30 January 2007

Raise my taxes

I often say, with a grin, that the way for a politician to win my heart is to promise to raise my taxes. Really. Taxes buy things like fire trucks and bridges and schools and libraries and forest rangers and space probes and Sesame Street and hospitals and train stations.

I like those things.

Via Poputonian at Hullaballoo, I learn that Thomas Geoghegan says the same thing in the pages of In These Times.

... in a rich country, if we spend them on ourselves, taxes make us happier. That’s the point of a new book, Happiness, by a British economist Richard Layard. You can find much of the same thing in John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Affluent Society. Consumers can’t buy happiness—only taxpayers can.

Our New Democrats? They don’t get it. Kerry or Gore or Clinton will propose a tax increase, but only to be “responsible.” It’s a Boston Puritan kind of thing, like castor oil. We do it for the sake of rectitude. We do it because policy wonks at Harvard and Yale think we’ll be the better for it. God forbid it give us any pleasure. No wonder we keep losing: If we have to raise taxes, why make it so joyless?

We propose to rob Peter, in the top 1 percent, without ever getting any fun out of paying Paul. I say: Let’s give it to Paul, just to give him joy. Here’s how we have to sell a tax increase: Not to be fiscally responsible, but to be a little happier. Be like the Europeans. Have a little fun.

Let’s indulge in this higher GDP per capita. In richer countries, a strange thing happens: the higher the tax, the nicer it is to live there. And the more interesting life is.

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