A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Rob and Lauren Hudson: Letter of Common Ground about why government grows, Part 1

Letters for families based on the book “It Can Be Done” @studentsleadusa

Government grows because Americans want it to grow.Some Americans want higher taxes, more government spending, and more government programs. To pay for the programs, governments must spend more money by going into more debt, collecting more taxes, or both.

Larger government advocates argue that with capitalism, many people lose jobs and struggle. This is true. Free enterprise involves free movement of businesses, with changes in products and services. The latest products can make yesterday’s products obsolete, leading to job loss for employees who made yesterday’s product.

People can experience difficulties in free enterprise for a whole host of reasons. It’s simple. Larger government advocates believe people who don’t achieve success in our economy should be helped with government programs and governments payments.

Larger government advocates, who need voters to favor raising taxes on people earning more, present their arguments in many ways. They tell people that the rich do not pay their “fair share” in taxes. Through their votes, they think they should have the right to determine what “fair” means. But taking a high percentage of someone’s earnings, even if they are “rich,” still means we have taken property from them.

The top 1% of earners in America have often paid nearly 40% of all federal income taxes, which is more than the bottom 90% of lower earners combined. Meanwhile, the Tax Policy Center reported that in 2016 and 2017, approximately 40% of American households paid no federal income taxes. A high share for high earners, with the 0% share for lower earners, seems to aggressively tax higher earners. But many people still agree with “fair share” arguments.

We also hear a lot about how some people unfairly have too much, while others don’t have enough, resulting in “income inequality.” Through their votes, larger government advocates think they should have the right to do something to adjust incomes or wealth. This too can amount to a taking of property from someone.

Frost Brown Todd LLC Member Rob Hudson is a Past Chair of the Northern Kentucky Chamber and a business lawyer. 2018 Independent Author of the Year Lauren Hudson is a Singletary Scholar at the University of Kentucky. Their next letter will explore additional common ground about why government grows.

We do have wide gaps between incomes in America. We have not had a communist revolution that allows the government to control incomes and make them more equal. Indeed, the idea of unequal income is “baked into” our system, where people compete to develop skills and earn more. People who do not develop valuable, high demand-low supply skills will typically earn less.

Income inequality arguments implicitly suggest that high earners didn’t really earn what they receive. But we should always be focused more on whether a person who makes good decisions can make a decent living in America, not on whether some people do better than others. The fact that some people do better is immaterial, particularly when their gains often come from intellect, work, and smart decisions.

Larger government advocates aren’t always successful, but their message has at times appealed to nearly half, and sometimes more than half, of voting Americans. Over a series of decades, Americans voted for representatives who wanted our federal, state, and local governments to help citizens directly. Because majority rules, our representatives did just that.

Although Americans disagree on tax and spending amounts and purposes, common ground exists. Every person can agree that at very high levels of taxation, the government takes away a person’s right to keep earning and discourages further more efficient work. If we apply high levels of taxation to most Americans, it will be about more than taking money. As President Ronald Reagan said, “When we deprive people of what they have earned…we destroy their dignity and undermine their families.”

Americans will always have differences about how much financial aid should be provided by government. Most people support some level of aid to provide a safety net for those who need it. But in a free society, shouldn’t generosity with resources we earn usually be something we decide on our own terms, not someone else’s?

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One Comment

  1. Mark Nolan says:

    What wonderful humanitarians these two are. So appropriate at a time when only federal and state governments are capable of getting us through this crisis! Apparently, the key is that it is a free space filler.

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