Issues & Insights

Taxpayers Spend More To Prop Up Government Than They Do On Themselves

One would think that in a nation founded on liberty that we’d be free to spend more on personal consumption than the government takes from us. But that’s not the case. Americans are paying more in taxes than they spend on themselves. Anyone who thinks this is healthy has a profoundly warped sense of right and wrong.

In 2020, according to Terence P. Jeffrey at CNS News, who did the arithmetic using Bureau of Labor Statistics data, American “consumer units” – a BLS term – “spent a net total of $17,211.12 on taxes” sent to Washington, state capitals, and local halls of government. Meanwhile, they spent “only $16,839.89 on food, clothing, health care and entertainment combined.”

Apparently the tribute paid to government isn’t enough. Americans just have to “give” more. The Biden administration is expecting to extract trillions more from us to pay for government programs it hopes will cement a permanent Democratic majority in Washington. We’re told that the agenda will be paid for by hiking taxes on the rich, but the reality is, “in the end, average Americans, not the rich,” will have to “pick up the tab.”

A few on the left who are more honest about the plans and the worldview that informs those schemes will make the claim that every penny earned belongs to government, and we’re allowed to keep some of it for ourselves because government is a kind and charitable institution. Americans are certainly free to hold that opinion. But not one of them has the moral right to put such a perverted idea into practice.

Yet it happens every day. Politicians, not all but enough to engage in large-scale racketeering, believe the dollars they rob without a conscience from Americans belong to them.

It’s discouraging that the majority of lawmakers in this country don’t have the same understanding of taxation that 19th century French economist Frederic Bastiat did. He called it “legal plunder.”

Yes, we understand that the federal government needs financial resources to meet its constitutional obligations. It’s the same at the state and local levels – money is needed to fund government functions. But government functions have far exceeded the limits that define government in a truly free society, and the need for more money to fund them is far outstripping any legitimate need.

Few would be complaining about taxes in 2021 if the federal income was still a two‐​page form with two instruction pages, and a top rate of 6%, as it was when it first appeared in 1913 after passage of the 16th Amendment. In that initial year of revenue, 1914, the income tax took in $10 billion in today’s dollars. Now it takes more $2 trillion a year from Americans.

Of course we’re hit with a long list of additional taxes, all of them adding up to a burden no free man and woman should ever pay. If the trend continues, we’ll in the not too distant future be paying more to government than food, clothing, health care, entertainment and housing. There’s no future in that.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board

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I & I Editorial Board

The Issues and Insights Editorial Board has decades of experience in journalism, commentary and public policy.


  • This used to be a feature in Money Magazine over twenty years ago. The breakdown of one family’s expenses would invariably show that taxes were by far the biggest item in every family’s budget. It used to really frighten me. Now it just disgusts me.

  • I hear from time to time in Washington, that deficits don’t matter. If that’s the case, why pay taxes. It just adds to the deficit, which doesn’t matter!

  • It’s discouraging that the majority of lawmakers in this country don’t have the same understanding of taxation that 19th century French economist Frederic Bastiat did. He called it “legal plunder.” -I&I

    Populist grievances against taxes in France slowly simmered for two decades. The French “tax farmers” were among the many heads to meet the guillotine during the 19th century French revolution. USA socialist programs will be far more expensive than the $3.5 trillion phony cost projection, which is just a tiny down-payment on an expansive Utopian socialist welfare state. Hence, senator Warren et al. are by necessity floating varied wealth tax and death tax schemes, in addition to impoverishing and inflationary tax rate hikes that will lower the standard of living. Even a 100% death tax on anyone with more assets than debts would be woefully insufficient. The theory, like with Obamacare, is to get it passed, by hook or by crook, and figure out the rest later. The Utopian socialist welfare state scheme (scam) is “unsustainable”. It should be scrapped, and its authors and proponents driven out of town in tar and feathers.

  • When so many buy into the notion that they live in a “nation of laws”, all they have to see is that plunder is “legal” and they’re okay with it.
    Because there are people in the “nation” who put the obedience to moral principles above the obedience to “laws” you really can’t honestly claim that you have a “nation of laws”.
    It’s way past time for us to expose the lie.

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