No more “taxes”

Don’t argue. Reframe. Let’s use an example.

Conservatives are destroying progressives in the conceptual battle about taxes. They have created a framing that allows a wide swath of our elected officials and citizens alike to be fundamentally against any and all tax hikes without hesitation. They have convinced them that not only is this acceptable ethically, but in fact that it’s essential to our freedom as individuals.

Progressives know this attitude toward taxes to be a false framing. With fewer taxes we as a society and a community have less money for the roads, parks, education, social services, etc. that all of us can use regardless of income. We leave more money to the wealthy to stash away to only their benefit. We have more yachts and fewer services for poor children.


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“Taxes” at their core are actually a way for society to pool its money for the common good, to ensure that no one is left behind. Yes, corrupt governments can and do abuse and oppress people through taxes. But just, effective governments can and do use them to considerable benefit, especially for the poor and the middle classes. Just look at all the countries at the top of the Human Development Index. High tax rates seem to be working out pretty well for them!

In short, what we call “taxes” aren’t really a tax on us at all.

A “tax” is “strain or heavy demand” on something. It’s a burden. It’s sapping someone’s energy. “Tax” is an inherently negative word. Taxes are a strain. Taxes are bad. No more taxes.

When taxes work right, they are a significant burden only to the super rich. They are a benefit and source of great value for everyone else.

So then, why do we use the word “tax” to define our concept of money that is used for the greater good – for roads, schools, parks, aid to the poor. Every time we say “tax” we are infusing the concept with negativity, a sense that it is a drain on our freedom, a burden. We emphasize its negative effects and avoid its many, many benefits. Every time we say “tax”, we shoot ourselves in the foot.

What if instead, we said “public money”? In doing so, we reframe the core meaning behind this concept from one of the government taking to one of the public providing for itself, of the wealthy giving back to the society that helped generate their wealth. We change our understanding of the government as “them” to the government as “us.”

So stop arguing that taxes help people. Stop arguing that we should raise taxes. Linguistically, this makes no sense. Instead, make the very reasonable assertion that we should have more public money and less money for the super rich to hoard.

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