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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The need for broader tax and budget education

There is a great post in TaxVox today from the Tax Policy Center (not to say that all of their posts aren't great). It is entitled - "We Can’t Always Get What We Want: Why Governing Americans is So Hard" by Howard Gleckman. He provides a candid and blunt assessment of the many odd things many people say and do. For example, he notes how many people complain about government spending, but then want more tax breaks - which are a form of government spending. He also notes how state governors want more federal dollars, but then complain about the red tape and fail to fix their budget problems to prevent needing federal funds.

I think this is a longstanding problem that is just getting worse. Today, it seems that we expect our politicians to tell us how they will either not raise any taxes or even lower our taxes, yet provide more funding for infrastructure, health care, education and Social Security. Who is supposed to pay for all of this? I noted this a few months ago when I got an April 15 email from my elected representative reminding me of the $800 billion of tax cuts Congress passed - with no mention of that fact that it raised the debt and deficit (4/15/10 post). And, why sent on April 15? I think the public has conditioned our elected officials to only talk to us if they are talking about tax cuts. Which elected officials are going to talk to us about reality? Or, perhaps we just don't elect those folks.

I think a revised civics education in high school would help somewhat. High school students should learn a lot more than that we have 3 branches of government and how a bill becomes a law. They should learn about the role of governments, funding, spending costs, the budget process, different types of taxes and how they work, understanding their role as a taxpayer, etc. The students could study the current federal or state finance systems and offer suggestions for improvement to their elected officials.

What do you think - about the TaxVox post - is it right on or not? What about solutions?


Peter said...

Many high school graduates can't tell you what the branches of the federal government are. Do you really think the teachers from our teacher's unions are up to the task of teaching them about the long term effects of tax cuts on economic growth?

I fear that the "education" you propose will metamorphosize into the indoctrination of our youth to support the pro-tax, big government policies of the left.

Finally, Gleckman makes quite a rhetorical reach when he suggests that tax cuts are spending. That's like me telling one of my small business clients whose revenues declined that the reason his business is failing is because he spends too much.

He might knock me on my word-twisting derrierre.

Unknown said...

I could not agree more wholeheartedly with the TaxVox article and I also agree that the problem lies with the public.

Politicians are giving the people what they want: a bankrupted future in exchange for an unsustainable present. Any politician that starts trying to tell this to the public isn't popular and likely won't be elected.

Does the problem lie with weak politicians who pander to the immature and unsustainable desires of the people?

Or does the problem lie with the people who want these things?