In last week's Liberty Update, we highlighted the Heritage Foundation's 2022 Index of Economic Freedom…
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Image of the Day: More Economic Freedom = Higher Standard of Living

In last week's Liberty Update, we highlighted the Heritage Foundation's 2022 Index of Economic Freedom, which shows that Joe Biden has dragged the U.S. down to 22nd, our lowest rank ever (we placed 4th in the first Index in 1995, and climbed back up from 18th to 12th under President Trump).  As we noted, among the Index's invaluable metrics is how it demonstrates the objective correlation between more economic freedom and higher citizen standards of living, which this graphic illustrates:

 …[more]

May 19, 2022 • 12:53 PM

Liberty Update

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The Taxman Cometh Print
By Troy Senik
Thursday, April 09 2015
If you really want tax reform, here’s a proposal: Do away with withholding altogether.

Rand Paul is usually a pretty politically savvy guy, but he made a mistake when it came time to announce his presidential candidacy. Had the Kentucky Senator really wanted to prime voters for his anti-government message, he would’ve waited a week and announced his candidacy on April 15: Tax Day.

If, like me, you’ve spent the past few weeks waist-deep in receipts, desperately trying to figure out what does and doesn’t count as a deduction, and generally spending most of your free time as an unpaid bookkeeper for the federal government, you might be sympathetic to a candidate who argues that Americans pay far too much for government and get far too little in return.

Isn’t that, in the end, what most of our griping is about? You don’t have to take the hard libertarian line that all taxation is theft to be disenchanted with the current system. The realization that we get precious little value for all the hard-earned wages we send to Washington is more than sufficient to fuel the outrage.

Imagine for a moment how things would be different if we lived in a world where the government had to invoice us for services rendered rather than just collecting the money in a lump sum.

Most of us would happily pay for our share of national defense (some, of course, would attempt to free-ride on the system, which is why we have taxes in the first place). We wouldn’t think twice about paying for police, fire fighters and a functioning court system. We’d happily foot the bill to maintain our roads and keep our air and water clean. We’d cut a check to take care of the genuinely indigent.

But when we get billed for the Social Security payments — supposedly being held for our benefit — that we’ll never get back? When we’re asked to pay billions of dollars to farmers for not growing anything? When we’re asked to foot a bill that runs over a million dollars so that international contractors can throw lavish parties? There would be riots in the streets.

And that, of course, is why we don’t live in that world. Instead, we live in one where Washington attempts to keep the entire tax system as opaque as possible. Not only do we not know what we’re paying for, many of us don’t even know how much we’re paying.

If you’re one of the many Americans who has taxes withheld from your paycheck throughout the year, the entire affair is a total abstraction. Yes, you can see the totals that government confiscates from you on every pay stub, but what’s the big deal? It’s not like that money was ever really yours anyway—at least that’s the mindset that the federal government is trying to foster. Withholding is Washington’s great anesthetic. You don’t feel a thing.

Moreover, when it comes to the actual process of filing a tax return, most Americans outsource the work to an accountant or a software program like TurboTax. There’s a good reason for that: at nearly 75,000 pages, the tax code is basically impenetrable.  When it comes to consequential works that nobody’s actually read, it’s right up there with A Brief History of Time.

The remedy that’s usually proposed for this mess is tax simplification via something like a flat tax or replacing income taxes with a national consumption tax. While both of those alternatives would be infinitely preferable to the status quo, I’m skeptical that we’ll see either one anytime soon.

Washington has simply made our subservience too comfortable. Not only does the withholding system mask the damage, it also twists our psychology. After all, most Americans are thrilled when they receive their tax refund. Imagine that: being ecstatic that you basically gave Uncle Sam an interest-free loan. It’s nothing short of Stockholm Syndrome.

If you really want tax reform, here’s a proposal: Do away with withholding altogether. Make every American live like an independent contractor, squirreling away money throughout the year and then going through the quarterly bloodletting of writing an enormous check to the Treasury Department. The calls for tax reform would be deafening by lunchtime. Take away the anesthetic and the center cannot hold.

Quiz Question   
How many days does it take the average U.S. household to consume as much electrical power as one single bitcoin transaction?
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Notable Quote   
 
"The trial of former Clinton campaign attorney Michael Sussmann crossed a critical threshold Friday when a key witness uttered the name 'Hillary Clinton' in conjunction with a plan to spread the false Alfa Bank Russian collusion claim before the 2016 presidential election.For Democrats and many in the media, Hillary Clinton has long held a Voldemort-like status as 'She who must not be named' in scandals…[more]
 
 
—Jonathan Turley, Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University
— Jonathan Turley, Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University
 
Liberty Poll   

Should any U.S. government agency have a function called the "Disinformation Governance Board" (See Homeland Security, Department of)?