It's been a while since we've had a good game of Kick the Donkle in these-a-here parts, so my great thanks go out to Radley Balko, who points to your good friend and mine, Matt Stoller, who's written what may well be the first One-handed Reader on taxes that I've ever seen. Seriously:
I just paid my taxes, and I have to say, I always take pride when I do so.Now since we all pay taxes--if we avoid 'em on income, we still get 'em on cigarettes and booze, or whatever--this is a little like taking pride in pooping. Not, in other words, something that an adult is supposed to do, though perhaps fit for a child. The basic idea is we'reallinthistogether, a Kumbaya paean to a naive One-Countryism in which your tax dollars are, as the saying goes, hard at work. This is the sort of thing that leaks out in the nocturnal emmissions of bowdlerized Keynsians, a bare-breasted WPA workathon in which the money flows from the coffers straight into the mighty dams and highways and byways of the US of A. There is a feint in the direction of shared responsibility for The Bad Shit--it is "our war"--but the general tone and tenor is identical to the sentiment more concisely illustrated by "Freedom Ain't Free" on the bumper sticker.
But the real underlying sentiment here is the old Bill Clintonism: You can't claim to love your country and hate its government. The idea is that the country is the government, that peoplehood is just a collection of political instutions and symbolic traditions, and that but for the Risen Lord Baby Jesus himself, there is naught holier in this world than The Two-Party System, and all of its spending priorities, by god. But while Grover Norquist and gang, who we're right to scorn, have a basically infantile notion of what it means to "shrink the government," and while the rest of the conservatives, Reagan to Bush and beyond, all want to increase the size of the state just as much as liberals, albeit with different emphases, there are in fact those of us who seriously advocate for a wide and strict curtailment of the ability of the state sector to do much of anything at all. This is something neither the State Left nor the State Right can understand: libertarians do not care about cutting taxes except as a pleasant side effect to the actual project of carefully circumscribing the powers of the state. When George Bush babbles that he wants to cut taxes because The People can spend their money better than the guvmint can, he's not making a libertarian argument, because he's got no intention of making the state smaller in any way. Despite the heaven-high cry of American liberals, trimming this or that entitlement program or research grant, nor yet eliminating forever Sacred Social Security, is not "drowning the government in the bathtub," as the Norquistian bugalloo goes. Unless, that is, you're operating under the mistaken conclusion that all those aircraft carriers and spy satellites and the like are somehow not of the government.
Our tax code is the DNA of our nation's moral compass.That's a hell of a mixed metaphor, but maybe he's talking about an organic compass of some kind. In any case, is Stoller saying that the "DNA of our nation's moral compass" necessitates hypertrophic growth into a vast, ganglious, militarized imperium that has shat a thousand conflicts all over the globe and that gobbles up everything it can get its greedy paws on, heedless of who it hurts or what crimes, subterfuges, and acts of violence it takes to sate its insatiable rapacity? Shit, he may be right about all this after all.