Maybe that’s why entitlements are so popular

Nearly half of US households don’t pay taxes.

In recent years, credits for low- and middle-income families have grown so much that a family of four making as much as $50,000 will owe no federal income tax for 2009, as long as there are two children younger than 17, according to a separate analysis by the consulting firm Deloitte Tax.

[…]

The result is a tax system that exempts almost half the country from paying for programs that benefit everyone, including national defense, public safety, infrastructure and education. It is a system in which the top 10 percent of earners — households making an average of $366,400 in 2006 — paid about 73 percent of the income taxes collected by the federal government.

The bottom 40 percent, on average, make a profit from the federal income tax, meaning they get more money in tax credits than they would otherwise owe in taxes. For those people, the government sends them a payment.

“We have 50 percent of people who are getting something for nothing,” said Curtis Dubay, senior tax policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

Congress keeps passing entitlements because that’s what gets them reelected. People keep reelecting the same Congress-critters because most of them don’t experience – and therefore don’t believe in – the consequences of these huge entitlement programs. They’ve gotten used to the government giving them something for nothing. There’s a cognitive disconnect. The money has always been there, therefore it always will be there. They don’t care where the money comes from, because they have never needed to care.

These entitlement programs have been going on for a time that can be measured in whole generations. That builds an illusion of indefinite sustainability, because it’s a time frame that most people can’t comprehend unless they try – and there is very little prompting them to try that doesn’t get drowned out by voices that depend on keeping up the illusion. Eventually, an illusion like that gets to be self-sustaining. The concept of TANSTAAFL doesn’t compute, because there always has been a free lunch for them – and for their parents and grandparents.

Those who do understand – the 10 percent that paying 73 percent of the taxes – are outnumbered in what has become a blend between an almost pure democracy and an almost pure oligarchy. We have a representative government, but the representatives are almost uniformly from an “elite” class. We have a representative government, but almost all the representatives are subject to the whims of the majority to keep their positions – and can lose those positions if they do the wise thing, because it’s also the unpopular thing, or if they don’t do the irresponsible thing, just because it’s the popular thing. Thus the few who understand are drowned out by the many who don’t, and we get entitlement program after entitlement program, all premised on the illusion that they are indefinitely sustainable.

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