Government of the people, by the people, and incomprehensible to the people?

The Founders understood that the government of a Republic existed to serve its citizens, and not the other way around. In order for citizens to hold government responsible to this end, however, they must be able to actually understand what the government is doing.

Today, our government has strayed far from this path. Laws proliferate in such numbers that even lawmakers, let alone citizens, are left ignorant of legal intricacies. Bills can apparently even be passed without being read by their sponsors. Witness this exchange regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act (ObamaCare):

This week, President Obama and Speaker of the House Boehner are meeting to discuss potential action to be taken on the national debt, which currently exceeds $14 trillion, a number that few if any people can actually grasp. Looming large in their minds are questions concerning the U.S. Tax Code, arguably the most convoluted and confusing title of legislation in the country. The current code contains 11 subtitles and more than 9,800 sections. It has grown riddled with loopholes and provisos that favor special interests from every corner of society. While the much-touted exemptions from certain taxes granted to owners of corporate jets (section 4281) do provide a good example of this, they constitute only a tiny fraction of the problem.

The United States needs a tax code that its citizens can actually understand, as well as one that rewards productivity by allowing citizens of all levels of income to keep more of what they earn. A simplified tax code will benefit our country in multiple ways. It should set a principle of equality before the law by not favoring special interest groups as the current tax policy does. Businesses and individuals should not gain financial advantage based on catering to the political fads of the day, but should compete on an equal footing with consumer dollars as the reward for productivity. When interest groups spend money essentially lobbying for more money, productivity is lost. The resources invested in lobbying could both bring the company profit and increase America’s overall wealth if they were used to produce useful goods. A simplified tax code would send a clear message to special interests that money cannot buy them preferential treatment in Washington.

A popular understanding of the tax code would help to keep the government accountable, as people can quickly know how much tax they owe rather than sifting through pages of IRS regulations hoping that they didn’t miss a deduction. People deserve to know exactly how much of their money is used to finance their government, and in what ways. Businesses would also be able to make smarter decisions if they were confident of their tax burdens ahead of time. Of course, this demands a stable tax code as well as a simple one.

A flat-rate tax with fewer politics-based exemptions would empower both citizens and businesses in America while fighting the power of the IRS behemoth and special interests which seek gifts paid for by public funds. By closing loopholes and special credits, tax rates could be lowered across the system, encouraging both people and businesses to produce more. People produce more when they know that they will reap the benefits of their production, and such knowledge is only possible given a comprehensible tax code.


One thought on “Government of the people, by the people, and incomprehensible to the people?

  1. This reminded me of a hilarious and pithy article by the Journal Editorial Board a few years back. They were discussing Rep. Charlie Rangel’s taxcapades and said:

    “Plenty of Americans know how he feels since the IRS tax form might as well be in Spanish. The tax code now runs to some 67,000 pages, and Mr. Rangel has probably written a few thousand himself in his 38 years on Capitol Hill. If even the nation’s top tax writer can’t figure out what to declare as income, and what not to declare, how can the rest of us be expected to get it right?”

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