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Think Out Loud

Philosophy of Taxes & Spending

Pete Springer/OPB

There’s been plenty tossed around about taxes this election season. But have you heard this? A former commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, Sheldon Cohen, once said:

“If you know the position a person takes on taxes, you can tell their whole philosophy.  The tax code, once you get to know it, embodies all the essence of life:  greed, politics, power, goodness and charity.”

Taxes and spending are part of every election, but as voters consider which candidates and ballot measures to support or reject this time, Think Out Loud decided to turn the political subject of government revenue on its head. Today we ask: what real life experiences have helped shape the way you relate to the tax system? Who or what has affected the way you view the government raising revenue and spending it?  

Taxes have provided grounds for debate throughout American history. The famed Boston Tea Party was in reaction to the British Crown giving tax breaks to the East India Company. The writer Henry Thoreau went to jail briefly in 1846 for tax evasion because he opposed the Spanish-American war. Three years later, Thoreau published his famous essay Civil Disobedience, which addresses the rights and duties of individuals to the government. Today, the Oregon Department of Revenue says (pdf) says that there is about a 20% gap between the amount of revenue the state collects and what it should collect.

What are the personal experiences that have affected your views on taxes and government spending? Were you influenced by a particular election? A specific person or event in your life? A career change? Starting a business? How does tax policy impact the way you vote?


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