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‘Tax burden’ is a term with its own political weight

September 9, 2011

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THE AUG. 29 article on Texas governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry compares the “tax burdens’’ in Texas, Massachusetts, and other states (“Perry’s jobs record draws applause, critics; Wages, benefits in Texas called low,’’ Page A1). That’s a term successfully introduced into the language by Republican consultants - fine if you’re reporting a political event, or writing for the editorial page.

Poverty is a burden. Chronic disease and unemployment are burdens. We might (but often don’t) fairly talk about the worldwide diabetes burden, the poverty burden in Texas, or the change in the unemployment burden in Massachusetts.

Taxes are an expense, with rates set (mostly) so that those who can pay, do, and those who really can’t, don’t.

We can talk about tax fairness and government efficiency, but unless the poor pay more than the rich, there’s no burden worth writing about.

Richard Saffran