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We can’t reduce the national debt without raising taxes

Have you paid your taxes yet? According to the IRS, most Americans have; only about 20 percent of tax filers wait until the last week they’re due to turn them in.

This year, those procrastinators get a couple of extra days. The IRS has extended the filing deadline to April 17 thanks to April 15 falling on Sunday.

The IRS says most of those filing this week have to write a check to the government, adding that most of the people qualifying for a refund have already filed.

Which makes sense, why wait until April to get money back from the government you weren’t supposed to pay.

But while that makes sense on an individual level, as national policy, it’s crazy.

According to the Tax Policy Center, about 46 percent of tax filers owe no federal income tax. Thanks to all the deductions and credits included in the 6,000-page U.S. Tax Code, nearly half of all tax filers don’t pay a tax.

That’s no way to fund a country.

Americans’ tax burden, according to an analysis in 2009 by USA TODAY, is at its lowest since the early 1950s. We’re paying fewer taxes than ever before, yet the government is spending money like sailors on shore leave.

There is this pernicious misbelief that nothing affects the economy more than taxes. Raise them and the economy goes down, lower them and the economy goes up.

It’s not true. Tax policy is one small part of an enormously complex American economy. President Reagan lowered taxes and the economy went up. Reagan raised taxes and the economy went up. George H.W Bush raised taxes and the economy went down. Bill Clinton raised taxes and the economy went up. George W. Bush lowered taxes and the economy crashed. Barrack Obama lowered taxes and the economy did nothing.

See a pattern? Neither do we.

The only pattern you can see with all of these presidents is they spent more money than they took in. In the 31 years since Reagan took office, the government has spent more than it received in every year but one.

So now the national debt is a few billion dollars short of $16 trillion.

What do we do about it? The Republicans want to tax less and spend less. The Democrats want to tax some people more and some people less but spend the same (or more, who really knows since they haven’t proposed a budget). Neither of those will work.

The only plan that will work, Simpson-Bowles, named after former Sen. Alan Simpson and former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles, would tax more and spend less.

Because it gores everyone’s ox, neither Democrats nor Republicans like it. So they didn’t pass it and debt continues to pile up while the Congress does nothing.

Nothing will have to become something soon. There is no way around the fact that we’re all going to have to pay for 30 years of profligacy.

One way or another, we’re all going to have to pay a tax.

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