One of the challenges the seemingly never-ending list of Republican presidential candidates must face in what is sure to be an all-out political brawl in 2016 is finding a unique way to explain that America does not have a tax revenue problem; it has a massive spending addiction.
In one election after another, Republican presidential candidates seem to fall short in this area, often playing into the disgusting Democratic caricature of conservatism as a political philosophy that belongs to rich, bitter taxpayers tired of seeing their money go toward helping the nation’s impoverished. Republicans need to find a way to show every working American a simple, rhetoric-free way to display how much money they are really giving to ineffective government projects and the growing Washington bureaucratic machine.
One of the best methods to accomplish this is for GOP’s new batch of presidential hopefuls to propose a new campaign for “taxpayer transparency.” Taxpayers deserve to know and have access to data that clearly show just how much money a person has paid in taxes, not just for one year but for an entire lifetime, as well as a brief description of how that money has been spent.
Taxpayers should be notified using three different methods to maximize transparency. First, federal law should require lifetime federal tax contribution amounts, along with monthly and annual totals, to be printed on every single paystub, giving taxpayers easy access to these totals on every payday.
Second, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) should be required to mail every U.S. taxpayer a short annual report in the mail that displays monthly, annual and lifetime tax contribution amounts, along with simple charts breaking down the percentage of tax dollars spent by department, project type and a variety of other categories.
Can you imagine how many taxpayers would instantly think twice about voting for candidates who add to the national debt when they realize net interest is costing them well over $200 billion per year, a figure that is expected to rise to nearly $800 billion by 2024?
Third, federal law should require an online database that allows every citizen to log in to an easy-to-use website that contains all of the information mentioned above, as well additional in-depth data on government spending.
The average American will spend roughly $355,000 in taxes, when adjusted for inflation, over his lifetime, and couples who average $100,000 combined income per year will end up paying over $1.4 million in inflation-adjusted tax dollars. Unfortunately, most people never realize how much of their hard-earned money they are spending for corrupt, broken or inefficient services many of them never even use.
Instead, most Americans look forward to getting their tax refund checks each April and May, as if the government is doing them a great service by sending them back the money they should never have taken in the first place.
Democrats have been using tax tricks and shady tactics to fool voters into paying ever-higher rates for decades. It’s time for Republicans to turn the tables on Democrats by using policies that emphasize taxpayer transparency, thereby revealing to many what they didn’t already know: The problem isn’t the government lets you keep too much of your money. The real crisis stems from inept and uncompassionate lifetime politicians who are only interested in raiding your wallet — using guilt and a smile in order to advance their own political ambitions.
• Justin Haskins is a pro-liberty author and the editor at the Heartland Institute.