Before we can rationally argue about levels of taxation and spending, we have to try to agree on what kind of nation we want. Toward this end, what are the questions to ask ourselves?
Let’s start at the very beginning: Should there be any advantages that accrue to being an American citizen? If so, should that include an assurance of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, to quote the Declaration of Independence?
In other words, should we try to “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity”, to quote the preamble to the Constitution?
If we favor these things, how are they to be established, insured, provided, promoted, or secured? Ad hoc, catch as catch can, or collectively, as a society?
If they are to be accomplished as a society, what is an effective way to organize the effort?
The obvious answer is government–local, state, and federal. Our forebears already figured out the answer, which is why we have a Declaration of Independence and a Constitution.
Who disagrees with the intent of these documents? Who wants a nation marred by poverty, uncertainty, enmity, and fear?
The evidence is that Americans agree with the goals and the organization expressed in the Declaration and the Constitution. That is why we have public schools, interstate highways, a strong military, unemployment insurance, Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, state and national parks, corporate charters, and much more, along with regulations and oversight to keep everything running smoothly and honestly.
All of these things are, in fact, our American birthright, and all cost money to implement and maintain. That spending is why we have taxes rather than, say, alms boxes near schools, highways, and military bases.
So let’s argue about taxation and spending, but let’s keep in mind what we want to have and what we want to be as Americans. Let’s keep in mind what it costs to actually be the nation we claim we want to be, and let’s tax and spend accordingly.