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Tax Freedom Day: There's Nothing Free About It

by Jenny Erikson on April 14, 2012 at 7:46 PM

tax definitionTax Freedom Day arrives on April 17 this year, which coincidentally is also the last day you can file your 2011 tax returns without an extension. Every year, the Tax Foundation calculates exactly how long the average American must work to pay their share of the tax burden, before they can start keeping their earnings. 

In 1900, Tax Freedom Day was January 22.

Of course, this is isn’t a perfect calculation, considering that 47% of households pay no federal income tax at all. I’d hardly call that a fair share. If nearly half of America isn’t paying into the pot, then the higher income earners are picking up the slack. The top 10 percent of income earners pay a hefty 70 percent of the federal tax burden.

How did we get to this point as a nation? When did we get so comfortable handing over such a large portion of the money we earn ourselves to the government, which then decides how it should be spent? What if I don’t want to contribute to crack monkey research?

Taxes are a necessary evil, because government is a necessary evil. We need infrastructure and public safety entities. We need the military. We don’t need the government to decide what schools our kids should go to, what kind of cars we should drive, or tell us how to manage our own retirement accounts or health care.

Obamacare will absolutely raise our tax burden, while it simultaneously lowers our quality of care. $500 million of our tax dollars has been handed over to the IRS for the enforcement of purchasing health insurance. Not only is our money going to pay other people’s medical bills, we have the privilege paying to police the system. Is this the American dream? To trust the government, the people that brought us the DMV, with our health care needs?

A century ago, the majority of the taxes a person paid went to his or her local government. It wasn’t until WWII that the federal tax burden overcame local taxes, and it’s been that way ever since. What does the federal government know about our community needs? Why do we trust them more than our local municipalities? 

High taxes for entitlement programs are not patriotic. President Calvin Coolidge said it best: 

Under this republic, the rewards of industry belong to those who earn them. The only constitutional tax is the tax which ministers to public necessity. The property of the country belongs to the people of the country. Their title is absolute … I am opposed to extremely high rates because they produce little or no revenue, because they are bad for the country, and, finally, because they are wrong.

The average American worked 107 days this year to cover their portion of the tax bill. What did we get in return? Shrimp on treadmills. Your tax dollars at work, America.


Image via Alan Cleaver/Flickr

Filed Under: barack obama, economy, health care, in the news, politics, taxes


  • miche...


    April 14, 2012 at 7:51 PM

    We don't pay taxes and I feel a little guilty about it.  I do think that everyone should pay something - even if it is only a little bit.  I guess, technically we do pay, but then you factor in the earned income credit, and we get it all back (plus more).  I don't even like taking that, but it is a huge help to us.

    I justify it by not using medicaid or WIC.  Ha ha. 

    So as someone who is low income - yep, I think we ALL should pay some taxes.  And for me, I actually paid a little locally this year.  :) 

  • Whitn...


    April 14, 2012 at 8:03 PM

    @michele, great attitude:)

  • Cookie
    -- Nonmember comment from


    April 14, 2012 at 9:08 PM
    We got schools, roads, medicaid for low/no income and older people. Tax dollars go to so much. Its like the world is ending in all of your articles. Jeez.
  • mande...


    April 14, 2012 at 10:02 PM
    I just think the tax system needs revamped... On one hand I agree to some extent with the Buffett rule; BUT on the other end of the spectrum, we need changes, too. NO ONE should receive either a federal or state refund if they did not pay in. We have a whole bunch of people either not paying in and getting a refund or getting back a ton more than they paid in to begin with.
    That just isn't right. You shouldn't get money back that You didn't earn and didn't pay in.
    I'm for the Fair tax... It adjusts for poverty level, virtually eliminates the IRS, and everyone pays the same rate.
  • Mike M
    -- Nonmember comment from

    Mike M

    April 14, 2012 at 11:57 PM
    Jenny, I often don't agree with the arguments you make here, but I often read your posts as I am interested in learning more about your perceptions and desires. I generally am not swayed much when most of what you focus on is making arguments against whatever it is that you disagree with. What I feel would be more persuasive is if you were to discuss what it is that you want, why you want it, and how you feel it's better than whatever it is that you don't want/like. What I want to learn from reading your articles is how you feel that our country can be improved. (I'd also like it if you would go into the details - for example, I personally think that it's unfair for a family or single parent who's struggling just to pay their bills to be taxed equally to a wealthy family. I feel that all people deserve a high minimum quality of life and services, and that may mean that they pay lower taxes than the rich [or no taxes], or that minimum wage is raised enough so that less educated, unskilled, and disabled people can make enough money so that even a single parent with only a single job [so their kids can receive the love they deserve] is able to receive equal treatment [housing, food, health care, education, day care, schooling for their kids, time off, etc.] compared to others rather than suffer simply because of the situation that they're in. I don't know if you have similar feelings as you only make blanket statements such as the rich being taxed unfairly compared to others.)
  • Anon
    -- Nonmember comment from


    April 15, 2012 at 1:27 AM
    Sure, we should all pay our fair share. When I go to a restaurant, I pay for what I eat and the cost of someone making it and bringing it to me. If I eat half of what someone else eats, I pay less; not 50% less, but something less. If I eat twice as much, I pay more. I also pay a chunk of tax upon my bill. But for the most part, I pay based on what I eat. It does not matter how fat I already am, or how much money I have, or even how hungry I am. In any case, nobody at a restaurant is asked to pay many times the value of a meal, service, and overheads whether or not they actually eat at the restaurant. That's how our tax system works, though. I'm paying for a roomful of people's needs AND WANTS, plus politicians' whims (such as alternative energy, fetal stem cell research, aid to overseas organizations I don't agree with, etc.). And the worst part of it is, it will never be enough until I am bled completely dry. The funny thing is, I might do something good with my money if I had the choice. Like create an actual job for someone who wants to work.
  • Obliv...
    -- Nonmember comment from


    April 15, 2012 at 1:27 AM
    Your money is going to pay others healthcare now in the rom of higher insurance premiums because people who don't have insurance still seek treatment and leave the hospital without paying. Their bill is passed onto paying consumers so yes, I would CERTAINLY pay and desire to have my taxes allocated to police the market so it is more efficiently used. And the fine for not purchasing even just catastrophic insurance is part of what will go towards such. You seem to argue against the ACA purely on conservative principle and not because it actually does what you dislike, as some of the arguments you make against it are completely invalid and unfounded. I'm beginning to think your dislike of certain programs and concepts are purely out of dislike for a set of the population that doesn't look like you and not for actual economic reason.
  • Stacey
    -- Nonmember comment from


    April 15, 2012 at 6:12 AM
    Oh, the troubles of the rich. I feel SO bad for them. I love reading articles hearing them whine.
  • mamivon2


    April 15, 2012 at 8:33 AM

    It suck to be rich and have money..

  • Shannon
    -- Nonmember comment from


    April 15, 2012 at 9:15 AM
    As other posters have already said, we already pay other people's medical bills. Those with insurance pay higher premiums to offset the cost of those who can't afford healthcare and can't pay their bills. And the quality of our healthcare already sucks, even if you have insurance, because private insurance companies are businesses and they're interested in maximizing profit, not making sure everyone gets the right care. You know what's not right? Letting people get sick and die because they can't get quality healthcare.
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