This 1996 op-ed, originally published in The Washington Post, is as timely as ever.
I learn a lot watching C-SPAN. The other night, one of Washington's leading economists was asked about using the tax system to help reduce environmental damage. The response? It certainly would be difficult, because it would increase the `tax burden.'
`Tax burden' is a phrase with which we are all so familiar that we don't stop to think what it means--nor what it implies. At first blush it seems value-free. But plainly a `burden' is something to be lifted. We don't refer to the monies we spend on movies, popcorn, milk or shoes as `burdens.' We refer to them--and think of them--as expenditures, some (movies and popcorn) optional, others (food, shoes) necessary. We don't speak of our `consumption burden.' Why, then, a `tax burden'?