Ex-ABC & CNNer on Taxes: 'Patriotic Duty' So 'Pay Up & Be Grateful!'

It's deadline day today for filing your federal income taxes -- and Walter Rodgers, a former ABC News and CNN correspondent is thrilled, proclaiming in a recent Christian Science Monitor op-ed: “I'm happy to pay my fair share to the government. It's part of my patriotic duty -- and it's a heckuva bargain.” Rodgers proceeded to scold “chest thumpers who paper their cars with chauvinistic bumper stickers and grumble about supporting the government of the country they profess to love” as they dare to complain about taxes:
There seems to be an inconsistency about people who insist on wearing flag pins in their lapels, but who grumble about paying taxes. My friends grouse about government as though they had minimal financial or moral obligation to support it. Are they not part of "We the people"?
Rodgers insisted that “reluctance to pay one's fair share flouts 'the better angels of our nature'” and “genuine patriots,” he contended, “don't complain about their patriotic obligations.” He concluded: “Pay up and be grateful!”

Rodgers has long believed Americans don't pay very much in taxes. Back on August 6, 1993, in a report for Good Morning America on the Clinton budget deal which raised income taxes, Rodgers acknowledged a downside to higher rates before pointing out how Americans pay less than most others:
There will be a ripple effect throughout the economy because of higher gas taxes and increased costs to small businesses. But on balance Americans will still be paying lower taxes than most of the rest of the world.
Of course, many Americans oppose higher taxes because they do not want this country to become more like socialistic European nations and see every tax hike as a step toward that reality.

The MRC's Clay Waters alerted me to the Rodgers op-ed that Waters saw excerpted in The Week magazine. The Rodgers op-ed, “Taxes -- my patriotic duty. Quit grumbling. Pay up and be grateful!” ran in the April 2 Christian Science Monitor, but is certainly timely today. An excerpt:

It's early April, which means these are the few days of the year when Americans of almost every political stripe unite in a perennial ritual: complaining about taxes.
....Count me out. I'm happy to pay my fair share to the government. It's part of my patriotic duty -- and it's a heckuva bargain.

"Taxes are what we pay for living in a civilized society." Those words are written in stone, so they must be true. They're there to read for anyone who bothers to look up as they stroll past those New Deal-era government buildings on Constitution Avenue in the nation's capital.

They are the words of former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Now there was a man! A patriotic taxpayer, not one of those chest thumpers who paper their cars with chauvinistic bumper stickers and grumble about supporting the government of the country they profess to love....

Federal income taxes are a terrific bargain in America. I like to tell my tax-grumbling friends about my last year in Israel, when the Knesset passed a new tax code that would've seized 70 percent of my income. When I lived in Berlin, my tax rate was 50 percent, and when I left England three years ago I was paying a 40 percent rate to support a gilded monarchy and a national healthcare system that did not function very well....

There seems to be an inconsistency about people who insist on wearing flag pins in their lapels, but who grumble about paying taxes. My friends grouse about government as though they had minimal financial or moral obligation to support it. Are they not part of "We the people"?

I never calculated how much I paid in taxes over a working lifetime, but I began when I was picking blueberries in Maine in 1954, so it must have been a lot – an awful lot. I am rather proud of my contribution to the US Treasury over a half century. My Social Security taxes have helped soften the blow of old age for many of the World War II and Korean War veterans. I hope my federal income taxes made the lives of woefully underpaid schoolteachers just a little more comfortable, helping with their Medicare or Medicaid bills....

And oh, by the way, the words carved in stone on that federal building are at 1111 Constitution Avenue. It's the headquarters of the Internal Revenue Service. Pay up and be grateful!
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center