Taxes are Good

  • Book Title

This is a second article promoting website and book “Government is Good, An Unapologetic Defense of a Vital Institution.”

Taxes are perhaps the most effective “wedge” issue used by conservatives to keep people voting against their own best interests. On his website Douglas J. Amy, Professor of Politics, Mount Holyoke College does a terrific job countering the conservative obsession with taxes and tax cuts with hard facts and good reasoning.

“Most conservative criticisms about the ill-effects of taxes are exaggerated or untrue. Taxes are in fact good – they are dues we pay to enjoy the numerous vital benefits that government provides for our society.”[1]

Construction ProjectHe identifies the main conservative talking points on taxes and goes on at length to show that these complaints are not founded in reality.

“In a nutshell, these are the main conservative complaints:

  • Americans are greatly overtaxed and their tax burden is continually rising.
  • Most of our taxes don’t go to programs that help average Americans, but to foreign aid and welfare.
  • Taxes are bad for the economy because they hinder productivity and economic growth.
  • We would all be better off if we could keep more of the money we now pay in taxes.”

1. Most of us are NOT overtaxed as compared to other countries. Nor is the tax burden really that great as a percentage of income when you     consider the goods and services we receive in return.

“…even a cursory examination of the facts shows that Americans are taxed relatively lightly compared to most other Western countries, and that our tax burden has not been skyrocketing at all.”

“According to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, over 85% of us pay less than 10% of our income in federal income taxes. The average middle-class family now pays less than 5% of their income in federal income taxes – a historical low.”

2. In reality most federal expenditures go to help middle and upper middle class people. The single largest item of federal spending isSocial Security Check Social Security benefits. Medicare and other health expenditures are a close second.[2]

“Most people have wildly exaggerated ideas about how much of their tax money is going to “others” in the form of welfare or foreign aid. When the public was asked to name the two largest parts of the federal budget, the leading responses were foreign aid (41%) and welfare (40%) – ahead of other choices like Social Security, defense, and health. This is highly delusional. Spending on foreign aid and welfare actually amounts to less than 3% of the federal budget.”

3. Taxes are bad for the economy and tax cuts boost the economy. If this were true we would have had boom times since 1980 and the Reagan administration. Their arguments sound good but are obviously ridiculous. Government does not remove tax money from the economy. Government uses those dollars to pay wages and buy things IN the economy. Government spending sustains the economy rather than hurting it.

Professor Amy refutes conservative arguments with several points. One, the taxes we pay are not high enough to stifle economic growth. Two, productivity is more complicated and affected by many factors not just taxes. Three, tax cuts don’t necessarily increase domestic investment and job creation.

“So there is clearly not a strong relationship between tax rates and growth in this country.”

4. We are better off “keeping our hard earned dollars.” This absurd argument hardly needs a response but the professor lays out several reasons beginning with it being “greedy and selfish”.

 “The reality is that in modern societies, we simply face too many serious problems and risks that we cannot deal with effectively as individuals. Having a few more thousand dollars in our pockets will not help us to deal effectively with a deteriorating public school system, police and fire department layoffs, unclean air or polluted water, unsafe food, being laid off from our jobs, threats from terrorist organizations, and so on.”

But the conservative ruling elite (whether Republican or Democrat) benefit from the people’s ignorance on these topics.

“This anti-tax campaign strikes a real emotional chord in some Americans and it has been one of the most effective rallying cries of anti-government conservatives. It taps into a taxophobia that is deeply ingrained in American political culture…”

Please read and share Professor Amy’s work. We need more “unapologetic” advocates of reality.    

[1]    All indented quotes are from the Government is Good website,

[2]    Visit the National Priorities Project website for more information on budgets and spending at