Issue #20, Spring 2011

Rethinking Taxes: Proud to Pay

Is there a species more rare—and more needed than ever—than the proud American taxpayer?

This time last year, Contributing Editor Ethan Porter took to our pages to highlight a problem that has long vexed progressives. Taxpayers, he argued, are too disconnected from the government they finance. “For too many, government is either an abstract notion or a source of irritation; you either can’t understand what it’s spending your money on or it’s wasting it altogether,” he wrote. In his essay, Porter suggested two ideas that could fix the problem: a taxpayer receipt, and the ability for taxpayers to direct additional money to agencies of their choosing.

With Tax Day 2011 approaching, we thought it would be a good idea to expand on those thoughts. In this mini-symposium, we offer two essays. The first is an elaboration on the idea of a taxpayer receipt. The piece is by Porter and David Kendall of Third Way, who has also been exploring the concept. In recent weeks, there has been talk in Congress of passing legislation creating a taxpayer receipt. We hope this piece—and the image of what such a receipt might look like—provides a definitive argument that will push the idea into reality.

The second essay is by Cait Lamberton, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Pittsburgh. Lamberton’s research focuses on the concept of tax choice—the ability to direct one’s taxes (or a portion of them) to the departments and agencies of one’s choosing. Her piece offers fascinating and hopeful data on how taxpayers respond to tax choice, and prescriptions on how to make it work.

For too long now, progressives have been on the defensive on the issue of taxes. We hope this mini-symposium prompts progressives to think creatively to turn the argument in our favor, and inspires new ideas on how to deepen and clarify the connection between taxpayers and the government.

Rethinking Taxes: Proud to Pay

Seeing Where the Money Went by Ethan Porter & David Kendall

Your Money, Your Choice by Cait Lamberton


Issue #20, Spring 2011
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Dan Mortenson:

It's the second idea in this article that's the real winner, and would certainly change the current reluctance to pay taxes (at all).

I've pushed for years, the idea that we citizens SHOULD have to pay taxes (and I mean even MORE than we now do, if we're talking about business and the Rich), but that WE should be the ones to determine where OUR share of the money will go.

Simply send out a checklist with every tax booklet, letting the payer check off and monetize the amount or percentage to be given to each cause he wants. I had this sort of list to fill out when I had Working Assets phone service, and I loved it.

Sure, there wouldn't be nearly as much money for Congressmen's salaries, or to pay for bombers, but hey -- we'd have PLENTY for paid day-cares and firemen, so what's the problem?

Mar 20, 2011, 10:37 PM

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