Psychological Implications of Taxation

City leaders across the U.S. are wrestling with how to manage rising homelessness and poverty.

From Seattle to Maryland, people are conceptualizing different plans and strategies. They are largely all the same, however: taxes on business.

There are hopes of raising $10m to $20m annually per cities like Seattle and at Silicon Valley, where homelessness abounds.

Our research shows that government imposed taxes, if anything, might offset the normal human moral obligation to aid their neighbor via philanthropy.

“Peak Philanthropy” and Other Contributors to the Great Migration

Taxes and ‘social programs’ tend to anaesthetize humans from experiencing the normal and natural pain of guilt we feel when we know and can see our neighbors are suffering. It reduces the natural human responses to such pains of guilt because “oh, that’s the governments job, not mine”.

If indeed the goal is to aid economically disadvantaged people, wouldn’t it make more sense to communicate respectfully and directly with people who are high net worth, by simply and kindly ‘asking’ them to direct dollars to economically disadvantaged people, opposed to forcing it with laws and taxes?

One top Seattle billionaire alone could rather easily give $100 billion to economically disadvantaged people through philanthropic investments once he nears the ‘distribution phase’ of his financial life. This far exceeds any measly $20m per year assessment. Literally, it would take 5,000 years of $20m /year tax payments to equal one $100 billion ‘gift’ to economically disadvantaged people.

The common taxation schemes being proposed just seem to be such a short sighted and impotent strategy to address the effects of wealth disparities. To the contrary, when we account for the psychological effect alone of taxation and social safety-net programs, it could be argued that taxation programs actually contribute more significantly to wealth disparities.

Beyond the psychological effects of taxation on contributing to wealth disparities, one must account for how such tax revenues are distributed by governments.

Few – if any – municipalities have laws to direct a majority of their funding to economically disadvantaged people. From large cities such as Seattle to small cities in Maryland, there are no preferences points given to applicants seeking jobs and can demonstrate that they have a low household income and net worth.  Even among the expansive list of protected traits in our progressive nation’s capital city, “poverty” is not a protected attribute.

Wealth disparities exist in part because governments have a proclivity to redistribute revenues back to people from higher net worth families, first. If anything, tax revenues are redistributed  indiscriminate of wealth. Wherein, by virtue of the proportion of Americans in poverty, the odds of wealth distribution to the poor is lower than the odds of wealth distribution to the family with median household net worth — $44k per adult nationally, while some smaller groups have median wealth well under $5,000.

Herein, structurally, taxation schemes themselves also contribute to wealth disparities. Thus, it becomes an inconvenient irony of the critique against the big businesses who bear the brunt of such taxation schemes.

Instead of taxing businesses and people to create a safety net, why not let Americans see the pain caused by their greed?  Publish and promote it more publicly, the effects to a society of choosing not to implement economic development principles that coincidentally were espoused by a man named Jesus.  When we ‘see’ the pain of those who suffer around us, that is when “guilt remains“, per His words in John 9:41.

It is possible that when we look at the history in America, only this natural and normal human response of ‘guilt’ has been effective in closing the wealth gap.

If however laws were to evolve regarding how Federal and State governments spent their $6+ trillion in annual revenues, what would it look like?

One of the premier academics leading research and dialogue on a government sponsored job guarantee program proposal is Dr. William Darity.

It’s certainly worth it to spend a few evenings after your workday binging on his lectures commonly found on the internet. He also sells books on Amazon. These are most accessible to the general public and it is worth it to support his research.

He investigates and aims to answer the oft-asked question of what should America do with its economically disadvantaged people?

Until such laws emerge, economically disadvantaged people are more likely to tell their children to attend college, and even groom them to believe that it is the only option after high school. Many economically disadvantaged students have aimed to honor this guidance given to them by their community and families.

However, the economic promise of the investments have often yielded very low returns of short term jobs or part time work. A full 40% of borrowers nationally may default on student loans, and in certain groups of borrowers from economically disadvantaged families, they are 5 times more likely to default.

Instead, they spend their time writing resumes to apply for employee positions and writing proposals to apply for large and small contracts, and every week only get rejection letters. At some point, these many millions of ‘full-time applicants’ must pick up their heads and realize what has become of their strivings.

In fact, the pattern of rejection letters may continue for the rest of their life, and the status of being economically disadvantaged with deeply negative net worth may not shift at all without taking a severely different course of financial actions.  There exists a strong possibility, that a certain constituency of people may never be invited to join the American economy, if for nothing else but to avoid exceeding the “natural rate” of employment.

In effect, the pattern of letters from U.S. employers become a palpable record and reflection of the morality of America, and that the 5x disparity in student loan default by race among college graduates is evidence of a society that remains morally corrupt. How to thrive in such a contemporary society where less than half of any success, can be attributed to personal accomplishments? Certainly, at minimum, it requires a different mindset and strategy from what was taught by previous generations.

Instead, accept that there may not be any broad shifts in morality for many generations to come. Economic disorder per entropy is normal, and it may take time – even several decades –  before a generation of Americans realize their immorality of greed, and respond naturally with an attitude and actions of graciousness and philanthropy.

Indeed, it will take the will and willingness of individual American people who decide to make philanthropic investments into the lives of an American demographic that remains economically disadvantaged.

Again, why not focus outreach and coordinated communications campaigns to the wealthiest 100,000 U.S. households?

Why not commit to groom a cohort and generation of young people who are willing to implement best practices for acquiring personal wealth, and who concomitantly are willing to give it all away to economically disadvantaged people who are interested in doing the same thing?

Jesus described His perspective of a “perfect” economic development plan in Matthew 19:21. Notably, He was speaking to a young person. Is there more that you can do to capture the hearts and attention of America’s young and talented people?

Be wary of taxation schemes as a purported cure-all for poverty.

Embrace a personal commitment to dedicate at least some portion of your wealth towards philanthropic investments directly into economically disadvantaged American people.

Author: pH14 Plan Staff

pH14 Plan is an economic development model for all U.S. households' participation. You can support this research by subscribing for more access, or contact us to make a gift.

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