Framing Taxpayers

Because we have responsibilities in many areas of life, Americans perform many roles. One of life’s complexities is that sometimes these roles have interests that conflict with one another. For example, as a taxpayer, our desire is for the lowest possible tax bill. However, as motorists, we want our streets and highways in good repair, which could mean higher taxes.

When extreme conservatives try to minimize the public sector, partly by emphasizing government debt, they exalt Americans’ taxpayer role above the others. We should remember that taxpayers include corporations as well as human beings, so it’s important to clarify who extreme conservatives are talking about when they talk about taxpayers.

But even more important, progressives should reframe the debate by talking about the other roles we perform and how they could be harmed by maximizing the taxpayer’s desire for minimum taxation.

For example:

Americans perform many roles. In politics at least, the role of citizen can encompass roles such as parent, neighbor, taxpayer, consumer, employer, worker, investor, and volunteer.
  • As parents and others that love children, will our public schools have the funding they need?
  • As citizens, will we be able to participate in elections and public meetings, visit public parks, drive on safe streets, enjoy police and fire protection, and benefit from wise urban planning and transportation systems, or will tax cuts be used to reduce our access to these public goods?
  • As workers, will the government protect our rights if we suffer discrimination or unacceptable working conditions, or will tax cuts have left the government too weak to help?
  • As employers, will the police and fire departments protect our property, or will we have to hire our own security?
  • As consumers, will we enjoy safe food and other products, or will tax cuts mean that corporations can sell us dangerous stuff?
  • As investors, will we have accurate information about where we’re putting our money, or will tax cuts mean that banks and other companies can deceive us?

Of these roles, I consider that of citizen as including all the others. Therefore, when extreme conservatives talk about us as if we were one of the smaller roles, we should reframe the debate to the rights, responsibilities, and privileges of citizenship and how easily they could be lost.

What do you think? Am I overreacting about talk of taxpayers? What roles have I left out?

One thought on “Framing Taxpayers”

  1. Extreme conservatives are essentially anarchists, similar to the Borderlanders described in a new book about American civilization. “Every man for himself,” or “Keep your hands off me and my stuff.” The notion of interdependence doesn’t play with them, because independence is the highest value. If problems occur, they are taken care of at the local level by neighbors and family–certainly not government? Paying taxes thus handicaps the individual’s ability to care for himself and his family.

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