelphia, and Congressmen busy with the national health plan they're being urged by President Obama to pass quickly before their constituents find out what's in it, we have some time for psychological inquiry. I want to understand why some people support higher taxes and bigger government, despite the increasingly visible evidence of waste and abuse.

I asked my friend Dr. Charles Ormsby, a Ph.D from MIT, who responded,

"A sophisticated explanation is not required. JUST DO THE MATH!! Add up the following percentages:

A. Percentage of voters who are NET consumers of tax dollars by virtue of the services they personally consume.

B. Percentage of voters whose immediate families are net consumers (e.g., children in public schools) even if they, personally, do not qualify under "A" above.

C. Percentage of voters who don't qualify under A or B but whose extended family does (children w/families, brother's or sister's family, etc.).

D. Percentage of voters who don't qualify under A, B, or C but who work for the government, or for businesses or labor unions working on government contracts.

E. Percentage of voters who have immediate or extended family members who are employed by government.

F. Then subtract the percentage of those under A, B, C, D or E who have moral qualms or feel guilty about using the government to steal the property of others for their own benefit.

G. Now add back in those who you subtracted under item F who have qualms about benefitting from government theft BUT say, "What the heck, I'd rather have the benefit of the stolen loot and just learn to deal with these feelings of guilt."

H. Finally, add in the percentage of people who do not qualify under any of the above categories, but who are wealthy enough to not miss the extra taxes extracted from their bank accounts AND who didn't earn the money they have (e.g., they acquired it through inheritance OR via the efforts of a successful spouse that they do not adequately appreciate) and feel guilty for their good fortune.

I. One more. Add in the percentage of people (not previously added) who do whatever Oprah Winfrey or the other media air-heads tell them to do.

The final percentage is now well over 50 percent and soon will exceed 90 percent. ALL HOPE IS LOST!"

Thanks, Chuck, glad I asked.

In fact, we were warned about this percentage problem by professor Tytler: "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury.

"From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising them the most benefits ... with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship."

Our founding fathers attempted to address this concern by creating not a democracy, but a constitutional republic - which helps until the constitution is "updated" by those who want to distribute that largesse.

Part of the problem is voters who don't directly benefit from extra government spending yet seem to think that support for higher taxes and bigger government makes them good, caring people - as opposed to those of us who prefer to do our caring through private charities or churches. But there are other more dangerous players of which many Americans seem unaware.

Most of us just want to live our lives, enjoying as much as we can of the good things the world has to offer. But some people want control over other people.

I'll bet most of us know someone in our extended family or work circles who seeks power: the tyrannical parent, abusive spouse, playground or workplace bully. Eventually most of us find a way to escape or avoid those who need to dominate.

However, sometimes we elect them. Politics and government give this personality type a place to collect and exercise power over others: to appropriate their money, regulate their behavior, make them ask for permission to live as they choose. This power has been limited for most of our history by our constitution, but we cannot take this protection for granted.

Some of us look at a new tax, a new government program, as a possible attempt by the power-hungry to control us. As the federal government moves to take over our health system, think about who will be exercising power through this essential aspect of our personal and family's well-being.

Some of those in charge will simply be trying to save money by denying services, just as some insurance companies do now. But picture yourself pleading for medical help from a politician or government bureaucrat who enjoys making you beg because it makes him feel important.

Now you can laugh at me and Alexander Tytler. But keep the warning in your head, so it may be there when you, and our country, need to heed it.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Lowell Sun, Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.