Did you pay your taxes on time earlier this week? If you’re like most successful people in America, April 15 is not a good day for you. If you’re not so well-to-do, then tax day isn’t such a big deal.

But wait – all Americans pay income taxes, don’t they? And didn’t the Democrats teach us that “the rich” don’t pay much income taxes, and that taxes are largely the burden of the poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden?

If you believe such things, you’ve been misinformed. In the tax debate, the only tactic used by Democrats – who traditionally push for more taxes to support more social spending – is class warfare. They know they can’t get much money from the lower end of the earning scale, so they have to demonize rich people – the folks who can afford to be soaked.

Granted, there are Republicans who like to tax and spend as well. And though President Bush is pushing another tax cut – his second since taking office, a near-record for modern American leaders – the GOP has managed to bust the budget for the past few years by over-funding line items they once pledged to eliminate.

Again, though, that leaves the rich or, at a minimum, the upper earners in our society, to get bilked year in and year out to pay for all the money our leaders spend – more than $2 trillion a year at last count. To meet this gargantuan goal, it takes a tax system that punishes success.

According to tax data released by the IRS in 2000, the top 5 percent of wage earners pay nearly 57 percent of all income taxes collected annually; the top 10 percent pay 67.3 percent; the top 50 percent – get ready for it – pay more than 96 percent of all income taxes.

On the other end of the income scale, the bottom 50 percent of wage earners pay just 3.91 percent of income taxes. In all, the top 1 percent of earners pays 10 times the income taxes as the bottom 50 percent combined.

The National Center for Policy Analysis also provides some shocking statistics. In 1980, the top 5 percent of wage earners paid 36.8 percent of all federal income taxes; by 1988 that figure had risen to 45.5 percent. In 1992, the NCPA found, it rose to 46 percent, and by 1996 it had risen to a whopping 51 percent.

“Not only did the wealthy increase their share of total taxes, they also increased the percentage of their income paid in taxes,” said Bruce Bartlett, a senior fellow at NCPA.

And contrary to Democratic claims about Republican administrations catering only to big money, the rich got richer faster during the Clinton administration than at any other time in U.S. history.

While punishing success, our leaders blow billions on special interests. Citizens Against Government Waste, a taxpayer advocacy group, says this year it has identified a record $22.5 billion in pork barrel spending in its annual “Pig Book.”

That figure is “12 percent higher than last year’s eye-popping total of $20.1 billion,” CAGW said, noting that since publishing its first Pig Book in 1991, the group has found $162.5 billion in pork spending.

So where is our punitive tax system leading us? To answer that, we need only to look at history.

“… The fall of Rome was fundamentally due to economic deterioration resulting from excessive taxation, inflation and over-regulation,” writes Bartlett. “Higher and higher taxes failed to raise additional revenues because wealthier taxpayers could evade such taxes while the middle class – and its taxpaying capacity – were exterminated … In the end, there was no money left to pay the army, build forts or ships, or protect the frontier. The barbarian invasions, which were the final blow to the Roman state in the fifth century, were simply the culmination of three centuries of deterioration in the fiscal capacity of the state to defend itself.”

Oh, but that won’t happen to us because we’re Americans, right?

Yeah, right.

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