Between the Lines

Between the Lines by David Lias Ron Williamson, a state legislator and president of the Great Plains Public Policy Institute in Sioux Falls, noted in a press release this week that although federal income taxes were due this week (April 15), Americans will have to work from Jan. 1 until April 19 to pay their taxes.

Americans work longer to pay for government than they do for food, clothing and shelter combined.

There is some joy for 2003 in that April 19 is the same date as for 2002, so our tax burden did not increase and it is eight days earlier than 2001 and 11 days earlier than 2000.

The good news for South Dakotans is that we only had to work until April 8 to pay our taxes.

South Dakota ranks 41st in the number of days required to work to pay taxes. If you live in Minnesota you work until April 23 (ranked 7); in Wyoming you work until April 21 (ranked 10); in Iowa you work until April 11 (ranked 35); in Nebraska you work until April 12 (ranked 33); in North Dakota you work until April 11 (ranked 36); and in Montana you work until April 9 (ranked 37).

It�s evident that former Rep. John Thune, who spoke at USD Monday, would like to see us work fewer and fewer days for Uncle Sam.

He hopes President Bush�s proposal for another significant federal tax cut doesn�t cut sidetracked in the Senate.

Thune said Bush�s tax cut plan will stimulate the economy, and will offset spending on the war in Iraq and on homeland security.

It may be hard to notice, but we have made some progress in recent years. Back in 1998, May 10 was named Tax Freedom Day � a concept dreamed up by the Tax Foundation to illustrate the steady growth in taxes at all levels of government over the years.

It is not a static date, like July 4, but a very moveable festival � almost inevitably moving forward on the calendar � until recently.

In fact, this year we�ll be celebrating (if you can call it that) one of the earliest Tax Freedom Days in recent history.

Tax Freedom Day is the day when average Americans stop working to pay government�s bills and start working to pay their own.

They spent 129 days, from Jan. 1, 1997 to May 9, 1997 � about 35 percent of the year � or an hour and fifty minutes of

each eight-hour day to pay the IRS (state taxes add another 57 minutes).

Tax Day fell three days later in 1998 than it did in 1997. As recently as 1992, it fell on April 30 � marking the end of a five-year decline from 1987, when it fell on May 4. The last record was set in 1981 on May 5, before the Reagan tax cuts and California�s Prop. 13 rolled it temporarily back into April.

The fact that our tax freedom day has been pushed ahead sometime in May to late April is cause for celebration. The joy, however, is short-lived when you start to realize the financial impact the government had on citizens� pocketbooks for most of its history.

Consider this:

From 1776 until the early 1900s, total government spending seldom rose above 10 percent of national income (except in wartime).

In 1913, Tax Freedom day fell on Jan. 30.

By 1940, FDR�s New Deal had advanced it to March 8.

As LBJ�s Great Society programs and the Vietnam War devoured government revenues, it fast-forwarded to April 30 by 1969.

As for the future? In 1998, Tax Foundation economists forecast that the average American�s tax burden would continue to rise through the end of the 1990s, and they were right.

That tax bite is already profound � the median American family already pays more for taxes than for housing, food, clothing and medical care combined.

Putting a different spin on the way Americans envision their tax burden, the Tax Foundation examined the portion of each eight hour working day necessary to pay federal, state, and local taxes.

In 1997, the Foundation discovered that the average American spent 2 hours and 49 minutes each working day to pay the necessary federal, state, and local taxes. This is more time than it takes to pay for food, shelter, and clothing. Most of this time, 1 hour and 53 minutes, covers the federal tax portion. The remainder, 56 minutes, covers state and local taxes.

Even out of office,

Thune seen as threat

You�d never know John Thune was no longer a member of Congress. Monday, he spoke about a variety of national and global issues during his time at USD. He clearly showed signs that he�s keeping up with what�s going on in Washington.

That may explain why letter-writers are attacking Thune, even though he hasn�t decided to seek office in 2004.

Jan Bonsall of Sioux Falls writes that �?Thune is as slick as his greasy hair.� Carolyn Woodley, also of Sioux Falls, is critical of Thune for being, well, critical, of Sen. Tom Daschle.

Wow. State Democrats must really feel threatened. It will be 19 months before we go to the polls to elect a U.S. senator.

Already, the mudslinging has begun.

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