Rick Wilking / Reuters Shannon Philbrick of Liberty Tax Services, dressed as the Statue of Liberty, waves a sign at drivers in Westminster, Colorado February 4, 2009. Philbrick was trying to encourage customers to come into the tax office to have their taxes prepared. U.S. tax forms are due to be filed April 15th. 

Are Taxes Too Damn High?

The Debate About the Rate

Campaign literature on a table at a "Food for Free Minds Tea Party Rally" (Jessica Rinaldi / Courtesy Reuters)

Grover G. Norquist

Andrea Campbell tips her hand partway through her essay “America the Undertaxed” (September/October 2012) when she writes that “the central debate in U.S. politics is whether to keep taxes, particularly federal taxes, at their current levels in the long term or emulate other advanced nations and raise them.”

So the choice facing Americans is between maintaining the size of the government under President Barack Obama and expanding it further? Who knew? In framing things this way, Campbell posits a Brezhnev Doctrine for U.S. government spending and taxation: what the government takes and spends today is forever ceded by Americans to the state, and that portion of their income not yet taken by the government is negotiable. Such ideological blinders limit the author’s ability to understand or explain how the United States arrived at its present level of historically high spending and taxation -- and what the American people would like its government to do and how much it would like it to cost in the future.

The U.S. government was created to maximize liberty. Unlike the European nations Campbell offers as models for how much Americans should be taxed, the United States was not organized around defending or promoting historical land claims or one religion, tribe, or ethnicity. Americans are a people of the book: the Constitution. According to the founders, government

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