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Apr. 15 2010 - 5:58 pm | 793 views | 0 recommendations | 7 comments

J.K. Rowling on taxes and the welfare state

I imagine J.K. Rowling has a tax attorney working to make sure she gets whatever tax breaks she can, but I nevertheless agree with her sentiment here:

I chose to remain a domiciled taxpayer for a couple of reasons. The main one was that I wanted my children to grow up where I grew up, to have proper roots in a culture as old and magnificent as Britain’s. ….A second reason, however, was that I am indebted to the British welfare state; the very one that Mr Cameron would like to replace with charity handouts. When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net, threadbare though it had become under John Major’s Government, was there to break the fall. I cannot help feeling, therefore, that it would have been contemptible to scarper for the West Indies at the first sniff of a seven-figure royalty cheque. This, if you like, is my notion of patriotism.

The problem is that while paying taxes is indeed a patriotic thing to do, paying taxes that are much too high and are mismanaged by an inept government may in fact not be the best way to spend your money and may not, in fact, have the redistributive power one would hope for. Indeed, I’m not at all put off by the notion of a welfare state – I am put off by the notion of a badly mismanaged welfare state. Rowling is right to praise social safety nets. I believe they are an important part of a civilized society. But certainly that can be achieved without the sorts of abysmal tax rates that the British face. Far less intrusive and less expensive healthcare systems can be found in other European nations, for instance.

The point is you cannot simply boil it down to “pro-tax/pro-welfare state” vs. “anti-tax/anti-welfare state” and have a reasonable conversation. I don’t mind paying taxes but I do start to wonder at what my tax dollars are being used for. The past decade it appears a good portion of them have been used to make bombs, and that makes me more than a little uncomfortable.


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  1. collapse expand

    And not just the issue of how much tax to pay, but should it be managed by states or by the Federal government.

    I cringe at this notion that people automatically assume that asking to defund things at the Federal Level means that we don’t want those functions.

    But that’s sound bite politics for you…

  2. collapse expand

    “The point is you cannot simply boil it down to “pro-tax/pro-welfare state” vs. “anti-tax/anti-welfare state” and have a reasonable conversation.”

    Reasonable conversation? That’s so passe.

  3. collapse expand

    What do you expect when the top welfare recipient in the country, obama the street agitator, never held down a real job in his life

  4. collapse expand

    I read that for time ever in the history of the United States a record 47% of Americans do NOT pay any federal income tax.

    If true, this is a very troubling number. When half your citizens don’t pay any federal income taxes, you’re headed down the wrong path.

    At a minimum, every single taxpayer should pay at least $100 so they understand that the government and its services cost money.

    BTW — this has nothing to do with how much you charge the well-off. Although, believing that folks that make more than $200K per year are the wealthy elites is ridiculous. That depends on where you live.

    • collapse expand

      It is important to differentiate the “rich”, from the merely well-paid- a dentist, who could pretty easily clear $200,000 a year, once they have established a decent practice, are not “rich” and should be taxed accordingly. In fact, a proper progressive income tax code- like the ones we used to have before Ronald Reagan- does exactly that. Dentists were not taxed like billionaires- of course, there weren’t as many billionaires back then, the post-Reagan tax codes have done a damn good job of re-distributing wealth upwards. Fact is, the Middle-class, as producers as well as consumers, are the real generator of prosperity in this country- the wealthy investor class, who like to flatter themselves that they are, are not. Question: would a fair progressive tax code really be punitive to the rich? Getting cut down to a proper size hurts, whether or not it’s fair.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
    • collapse expand

      I imagine a good portion of those people, like me, paid federal payroll taxes, itemized on our paychecks, just not income taxes. Indeed, to avoid paying payroll taxes, your employer would have to be a tax cheat.

      I also suspect that that figure, even if correct, is skewed by high unemployment (a lack of income to be taxed) and stimulus tax rebates (which IMO would have been better spent on infrastructure projects, but that would have been too “socialist” apparently).

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  5. collapse expand

    J.K. Rowling is one of the coolest people on the planet–maybe the coolest. Give me a world run by Rowling, Paul Krugman, Barney Frank, Georgie Anne Geyer, Anthony Weiner, and….

    Sorry, got carried away. But I can dream.

    I have one major issue with how you present your point of view. You insist that “‘pro-tax/pro-welfare state’ vs. ‘anti-tax/anti-welfare state’” is a false dilemma, then you make it an issue of how taxes are used vs. not used. Sorry, but whether or not you agree with our taxes being used to make bombs, the bottom line is, do you want to pay them or do you not? When push comes to shove, i.e., when it becomes an issue of paying vs. avoiding them, that’s the either/or it turns into. Objecting to taxation because YOU don’t like what YOUR taxes are used for (or rate of taxation, etc.) puts you in the company of teabaggers, I’m afraid. You’re insisting on an option that logically does not exist, and which comes across as highly self-centered.

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