(Guest post by Emma White)
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick made the case for the importance of taxation the other day in the Washington Post, talking about the schools, roads, and other services our tax dollars pay for and closing:
I’d like to think that the most prosperous nation in human history can have both freedom and security. I think we have reached a point where my personal success is not threatened by a program to help our parents retire with dignity. Voters are smart enough to see that taxes are one of the ways we get those things. They are the price we pay for civilization.
Patrick’s words struck me as a contrast to Democrats’ typical silence or statements along the lines of the following from Harry Reid’s website:
I have led the fight to provide tax relief for working families, reinstate the state sales tax deduction, and reform the IRS. In today’s difficult economic climate, I understand how important it is to ensure tax relief is focused on providing help to hard-working families, and to encouraging investment and job creation.
Harry Reid argues that the “relief” should be concentrated on working and middle income families rather than the rich, but his language accepts the idea that taxes are a problem to be solved, rather than a tool to provide services we could not pay for or arrange as individuals.
The results of the recent deficit battle show the limits of this approach. When Democrats are afraid to challenge the Republican idea that taxes are part of the problem, we end up with $2.5 trillion in spending cuts that will largely hurt the middle class and the poor, and no tax increases or elimination of tax breaks like those that benefit private jets for CEOs.
Public opinion data and our experience working with clients on taxes and budget issues support a two-pronged communications approach:
Will most Americans ever be thrilled about the money that comes out of their paychecks or the check they write to pay their property taxes? I’m not going to go that far. But given time and consistent message discipline, I agree with Governor Patrick: voters are smart enough to see that taxes are how we pay for things we want.