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Our problematic tax system

Brian Kaneb | Monday, November 28, 2011

Earlier in the year, I wrote about the Fair Tax. I argued that it would solve many of the problems our country faces today. This article will take a step back and ask, “What are those problems?”

We all know United States of America has its fair share of abstract laws. The Constitution of the State of Tennessee contains a clause prohibiting people who have participated in a duel from holding public office. The General Laws of Massachusetts make it illegal for people to use stilts while working on construction. Many are viewed not only as trivial, but also humorous. After all, who in their right mind would want the police to spend time enforcing these laws? Though this may sound melodramatic, the federal tax code is getting to this point as well.

The first problem is its overwhelming length, which serves as an enormous inconvenience to the average citizen. Most people do not have the time to sort through a tax code that consists of 9,097,000 words. It’s even longer than the Bible!

On top of that, people want to take initiative. According to The Tax Foundation, a majority of Americans are “willing to give up some deductions to make the tax system simpler.” The problem is our government. With the exception of a few Republican candidates looking to make noise, the political world has been extremely lackadaisical when it comes to addressing this issue. The tax code must be simplified.

The second problem is the partiality of the current tax code, which prevents people from paying their fair share to the government. Some, understandably, may assume that I will spend the rest of this article ranting in favor of raising taxes on the rich. That won’t be the case. Both the upper class and the lower class need to accept blame. We can talk about a solution later, but this much must be a given.

On one hand, Warren Buffet claims to pay fewer taxes than his secretary. On the other hand, more than 46 percent of households will not pay the federal income tax this year. While both of these facts should seem absurd to you, our government doesn’t think so. Democrats cannot accept that 46 percent is too high. Republicans cannot accept that the mega-rich need to pay more in taxes. In reality, both are right, but fail to realize it. The tax system simply has too many loopholes for people on every level of the socio-economic hierarchy.

The third problem is the lack of revenue provided by the current tax code, which adds weight to the already fragile public debt. Whereas the federal government is projected to spend $3.77 trillion this year, it is only expected to take in $2.15 trillion. That’s an astounding difference. Could you imagine if you spent $1.75 for every $1.00 received? I wouldn’t call that sound budgeting.

Even those who want to decrease spending to solve this problem know that we must first increase revenue. We need immediate action, and it is much tougher to decrease spending than it is to increase taxes.

These are just my personal opinions, but I hope everyone does recognize the one common problem with our current tax code. It’s the result of partisanship. Before we go anywhere, our government must first learn how to compromise.

Brian Kaneb is a sophomore. He can be reached at bkaneb1@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.