Kilroy Was Here
June 13, 2004
There's equal and then there's equal
Over in the trenches of the comments at Matt Yglesias and Political Animal, the different camps of the tax war fight over the field of Equality.

I can think of at least three ways to have a tax code applied equally.

1. Everyone pays the exact same amount. If the government needs $3 trillion to operate this year and their are 300 million folks in America, each person pays $10,000 dollars no matter what. It's certainly equal. Not sure about fair.

2. Everyone pays the exact same percentage. If the government needs $3 trillion to operate this year, and we need 25% of everyone's income to pay for it, then everyone pays 25%. Again, it's equal in a way, but I'm sure if you have to pay $5000 out of your $20,000 income, you're going to have to start choosing between lunch and dinner.

3. Everyone taxes have equal effect on their income. This is where progressive tax rates come in. Now, of course, taxing people so that it has an equal effect is a much harder puzzle to solve, but also, the most just. And should we choose simplicity over justice just for the convenience of it? Or should we wrestle with our tax system until we can squeeze every last ounce of justice out of it?

I think we should gear up and grapple.

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