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Is paying taxes patriotic?
Scripps Howard News Service


September 25, 2008

Is paying taxes patriotic?

Joe Biden thinks so. The Democratic vice presidential nominee said so during a recent television interview, responding to criticisms of a proposed tax hike on America's richest earners. They should pay more, Biden said, during a time of national instability. "It's time to be patriotic ... time to jump in, time to be part of the deal, time to help get America out of the rut."

The comment drew scorn from John McCain's presidential campaign, and raised anew the old debate between conservatives and liberals about the nature of patriotism in a democracy. Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, jump into the fray.


Paying taxes isn't patriotic. It's an obligation and a legal requirement, and patriotism -- which, like any type of love, resides in the heart -- can never be coerced. Still, it's easy to see why Joe Biden might've become confused on the issue.

Americans benefit every day from taxes. Your tax dollars help pay for the roads used to get goods to market, the school systems and universities that have created one of the most productive work forces in the world, and the military that has defended the nation against destabilizing threats. The examples go on and on. All of those things have helped make the country -- recent events notwithstanding -- the most prosperous in history.

America's richest citizens have benefited the most from that system. They're also the ones who stand to gain the most from the government's proposed $700 billion bailout of Wall Street. In such a situation, it's unseemly for the country's highest earners to complain about a slightly higher tax bill.

If patriotism involves "going above and beyond the call of duty," then doing that duty is among the minimum requirements to be a patriot. No, paying taxes isn't patriotic. But avoiding taxes -- avoiding your duty and obligation to your fellow citizens? That's definitely unpatriotic.


"We want to take money and put it back in the pocket of middle-class people," Joe Biden boldly proclaimed in his interview with ABC's Good Morning America. Old-fashioned redistributionism, Barack Obama's running mate argues, is patriotism.

Patriotism, of course, means love of country. Higher taxes equate to love only if you love government. Beyond paying for certain basic obligations, such as national defense, taxes rob all Americans of their liberties, not just the rich. A vast bureaucracy, unaccountable to voters and virtually unlimited in power, is what higher taxes buy. Middle-class people don't benefit, unless they happen to be government employees.

So what does Biden mean by getting "America out of the rut"? The Obama-Biden administration would add more than $343 billion in annual federal spending, according to the National Taxpayers Union.

More taxes to pay for a $150 billion corporate welfare plan in the name of creating "green jobs"? A boondoggle in the making, sure, but not patriotic.

More taxes to fund $1.5 billion in paid family leave programs? Not patriotic.

Hidden taxes disguised as a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases? An economy killer for sure, and not patriotic.

More taxes for a $10 billion federal pre-school plan, a $500 million "technology investment" fund and untold billions to patch up No Child Left Behind? Great for bureaucrats and government unions, maybe, but not patriotic in the least.

Higher taxes appear inevitable regardless of who wins in November. Read in the context of a $700 billion economic bailout plan, the Obama administration is poised to add more than $1 trillion in new federal spending over the next four years. Call that whatever you like, but please don't call it patriotic.


Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis blog daily at and
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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

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