By Amy Willis
What are you glad your tax dollars pay for? What are you upset your tax dollars pay for? These are just some of the questions this week’s EconTalk guest, Vanessa Willamson of the Brookings Institution, asked a group of American adults. What she found about the way Americans think about their taxes may surprise you…
So let’s hear about it. Have you read Willamson’s new book, Read My Lips: Why Americans Are Proud to Pay Taxes? If not, will this week’s episode encourage you to do so? How did this week’s conversation influence the way you feel about paying your own taxes?
1. The conversation begins with a discussion of some of the most common misconceptions Americans have about the taxes they pay. Which of these most surprised you, and why?
2. Regarding tax policy, Williamson says that, “part of policy-making is making what government does visible.” Arnold Kling has talked a great deal about what he calls “the three languages of politics.” How would the adherents of each “language-” progressive, conservative, and libertarian- react to this claim? To what extent are people’s views about taxation a reflection of their ideology?
3. What sorts of small changes to tax policy do Roberts and Willamson suggest to make tax incidence more visible to taxpayers? What suggestions can you add, and to what extent do you think such changes can be successful?
4. Williamson suggests that the most important thing to remember when thinking about tax policy is that we share common goals. To what extent do you think that’s true? (And who is the “we” of whom she speaks?)