Today the conservative Tax Foundation released its annual Tax Freedom Day report declaring that April 9th will be the day that Americans will have “earned enough money to pay this year’s tax obligations at the federal, state and local levels.” The report has serious methodological flaws. Among other things, it misrepresents the typical person’s tax responsibility by lumping in taxes paid primarily by higher income taxpayers and businesses into its calculations of the “average tax burden.”
More worrisome than the methodological flaws, however, is the bizarre implication that somehow once our collective tax payments are remitted to government they then somehow simply evaporate. What actually happens on April 9th (if you buy the methodology that generates this date) is not merely that we are finished paying this year’s tax bills but rather that we are finished paying for the stuff we have decided to purchase collectively like Social Security, Medicare, roads, schools, disease research, health inspections, national defense, Pell Grants, etc. etc.
The report calculates that North Carolinians will actually reach tax freedom day slightly earlier, April 7th to be exact, than the rest of the nation, largely because our incomes are lower and therefore not subjected to the progressive federal income tax structure to the same degree as states with typically higher incomes. Just think, we as North Carolinians could be “free” so much earlier this year if our state leaders would: release a few prisoners early, shave a few weeks off of the public school year, close the doors to the community colleges and universities to some of the half-a-million unemployed workers who currently reside in our state, trim back on those “luxurious” health care benefits like dental care and eye screenings that we provide children in low-income families, scale back on the number of fire-fighters, EMS workers and police officers in our communities, crowd the courts a bit more, forego some road maintenance projects and postpone some environmental clean-up initiatives. Making choices like these would provide us all with more tax “freedom.” Doing so would also make this a pretty crappy place to live, put thousands of people out of work and sabotage our state’s future – a pretty high price to pay for more “tax freedom.”