America is at a tipping point, and may have already crossed it, but there is a real problem when almost half of the country is getting revenue from the other half, and paying no taxes. The problem is that taxes are not, in and of themselves, a bad thing, as long as their purpose is properly understood.

Governments must have revenue in order to operate. A just government responds to the will of the people, but it cannot be compelled to do so unless there are means for the people to express their displeasure with that government, and those means have teeth. The one thing that government responds to is the threat of losing power, so the one thing that threatens the interests of the governing class is if the electorate is motivated to vote them out of office. An electorate that is fully engaged with government, that pays taxes and expects something for those taxes, is one that will vote intelligently, or at least vote in its own interests. A government whose revenues do not come from its constituents can act with impunity, and considers its citizens either a nuisance or a threat to its power. This is the relationship between the governments of the Middle East and their peoples. They derive their income from oil, and have no need to permit a functional economy, which would create pockets of wealth and power that would rival theirs. If the state oil revenues are sufficient, the people get a gilded chain, but it's still a chain.

Socialists envy the monarchs of the Middle East. They can rule by fiat, and as long as the people are fed and entertained (or exported to engage in jihad), the status quo favors them. The socialist's goal is to put as many people into this kind of modern welfare serfdom as possible, so that they will provide them with the power to compel the productive class to keep the money flowing. Eventually, of course, they run out of other people's money, as Margaret Thatcher famously observed, but until then, they get a lovely ride and the people that they keep in thrall see themselves as recipients of the governing class' largess, rather than as free citizens and equals.

Obama and the Democrats have complained about the rich paying lower rates for their income. Okay, let's call their bluff. There are two ways to do this. The first is to take the cost of government, divide it equally among every adult, and send a tax bill for that amount. The second is a flat rate on all income above a certain amount, with no loopholes. The first has the advantage of equally distributing the cost of government on everyone, and forcing people to really look at what they are paying for. The second is more egalitarian, and would still ensure that everyone pays their fair share. Neither of these is likely to pass, but the next best thing is an expansion of the tax base, a lowering of the overall rate and an elimination of loopholes. This is what house Republicans should be fighting for.