A Different Type of Tax
Sometimes we need to see things differently to understand them fully. right now, I'm reading the book "Free Lunch" by David Cay Johnson. It details how the rich are twisting government policy to enrich themselves. No surprises here.
But this article isn't about railing against the rich, it's about looking at the structure of government differently. What we learn in school is that there are three branches of government: Congressional, Presidential and Judicial. In practice, we have a fourth branch of government which is comprised of a loose coalition of the super wealthy who use lobbying and campaign contributions to exert influence on the other three branches. Again, nothing new here.
Now we will look at something new. We are used to looking at government as the creator of rules, laws and taxes that govern commerce and our lives. However we generally overlook the other force that creates rules we must follow, laws we must obey and taxes we must pay: The super wealthy and large corporations.
Libertarians and Republicans generally support smaller government, fewer laws to obey and fewer taxes to pay. In principle, this is a worthy goal. Get government out of our lives! Yet they fail to take into account that this creates a power vacuum that is quickly filled by the rich and powerful.
Without government acting as a counterbalance to this unofficial entity, new rules are established that have the defacto power of law. For example, a lack of inspectors and enforcement at a meat packing plant sets a new unofficial law about how much excrement can be in our meat. Lack of oversight in the trading of information sets defacto laws about how much privacy we have. Lack of legal recourse or lack of sufficient punitive damages sets laws about how much corporations can get away with.
The point here is that unofficial laws are created that have as much force as real ones. Less government does not mean less laws, merely less obvious ones.
We are also taxed by the super wealthy. Subsidies, tax breaks, transfer of risk, monopolies and collusion all represent various forms of taxes that we pay to the rich. The higher prices we pay for insurance, (through unpaid claims), for credit, for oil and for a thousand other things that are either subsidized, receive tax breaks, or are more expensive due to suppression of competition should be seen collectively as taxation by the super wealthy and large corporations.
The idea that we can have small government is a myth. Laws are going to be made and taxes will be paid. It's just a question of who gets the money and the control. We cannot have the small government that Libertarians and Republicans dream of because choosing smaller government merely shifts the collection of taxes and creation of laws to our unofficial branch of government.
Only when we recognize this influence in our lives for the unofficial government force that it is can we understand what choices we need to make. Many Americans distrust our government and don't like giving away money to those who feel entitled to take it, but the alternative is another form of government where taxes are subtle and often hidden, where laws are not voted upon and there is no practical way to address the wrongdoing of the powerful.
It is not the easy choice that it appears to be.