When Government Passes the Collection Plate
In his last State of the Union address, President Bush had a nice laugh line in response to recent pleas by some of our citizens to have their taxes raised. Noting that some “have said they would personally be happy to pay higher taxes,” Bush responded, “I welcome their enthusiasm. I’m pleased to report that the IRS accepts both checks and money orders.”
It seems that the Commonwealth of Virginia (and the state of Arkansas) have already beat him to the idea. From the Washington Times:
State lawmakers can rule out Virginian’s offering up more of their hard-earned money to fix the $1.4 billion budget shortfall Gov. Tim Kaine announced this week.
At least that is what a peek at the so-called “Tax Me More Fund” suggests.
Since its inception in 2002, the fund has collected a total of $10,217.04.
It was established a year after Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee challenged proponents of higher taxes to contribute to a similar program when he was governor of Arkansas.
Both programs provide generous taxpayers with a way to contribute more of their money into the state’s coffers and allow lawmakers to highlight the hypocritical nature of higher-tax advocates.
Of course, there’s nothing inherently hypocritical about saying that you’d like everyone’s taxes to be raised without voluntarily paying more in taxes all by yourself. If someone thinks, say, that we ought to intervene militarily in Darfur to prevent genocide, asking him why he isn’t currently in Darfur on patrol all by himself is not a very cogent objection. Still, things like the Tax Me More fund do deflate some of the claims to moral superiority of higher tax advocates. It’s easy to be generous with other people’s money, and saying that one is wants to be taxed more provided that others are taxed more as well doesn’t quite have the same noble ring to it.
The idea of a Tax Me More fund did getting me wondering, though. Suppose instead of going into the general revenues, money deposited in the fund went to some specific purpose – say, building a border fence, or school art programs. I suspect in that case the fund might get significantly more donations, though exactly how much more would be hard to say. If the use of fund money were rotated (every year, say) it might be any interesting experiment in what economists call “revealed preferences” as we would get to see, comparatively speaking, how much the populace’s passion on an issue was all talk, and to what degree people were willing to put their money where their mouth is.
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