Giving poor a free ride on taxes labels them as less than citizens

There's a lot of things I could pick on concerning our current tax system, but let's start with this one: All citizens of voting age - rich and poor - should pay income taxes.

(This pause is to allow my fellow liberals time to get properly incensed about how unfeeling I am wanting to tax those who can barely eke out a living.)

As it stands now, the poorest adults in this country pay no income taxes. This has been the result of goodhearted politicians (or possibly those with darker motives) to help ease the burden of the poor.

Though their hearts may be in the right place, their brains aren't.

Exempting the poor from income taxes has two negative effects that override whatever good they do.

First, a person who pays no taxes will most likely not care how they are spent. In business terms, they have no skin in the game.

Exempting them from taxes only serves to remove them from the loop of responsibility. We have made them dependent on a system with which they have no connection or interest in, other than what they get out of it.

Even taxing their incomes at 1 percent would put them back into the game. They can see that money coming out of their paychecks, see it at the end of the year on their tax returns, think about it when they step into the voting booth.

The second negative effect is what this exemption does to the rest of us. Reading some of the current comments from readers on, it's obvious that people who do pay taxes look down on the poor because, in part, they don't pay anything. There is an undercurrent that these non-payers are less equal, that we shouldn't listen to them.

Conservatives noted that under Bush's tax cuts, the exemptions for the poor was increased. Liberals replied that poverty increased also. Both sides were treating the poor like a volleyball.

We need to see the poor as taxpayers, not leeches. Yes, many of them will be receiving more in government services than they take in, but they also would be paying in, not just taking. They would help, at least in a small way, to pay for the social safety net that keeps them afloat.

We all deserve to be taxed for living in this land of opportunity. Exempting someone from this responsibility only makes him or her less of a citizen.

n Kirk Caraway is the Appeal's Internet editor. Contact him at


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