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Breathless critics just love Tax Day

Abolish the IRS!

That was the demand Mike Huckabee, a leading Republican presidential contender, sent forth Tuesday, also known as Tax Day.

More specifically, Huckabee sought 100,000 signatures on a petition claiming: “The IRS is a criminal enterprise, and it is time to eliminate the IRS once and for all. If you agree sign our petition to ABOLISH the IRS.”

The tagline under Huckabee’s name? “The corner of conservatism & common sense.”

Common sense? April 15 is Political Haymaking Day for far-right conservatives. But there’s no common sense in declaring the IRS a criminal enterprise and seeking to abolish it.

Look, no one likes paying taxes, particularly when at least some of the money is certainly wasted. But there’s a big difference between reluctantly contributing toward the basic pillars of a first-world country and portraying any taxes as communism and any tax collection agency as criminal.

Where do all those federal tax dollars go, anyway? More than 70 percent go to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, defense and interest on the debt. That leaves a little more than 20 cents of every dollar to spend on clean air and water, educating children, maintaining roads and caring for veterans, among many other things. Americans should certainly debate how taxes are spent, but they might find it tougher than they think when they are confronted by the numbers.

The income tax burden conservatives bemoaned on Tuesday is near the lowest it has been in the past 100 years. And that’s with the U.S. government borrowing a couple billion dollars a day. Imagine what taxes would be if we actually paid as we went for all that we spend! (A McClatchy-Marist poll released Monday found that a majority of Americans actually think they pay about the right amount in federal taxes. About 56 percent said so, including 48 percent of Republicans.)

On Tax Day, instead of arguing over abolishing the IRS, we should be discussing how to improve the overly complicated tax code. For starters, we should not eliminate the very aspects that most encourage people to work. Low-income workers filed for the N.C. earned income tax credit for the last time on Tuesday. State legislators killed the credit, which Ronald Reagan supported nationally and which goes only to low-income people who have a job.

That’s what passes for popular politics in this day and age.

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