Can’t Wait ‘Til Tax Day!
It’s a heretical thought, but would people pay more taxes if they could designate where a portion of their money went?
The amount that each citizen could direct would have to be capped, probably at a relatively low amount–say, around $1,000–to ensure that the wealthy don’t wield disproportionate influence over this process. To cover administrative costs, citizens who choose to direct money would have to pay a modest fee. And, to be clear: This program wouldn’t be an invitation for individuals to refuse to direct portions of their taxes to certain agencies; the taxpayer would have discretion only over the supplemental amount of money he or she volunteered to give to the federal government. But the rest would be up to them. Individual agencies would have to compete for funding, perhaps by submitting proposals and making those proposals available online, documenting what they’d be able to do with different levels of additional money.
Corporations and right-wing political action groups would probably run campaigns to convince people to direct their money in ways that benefited right-wing causes and corporations. But the left could do the same. There would be a furious scramble on both sides, with the federal government likely tripping over itself in the rush to gain more money. The result would be improved government performance; as agencies competed for money, they would have to document the efficacy of their prior spending.
For too long, with the ballot initiative as its sword, the right has advocated a more democratic approach to taxes. It’s past time for the left to take a similar approach and bring people a little bit closer to their government. Accountability should become more than a buzzword during campaigns, but a fact of life in Washington. Progressives have a vision of affirmative government–and these programs just might help that vision come true.
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