Sentences to ponder

…I find it remarkable that I have yet to receive a thank you note for paying my taxes.  When I fill out my taxes, I notice that even receipts for $25 donations have thank you notes attached. But for the tens of thousands of dollars I give each year to help keep our wonderful Republic afloat, nothing. Can’t we do a little more as a nation to honor our taxpayers individually?

…And how about a dinner at the White House honoring the top 100 taxpayers in the country? Not the 100 richest people in the country, but the top 100 taxpayers. One might object that they would just use the opportunity to lobby for lower taxes, but if they did, they wouldn’t get invited the next year.

That is from Miles Kimball.  Of course very often these individuals are criticized for not wanting to pay higher taxes.


I have suggested this before too. I think that the subconscious reason that so many rich people so fiercely resist taxes is they see it as a negative status signal: paying high taxes is interpreted to imply that they don't deserve the money they make. Giving top tax payers plaques or awards or dinners flips this around: it makes paying high taxes a high status activity. You can essentially wear your high tax bill like you wear your yacht or your Rolex or your Ferrari or whatever else you wear to signal your wealth to other people.

However, the notion that the government *should* give you a "thank you" is very myopic and ungrateful, I think. The richer you are, the more you benefit from government. It's obvious from the standpoint of if you were born out in the jungle, you wouldn't be so rich. In more proximate terms, your wealth derives from things like intellectual property protections and other safeguards of capital that allow people to extract large sums with little physical labor. This is all very well and good as part of a system of government intrusions designed to incentive behavior that increases overall wealth, but when you become wealthy it is through a channel created by government to reward your wealth-enhancing behavior, and not because you exerted so much physical labor to earn it at true competitive market rates.

The wealthy man benefits more from rule of law than the average Joe?

Compare the lives of the wealthy and the lives of the average Joes in places without rule of law!

I'd submit that it is the average, the poor, the workers whom benefit most from rule of law.

But wouldn't those be different types of people. For example when he still ruled people said the Saddam Hussein was much richer than Bill Gates but a person with Bill Gates personality traits would not rise to wealth in Iraq at the time.

Rule of what laws? And laws how fairly administered? Where on the planet do you suppose there is no rule of some sort of law?

In countries without the rule of law the wealthy make 2-4 times what the poor make. In countries with strong property/contract rights and effective rule of law they make 20-40 times often more. This is not conclusive evidence that the wealthy benefit from the rule of law, but it should be recognized as *some* evidence.

Seth, can you cite your source for this?

Very roughly, looking at the richest guys in the USA and India compared to GDP per capita, I see the opposite. In India, the ratio of the richest guy's wealth in billions to average GDP in thousands is 14.9, in the USA it's only 1.26. Bill Gates has 3x the wealth of the richest Indian, but average GDP in the USA is 35x average Indian GDP.
(Note, this isn't quite your claim, for a start, I look at wealth compared with GDP per capita, not earnings, and I only look at the absolutely richest guy in each country) But, well, earnings should be correlated with wealth.

Looking at the poorest, the poverty line in the USA is about $11,170 a year for a single person with 15% of people living below the US poverty line. In India, the poverty rate is 1.25 US$ a day, so $456 a year, with 33% of the population living below it. So the cut-off for poverty in the US is 25 times that cut-off in India, and over double the population is poorer in India than in the USA.

So let me see, comparing the US to India:
Wealthiest guy: 3 x richer
Average guy: 35 x income
Poorest people: 25 x more income.

India, US$1,389 GDP per capita
India: Richest guy: Lakshmi Mittal: $20.7 billion
Ratio of richest guy's wealth in billions to average GDP in thousands: 14.9
USA US$48,442 per capita
Richest guy: Bill Gates - $61 billion
Ratio of richest guy's wealth in billions to average GDP in thousands: 1.26

The principal activities of law enforcement are either uncorrelated with wealth or negatively correlated. Traffic enforcement, crowd control, first responder, drugs, alcohol and child porn, domestic violence -- those are what law enforcement spend their time on.

OK, let's compare Saddam Hussein to Bill Gates. Leaving aside the accounting problem of trying to the actual peak value of their bank accounts, both had easy access to any 'normal luxuries' a man might want. Both could enjoy good food, nice homes, even multiple women if that's what they desired. Granted if we talk about more perverse goods like being able to have someone killed for fun, Bill Gates as far as we know never enjoyed that in the US while Saddam had the freedom to do so in Iraq.

But what's important here is that Bill Gates could not have been Bill Gates in Iraq....meaning a rather nice guy who just amassed income in the tune of billions. To do that in Iraq, Bill Gates would have had to have killed people, had to have been just about as bad as Saddam was. Perhaps Saddam liked it that way, but all in all I'd say it's pretty clear the way to go is to be rich in a place with strong rule of law rather than being rich in a place without it. The latter only seems to be a better choice if you desire to enjoy the life of a rich psychopath.

The richer you are, the more the government benefits from you.

In Soviet Russia, government receives benefits from you!

This point is often overlooked.

Don is absolutely right. Once you have a welfare state and fund it with a progressive tax structure, the government requires a sufficient supply of rich people to tap. Which is why this post is completely correct. There would be a totally different dynamic in this country if Obama had taken this approach to raising taxes as opposed to the fraudulent claims about high earners not paying their fair share.

Sounds good mark, except for the rather odd fact that we have been assured by the right that even though the top 1% earns much more than the average preson, there's not enough people in the top 1% to fund the welfare state via higher taxation.

This would seem to refute your assertion that a nation needs a bunch of rich people to fund a welfare state. It would seem a nation of mostly middle class people could fund a welfare state via taxes and for the most part that is the case in the US. Since capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than regular earnings, people like Romney are technically in a very high tax bracket but in reality are paying about what a 'typical Joe' pays in taxes as a percentage of income. The welfare state in the US would face a much stiffer funding crises from a lack of middle class taxpayers than it would from a lack of rich taxpayers.

This is absolutely correct. The police protect the rich more than the poor, and the rich made their money (and maintain their money) using the many forms of infrastructure provided as public goods. Tyler makes the same mistake cited just a few days ago in the WaPo: Taxes aren't a charity, provided voluntarily: they are the price of living in this society. You don't pay them because you are generous or altruistic: you pay them because a) it's your duty as a citizen, and b) it's in your best interests to continue to live in a society with the rich abundance of public goods provided by our government. Are some of the public goods provided inefficiently? Absolutely, and I salute those who seek to improve efficiency in provision of those goods. Still, I honor the work of government employees, many of whom work very hard, and most of whom provide genuinely useful and even crucial goods and services. Government is not a charity!

Police are funded from state and local taxes. Start over.

So when Disney needs law enforcement help they call the cops in Pasadena?

Agreed. It is overhead. Now we can start talking.

Yeah, before we even start talking lets get it out of the way that all of the pork to corporate farmers and missile factories, all the handouts to the prison unions and teachers unions, all the gifts to wealthy old people, those are all absolutely essential to creating wealth. No one could ever be successful without those. The rich benefit way more from those public goods than the people actually receiving the largesse.

Dammit y'all anarcho-libertarians are dense. Why is it so hard to understand that there's some level of a functioning government required to maintain a functioning society wherein wealth can be created, enjoyed, and protected? And that government must be funded with taxes.

We can certainly debate the amount of government needed and how much it should cost, but the answer is not zero and if you truly believ e it is then you are a child.

Mskings: you realize you posted that in response to someone who was writing about specific government functions, yes?

At no point in your post did you address anything he wrote.

No you are misreading Cliff. He was sarcastically taking the position that the transfer of taxes from high income earners to various undeserving groups is evidence that the rich are unfairly burdened and put upon. He confirms his attitude later in this thread. Cliff doesn't think the wealthy have any connection to nor derive any benefit from the society in which they prosper. The rich create wealth magically from their own bodies, and don't need anything except police to help them protect their property.


The problem with Cliff's post is that he posted a list of specific complaints in response to what I believe was the idea articulated by msgkings -- that there is some non-zero level of needed taxes for society to work well and that taxes are the price you pay for choosing to live in a certain society.

Responding to the above general idea with a list of specific complaints about the particulars of a certain system is indeed childish.

You cite no empirical facts for your claims. There are lots of billionaires in India and Pakistan, but the infrastructure there is notoriously bad. Yes, there are more billionaires per head of population in the USA, but there's a lot of differences between the USA and India or Pakistan apart from the amount of infrastructure provided as public goods (the USA also has a lot more billionaires per head of population than European countries so clearly infrastructure is not the only determinant of billionaire formation rate).
This rough check implies to me that the poor and middle-class benefit far more from infrastructure provided as public goods than the rich do. Perhaps you have some more in-depth analysis to hand to support your claim?

The rich may or may not benefit more, but clearly they get a much worse deal than anyone else. Others pay no federal taxes and get all the best benefits- rule of law, security of person and property, etc. While the rich pay a much larger proportion of their income and a huge % of the total to support everyone else while getting no direct benefits and still for some reason being heaped with scorn.

The progressiveness of the U.S. tax system is absolutely unknown in the rest of the world. Incredible that the rich who provide all these benefits to everyone else are so hated.

epic libertarian satire.

US taxation is far more progressive than rest of OECD.

Lower VAT in US, lower excise taxes, lower income taxes on poor and middle classes than rest of OECD.

This is fact.

Your chart is meaningless without a comparison to other OECD nations. Here's a comparison that agrees with Alexei. The US has the most progressive taxation system of any OECD nation:
The claim and chart are on page 104-105 of the book.

The richer you are, the more you benefit from government.

I don't believe this. There are billionaires in India and Pakistan, with far worse infrastructure than that of a rich country. See
(The rate of billionaires relative to population is a lot lower than in the USA, but there are a lot of other differences between the USA and India or Pakistan than government spending. The rate of billionaires is higher in Germany than in either India or Pakistan, but lower than in the USA, even though Germany has a lot of government too.)

One only arrives at the conclusion that the rich benefit more from government if one falsely conflates equal opportunity with equal results. Public infrastructure like roads and bridges is available for all; that's equal opportunity. Obviously, we obtain unequal results with that infrastructure. The benefit from government is the opportunity, not the result.

To say that the rich benefited more from that infrastructure than others is like saying that a convicted criminal that drove over roads and bridges while committing crimes was "disproportionately penalized" by that infrastructure. After all, if we hadn't built those roads and bridges, he never would have been able to commit those crimes. Does anyone believe that the rest of us should serve our "fair share" of the criminal's prison sentence (on a progressive scale of course --- the longer the sentence, the higher the percentage served by the rest of us)?

The wealthy pay disproportionately for our government, subsidizing the rest. There are good arguments for why that is a good and proper thing. The animus that some express towards the wealthy, and the mental contortions they go through to avoid conceding that the wealthy subsidize our government services, suggests that they don't know what those good arguments are.

What a pompous sentiment indeed. And yes, I realize I am rising to Tyler's bait on this one.

This statement very neatly supports a recent study wherein the top wage earners in the US view paying taxes as a sort of charitable gift to the rest of the nation. See Mitt Romney's recent comments equating taxes and charitable contributions. It is an odd construct to my mind. Taxes support the social construct, a compact that provides the framework that allowed the western world to move successfully from a rural agrarian to an urban industrial society. This libertarian-esque notion - that those who have "made it" are not beholden to they system that gave them their opportunities - is one I find to be anti-democratic and indulgently self-serving.

Good luck having a "social construct" without the top wage earners. Where do you think money comes from, magic?

Sometimes I wonder how our species made it out of the plains and into the skyscrapers.

Imagine that!!! They are interdependant. "Damn" says the Marlboro Man.

There were high wage earners before there was anything anyone ever called a "social construct." The dependency only goes one way.

The fact that modern society feels more indebted to their kings than to their productive class is an interesting blind spot in human bias. We're happier that governments expropriate funds than we are that these funds exist in the first place; we think the former provides the basis for the "social construct" and not the latter. We're wrong.

What? Wages are a social construct!

What the hell is a "social construct"?

Examples of "high earners" pre state/social construct/whatever the heck you have in mind?


I seem to sense a certain resentment to high earners. Curious. No-one is suggesting their taxes are cut, just that they should get thanked. Would you rather they get a kick in the pants?

It's for this reason that I think the Laffer curve is a useful intellectual concept: not because I think it necessarily applies in any given situation (the US could currently be well to the left of the peak for all I know) but rather that it provides a kind of clarifying acid test for the left: by definition, if you want to tax to the right of the Laffer curve peak, you're not really interested in providing revenue, but are actually more interested in taking down the fat-cats per se. From a lot of the things I've heard people on the American left say recently, I think a lot of them would be happy taxing beyond the Laffer peak for ideological reasons.

taking down .
NOT AT ALL. Raising them up to the platform where the guillotine stands--CHOPPING!

The question is not whether a rich man is a self made atomic unit or if he benefitted to a small or large degree from circumstance, institutions, and society. The question is, all factors included, how do you assign the right price? Is it any arbitrarily high number no matter how foolish or wasteful expenses have been? Is there a just value? Is that the same as the utility maximizing value?

The social construct was funded for decades with single digit % of GDP and no income tax. It's odd that so many people assume that every penny of government revenue goes to core functions even when the context of the conversation is the dysfunctionality of taxpayers.

All Somalia needs is a social construct, and its smooth sailing. The wealth will magically appear.

Are there really that many people here who don't know the difference between a "social construct" and a "social contract"?

Well I think they are both imaginary, so the differences probably are not very important

Yes, thats all Somalia needs is a social construct, then the wealth will start flowing.

They seem to believe themselves too rich to participate in the social contract. This is the product of being too rich to be bound by the social contract. Much like corporate profits the pursuit of riches is not evil, but the achievement of them is a sign that something is broken.

What the hell is a social contract?

A social contract is like a constitution, only it's not actually written down anywhere and it's contents are subject to dispute. Naturally this suggests that one of the two should be followed and the other should be ignored. Surprisingly, some people don't seem to understand which is which...

Achieving riches is a sign that something is broken? Sweden has 10 billionaires, is Sweden broken?

This libertarian-esque notion – that those who have “made it” are not beholden to they system that gave them their opportunities – is one I find to be anti-democratic and indulgently self-serving.

Indeed, no one could have "made it" without the world's food system. Can we conclude from this that we are all beholden to farmers? And that anyone who disagrees with this is anti-democratic and indulgently self-serving?

We ARE beholden to farmers, how can you see it otherwise? Humans are beholden to each other, that's how markets work. We specialize and exchange. We need each other. Anyone who thinks all you need is an empty island and some stone tools is an idiot.

Now it can be argued that humans should be able to specialize and exchange with a minimum of government coordination and taxation. Fine, that's the main debate. But there's a wing very prevalent on this thread that thinks in fact we don't need ANY coordination of ANY kind, and those people are the purest definition of sophomoric.

If I look up beholden in the dictionary, it says
obliged, bound, grateful, liable, indebted; obliged; under a moral obligation
I take it from this that "beholden" means something more than merely paying money for a service you consume. And I've never heard someone saying that they're beholden to the supermarket they buy their food from. That's the reason I see it otherwise, because the definition of "beholden" strikes me as not covering the situation where someone has paid a fair market price for the goods or services they use.

Note that Martin specifically talks about the top wage-earners, who are paying more in taxes for government services than the average. As far as I can figure, he's using the word "beholden" in a far more expansive definition than your minimal one here.

Taxes are theft

No they aren't

You didn't pay those taxes . . .

And yet, they still aren't theft

I pay plenty of taxes. It's not theft. Not even the ones that go to things I personally think are bullshit, like the Iraq war or James Inhofe's salary.

ORLY? How would you desribe it then? Mafia tribute?

TAXES ARE A USER FEE ! If you choose to stay in the country and benefit from its structures and institutions then you pay a user fee.

But if you choose to leave the country you also have to pay. And if you are harmed by the county and its structures and institutions you also have to pay. It has nothing to do with benefits.

If you don't want the countries benefits and are moving away, then the proper thing to do is end your citizenship. You won't have to keep paying US taxes.

Unless the US government decides that you're rich enough and revoked your citizenship to avoid US taxes. Then they'll come after you regardless.

You pay a fee unless you're "poor". Then you get paid.

That's the awesome part of this debate. Successful people are told that their success is the result of government (and the social construct and the social contract and their disproportionate benefits of the rule of law(?)) and therefore they must pay more.

On the other hand unsuccessful people are paid to fail. Is their failure also the result of government and the social construct and social contract and a disproportionate benefit of the rule of law?

What a curious system we have: punish the productive and reward the unproductive.

Extortion is a user fee too.

Stop posting comments and finish your summer reading.

School starts soon.

If I was one of the top 100 taxpayers in the country but not one of the top 100 wealthiest people in the country I would definitely feel like a chump, and a celebration in my "honor" would feel like I was being honored for being a chump.

Wealth doesn't really correlate with taxes. Income does. You could be really wealthy like Warren Buffett but your tax bill would be lower than someone with more earned income, like perhaps Tiger Woods.

I wish I paid 10x the taxes I do now, because that means I made more than 10x the income I do now. I wouldn't feel like a chump at all.

More than 10x? That doesn't make much sense

Depends on how I earn my income at those lofty levels. See Warren Buffett's tax rate vs his secretary's.

Bullshit. You think you know how you'd feel if you paid 10x in taxes, but you don't.

I can say with confidence, however, that if you did motivate your ass to make 10x and pay 10x in taxes that I would be happy with this.

Look around- there are a fair number of people who, for one reason or another, can't pull their weight. We're a rich country- we ain't gonna let 'em starve.

Of course, this state of affairs requires some folks to pull their weight and then some. I would be happy to welcome you to the club.

Bullshit. You think you know me, an anonymous set of pixels, and how I'd feel about anything, but you don't.

Me 'motivating my ass' to make more money would involve collaborators, customers, and so on. To have those be useful to me, I'll need a functioning society of people with enough money to buy what I sell. To have that society I will be expected to and happy to pay taxes.

You're a child.

Dude, I don't have to know you. You are talking about how you would feel under a hypothetical set of circumstances that you've never experienced. This is speculative.

I'm not sure what you're saying in your second paragraph. It sounds like some variant of 'a poor workman blames his tools' or John Belushi's classic Blues Brother's 'it wasn't my fault' rant, or some other reason why you can't join the 'net contributors' just yet. Keep pluggin' away!

I believe the sentiment I expressed above is in fact grown-up. Some of us, through talent, effort, luck, and opportunity, are in a position to pull more than our weight, and we do. Without a sufficient number of us, what becomes of those who can't pull their own weight? And why are we are we the subject of such endless abuse by big-hearted social democrats when we create the wherewithal for their endless plans in the first place?

It's cute how you have me pegged as some Occupy welfare queen, when in fact I'm pretty sure I make more than you and pay more taxes.

And if I HYPOTHETICALLY made 10x more and paid 10x more in taxes? I'd love it.

Don't really grok your ad hominen fixation, but I am sincerely glad to hear that you're pulling your weight, and I am happy to repeat that I don't need to know shit about you to understand what conjecture is.

I made the mistake of trying to glean something about your situation from your previous comment but, unlike you, I recognize that your and my positions are irrelevant to the strength of our arguments, so I gladly withdraw any speculations I made, based as they were on little or no evidence, and I apologize if I have mischaracterized you, as you and your specific situation are a subject about which I'm not sure I could care any less.

I do find your name-calling simply adorable as an argumentative strategy though.

Thanks for all your hard work!

Interesting incentive. Of course, it would probably be the same old faces every year. Gets a bit odd, though. The IRS having to deal with hundreds of thousands of complaints that not enough taxes were levied. Then the post submission corrections from the people who didn't quite squeeze through to the top one hundred. Could this just be a cunning plan to bring the IRS to its knees? Also, the challenge of having to so finely tune the taxes (just enough but not too much!) might also give the accounting minions a few heart attacks. One could even envisage a bidding system, whereby people outbid each other to pay the highest taxes.

Then again, can you imagine how upset an ex-spouse might be? Not only to find out that you paid the highest tax - perhaps implying a higher income than acknowledged - but that they'd also be missing out on a dinner at the White House! No doubt that there are some people would pay good taxes just to see that.

"It would probably be the same faces every year"...not if the "top 400" list is any indication: table 4 here:

Frances Woolley already beat Miles Kimball to the punch:

Good thing government runs on air.

Sometimes this blog descends into parody. A thank you note for complying with the law? Why limit it to taxes?

Dearest Mr. Kimball: Thank you for not trying to purchase a dildo in Alabama, and also for refraining from dumping more toxic chemicals into waterways than is allowed. Hugs and kisses, Your Government

You may now purchase those in Alabama.

You should consider the concept of property more deeply.

Every time I go to the opera, I see donors are listed by level: "circle of companions," "diamond" "gold" etc. Maybe they should give out similarly-ranked levels of citizenship, along with benefits (free tickets to opening of parliament/state of the union?)

They already do that. The government is very responsive to high income types, while usually ignoring everyone else, other than a small number of high visibility issues at election time

Maybe they should be explicit about it then? Good way to maximise tax revenue and reduce avoidance.

Very responsive to lobbyists is more like it.

Yeah, all those poor people's lobbyists are always running things.

'The Onion' beat you to it by 15 years:,889/

Hey that's great, and also led me to this article, "Maya Angelou Honored For Courage, Blackness".

Weird, I remembered that one and the "eight pound man removed from woman's vagina" story, but not the citizenship one.

In Quebec (Canada), you get a thank you of sorts with your receipt of income taxes paid to the effect of ''thank you for contributing to funding the activities of the provincial government etc etc.'' Curt, but a nice acknowledgement nonetheless.

Note that income tax evasion and the underground economy are significant challenges in Quebec, see e.g. work by Fortin & Lacroix:

Quebec, County Durham, a village in England
Quebec, West Sussex, a village in England

I'll bet they don't get thank you notes from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.

Is it in French, English, or both?

In India, the names of highest taxpayers are revealed and they are 'awarded' by the government. The idea was to promote tax compliance there, but this could as easily be a 'celebration of tax' which promotes responsible fiscal attitudes

Clearly Tyler, you think that market outcomes are somehow just or fair or have some other over-riding virtue. I'd love to know what version of this claim you support.

To answer that question, wouldn't he have to know, compared to what? What's your alternative, Utopia?

During the day, I thank a lot of people who don't strictly deserve it, and I am thanked by a lot of people when I don't strictly deserve it. (Example: when I gave my train ticket to the train conductor this morning, he thanked me; when he punched it and handed it back to me, I thanked him. Both of us are just doing what we have to do.)

It's a sign of civility. Why not more civility in the way the government deals with us? Does all of government have to act Marge Simpson's sisters at the DMV?

How many Thank-you notes has Mr. Kimball sent to the people who take away his garbage and keep his sewer working properly.

Could have garbage collecting service contracted out, no? Also, many people have septic tanks that they deal with without taxes, no?

Charity deserves thanks, perhaps. Taxes are not charity. We are receiving valuable goods and (mostly) services in exchange for those tens of thousands of dollars. Sure, we are forced to pay for them, but we still receive something in exchange.

Does Miles believe he should send a thank you note to the local department of transportation each time he uses a road?

Perhaps we should all send thank you notes to each other for each person's contribution to each public service we use.

If there is one class of people I feel sorry for, it is the rich in the United States. They and their children have it really bad..

By God I'll be glad when the political silly season is over for at least a little while! ROFL

The thank you letters should come from the welfare queens, parasites, and Democrats (but I repeat myself) that consume the taxes.

When I give money to a bum on the street he says thanks. Shouldn't the Obama voters do the same?

God bless us one and all.

Jesus, here we go again. Does anyone know what we actually spend annually on the omg-we'd-be-Somalians-without-it infrastructure? Is it almost 4 trillion (federal only, natch)? Oh, it's only a small percentage of that? Where does the rest of it go? Anyone? Can we start talking about what a good deal the "social construct" is giving us on all these bombs and dead brown people and insane hand-outs to wealthy old people? Because that conversation would make a little more sense.

Nope, can't discuss any of those treadeoffs. The only two choices are A) A $4M Federal budget or B) Somalia.

Haha, $4T, that is.

I know. People who treat out the line that "taxes are what pays for civilisation" are like the people who figured out that since some wars (e.g. WWII) are justified, then all wars are justified ("how dare you question our war with Eastasia/Oceania/Eurasia? Are you an appeaser?"). Somehow America managed to get by in the 1960s spending c. 20-30% of GDP on the government (fed+state+local) (y' know the period when the USA built the interstates, went to the moon and fended off the USSR) but now if you question 40%+ going to the state (overwhelmingly payments to connected govt unions and transfers to middle/upper-middle class elderly people), you're some anarchist who wants Somalia.

And conversely if you think the state should get 25% you're a commie pinko government mafia jackboot thief.

They mailed out thank you notes in the first year of the income tax, but they stopped after that because they didn't receive back even one "you're welcome" note. :-)

What drives me nuts is that I have to put postage on my taxes.

No computer yet?

Better than thank-you-notes would be if the tax-agency would send me a tax-statement with a listing of how many cents of my tax money was spent on what accounts.

I would have no problem with further information such as how many people in my district payed x-times more/less/nothing in taxes than me.

Since I do my taxes in Germany I can only state, that this is not the case here. I know I could reseach all that by myself, but who does that? Exactly: Not the majority of tax payers.

But they are needed for a tax policy that goes beyond the heated discussions fueled by the many know-fews and the few know-it-alls.

I followed the links back and read Miles' post and the Scott Adams WSJ opinion piece. And with that context, many of the comments are less amusing and more dispiriting. Adams (in a serious, yet humorous way) made it clear that we've got a serious budget problem and then launched into a brainstorm of how to ease the pain of higher taxes. (Mind you we'll also need a companion piece on easing the pain of lower benefits.) Adams said you start with a "bad version" of the solution and then those inspire better ideas. Adams gave some ideas. Miles in his post picked this theme up and then gave some of his own ideas. If you read his blog or know him, you know that Miles has lots of ideas. A few got elevated here to ponderables, but then sadly the exercise seemed to break down. Instead of one upping each other with better (and new) ideas on how to lessen the pain of higher taxes, there was just a lot of snark and tired political rants (with a few exceptions). This is a creative bunch of people, so why not have fun and throw out an idea...

My comment is too high horsey, so I'll end with my bad idea: Being able to self-direct your tax dollars. When I give a donation to my alma mater, I have the option to choose an area of the college to donate to. I am economist and I know that money is fungible, but it makes me happy to know/pretend I am supporting faculty development (which I benefited a lot from) and not athletics (which I did not). Silly and infeasible, yes, but an idea.

I like Miles. I hope he has lots of patience - the Internet is where ideas go to get beat up. Give it a few years and lots more people will be promoting their ideas locally, one hopes.

Claudia, you probably know already that your proposal is called hypothecation. Here is a good discussion on the issues around tax hypothecation

Thanks, Chris. I didn't know. The link was interesting.

I prefer the idea of the receipt.

Of course, it would be fine to print a thank you on the receipt.

Don't those signs at the side of the highway, "Your Tax Dollars at Work" count?

On a more serious note, "thank yous" have evolved in society to be used only when there is a personal touch involved. We frequently say thank you to an assistant who helps us choose a product, but we do not send thank you notes too all the people who helped build the product.

If there was a history of paying a check directly to a Tax Clerk, I am sure we would get a "thank you." Speaking of which, I remember taking my property taxes into City Hall one day in Ithaca, and the mayor who was there said "thank you."

I may be perverse - but as a significant taxpayer I really do not want a thank you from the government - what I would like is...

1. A thank you from the person who never held a job - but gets cable and has a high def TV thanks to me and other taxpayers
2. A thank you from the college grad who will never be able to pay back the loans he used to get his degree in creative studies.
3. Thank you from the unlucky soul who needed a heart transplant - could not afford one - but medicaid covered...
4. A thank you from the cancer patient who needed several $100,000 a year for several years - and will never be able to repay these costs - but is alive today because I - and others like me pay their taxes.

I do not resent paying my fair share - I am grateful to have been lucky enough to be born in the greatest country in the world - and to have the opportunity to earn a living and pay A LOT of taxes...

But what REALLY PISSES ME OFF - is people who pay NO TAXES telling me I should pay more!!!!

They are the ones who should be writing thank you notes in my humble opinion!

Even in California where I believe benefits are relatively generous, assuming you aren't committing welfare fraud, you aren't sporting a high def television if you have never worked a day in your life. If you have ever driven through LA's skid row on your way to Little Tokyo, you know that those people - by choice (the addicts) or by fate (the mentally deranged) - live awful lives. Of course, there's certainly a lot of fraud and I'm sure many lie about their income or their wealth to get on the dole, but the one's who are poor, are definitely poor.

The cable part is much more unrealistic than the HD television.

You live in a weird fantasy world. The people you so clearly resent don't really exist. The vast majority of people have medical insurance. Student loans are usually paid back. Welfare moms don't usually sit around watching cable on their high def TVs while they wait for their five years of lifetime benefits to expire.

I have to say, the claim in your third paragraph is clearly false given the ranting in your second.



Does he imagine that he gets nothing at all in exchange for his money? What an a**.

It wouldn't work. Even the liberals who clamor for higher taxes do not even slightly want to pay higher taxes. They want OTHERS to pay higher taxes so they can benefit. If it costs them a little money, they still come out ahead.

For proof, see how many liberals cut checks to the Government as a pure donation. Or here in MA, you can opt to pay your state taxes at a higher rate than required -- and absolutely no one does.

The liberals don't want to pay taxes. Therefore, they don't want awards for paying taxes, either.

I only hope there's a provision requiring the stationery to be made in America

We are quite used to civilization, apparently. What some people don't quite seem to understand is that taxes, among their many other functions, are tribute you pay to strangers who could shoot you, but instead choose not to, or even shoot other people who would gladly shoot you.

I don't know how that was historically, did people normally say "thank you" for that kind of thing? It surely can't hurt to be polite. :)

That reminds me: I actually got a jobless person on welfare to draw me a hand-drawn "thank you" picture for financing his rent and food. That was actually pretty funny.

So you're basically a huge jerk?

"I go around harassing people who can't find work and have resorted to taking welfare just to feed themselves and have shelter. It's hilarious!"

Nah, I didn't harass them. I wanted to know if at least they were happy, which most of them apparently were. One of them then offered to draw me a picture of my choice in return for the money.

Hey Thom, take some of your own advice, viz.:

"You live in a weird fantasy world. The people you so clearly resent don’t really exist."

Do you receive thank you notes for anything else that you pay for, not donate? Not likely. You can complain about the price of the services that the government provides you, but to ask for a thank you note is to fundamentally misunderstand the relationship between yourself and the government. Taxes are not a donation. If you feel that paying taxes is a charitable gift, or an injustice to you and all of your hard work, then you should think about all of the infrastructure and institutions necessary for you to make that money. Then you should stop complaining about your lack of recognition. Then most likely you should stop complaining about the price of the services given the amount of inequality in the US currently.

Actually I get thank you notes for most things I have delivered. And I've noticed thank you notes on receipts fairly frequently.

If you feel that paying taxes is a charitable gift, or an injustice to you and all of your hard work, then you should think about all of the infrastructure and institutions necessary for you to make that money.

And you should also think about the proportion of taxes that go on that necessary infrastructure and institutions, relative to the proportion that are transfers to well-connected corporates or rich elderly with high voting rates.

How much would sending all these thank you notes cost? I thought we were trying to cut back on spending?

Just do a bulk email.

I don't think the $30 million or o it would cost would break the bank. Not that it's a good idea.

Why the focus on income tax only? Even the poorest of the poor pay some sales taxes in many states. Should they also receive thank-you notes along with goods purchased?

Few days ago i read news about warren buffett he suggest new idea of taxpayer that rich people will pay more tax than poor people
and he want be 1st person to pay more tax. i like his idea of taxpayer.

More you pay the tax higher Class you will get the seat :-)


What a conceited piece of bullshit.
Does this taxpayer say "thank you" each time he sees a soldier for keeping the country safe? Each time he sees a fireman for being there in case he ever needs one? To the construction worker who built the roads he drives on every day?

In prewar Japan, the highest-paying taxpayers in each prefecture were able to elect representatives from among their number to the upper house of the legislature (the House of Peers, 貴族院). The system was abolished as not consonant with democratic government after the war, though one could also see it as a way of overtly* incorporating plutocracy into an Aristotelian mixed government, as well as a clever incentive to maximize one's tax returns rather than minimizing them.

*as opposed to the British system of covertly incorporating plutocrats into the House of Lords

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