Can you put a dollar sign on freedom? How much would you be willing to pay the government to keep intact everything this nation was founded upon? If we reframe the tax debate by asking questions like this, by transforming something as innately unappealing as taxes into a greater argument about selflessness and sacrifice to this country, then it could help erase the stigma of taxes being nothing more than a burden. Most Americans don’t even know how much the government siphons away in tax revenues every year. They just assume that they pay “too much,” and their money is wasted by an inefficient bureaucratic system.
Back in April, my school nearly shut down due to the budget showdown in Congress. This event shocked me and emphasized that my livelihood is for better or worse at the mercy of the federal government for at least the next seven years of my life. Since my education and eventually my job both rely on the purse strings of the federal government, I have a vested interest in finding out where its money comes from and how it is spent. The budget crisis also demonstrated how important both parties consider budgetary politics and it is very likely that the next election cycle’s central theme will be each party’s plan to tame our budget deficits. While taxes may be a smaller issue in this greater ideological debate about the role the American government should play in the lives of its citizens, any long-term deficit reduction plan will have to address taxes in some way. In the debate to reduce fiscal deficits, the most divisive issue between Democrats and Republicans is whether or not to raise taxes, find another way to increase revenues, or rely solely on budget cuts in order to balance the budget.
My goal is to cover the history of the federal income tax since the passage of the 16th amendment, focusing specifically on the last time there was comprehensive reform of the tax code in 1986. I want to analyze the Tax Reform Act of 1986 to see if there is any hope of compromise before the 2012 election, although right now both parties seem more comfortable hiding behind their ideological fences and taking potshots at one another.
Right now, I have this stack of books on tax policy sitting on my desk waiting for me to read. I know tax policy has the potential to be a very dry subject, but I really feel that there is a way to keep America great as a country by meeting the challenges presented by the 21st century while closing the budget deficit and without harming the greater American economy as a whole. The key is taxes. There must be a way to restructure the tax code so that it is fairer for the taxpayers, and more importantly, fairer for the nation as a whole. I’m excited to see where this paper takes me and I can’t wait to meet everyone.