Today is tax day. As millions of Americans finish filing their 2010 federal income taxes, 47 percent of their fellow citizens will pay no federal income tax.

That’s right. Nearly half the country pays nothing* towards a government that in theory represents everyone. A family of four earning $50,000 pays nothing in federal income taxes. Nearly 40 percent of those 47 percent actually profit from the tax system, getting back in credits more than they would have owed. They’re actually paid to not pay taxes!

Politicians of both parties going back decades share the blame for this. They promise something for nothing to taxpayers to get their votes, then try to make up the difference by higher taxes on the “rich” or by borrowing the money. (The top 10 percent of earners pay 73 percent of the taxes , but realize that “rich” starts at $366,000 in earnings, and some of them are actually small businesses that file taxes as individuals.) We constantly hear pleas for the “rich” to pay their “fair share,” but that’s a mighty weird definition of “fair” if in reality it means the lion’s share. Besides, we can raise taxes on the “rich” to levels unseen in decades and still not make a dent in the federal deficit .

Nearly half of the country couldn’t care less that the Federal Reserve has said that if current policies persist, in a mere 10 years the country will have to pay $1 trillion a year just to pay the interest on all the money we’ve borrowed. That’s $1 trillion before we spend a single penny on defense, highways, Social Security, or anything else. But to 47 percent of Americans, it’s someone else’s problem.

There’s something wrong here. How can we as a country deal with the very serious financial situation we’ve spent ourselves into when so many people have no personal stake in the matter? Where is the sense of shared sacrifice that is part of citizenship? This sense of entitlement by so many, stoked by politicians eager for votes, is a moral corruption that will destroy us faster that massive debt ever will.

*Yes, I’m aware that most people still pay state and local taxes. But then again, so do the “rich,” so that issue is largely moot.

Articles by Tom Neven

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