With all the talk about taxing the rich, we hear very little talk about taxing the poor. Yet the marginal tax rate on someone living in poverty can sometimes be higher than the marginal tax rate on millionaires.
While it is true that nearly half the households in the country pay no income tax at all, the apparently simple word "tax" has many complications that can be a challenge for even professional economists to untangle.
If you define a tax as only those things that the government chooses to call a tax, you get a radically different picture from what you get when you say, "If it looks like a tax, acts like a tax and takes away your resources like a tax, then it's a tax."
One of the biggest, and one of the oldest, taxes in this latter sense is inflation. Governments have stolen their people's resources this way, not just for centuries, but for thousands of years.
Hyperinflation can take virtually your entire life's savings, without the government having to bother raising the official tax rate at all. The Weimar Republic in Germany in the 1920s had thousands of printing presses turning out vast amounts of money, which the government could then spend to pay for whatever it wanted to pay for.
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Thomas Sowell (photo)