Presidential Words of Wisdom on Taxes

February 18, 2008

In honor of Presidents’ Day, we have compiled a list of quotes on tax policy from various U.S. presidents.

♦ Taxes, after all, are dues that we pay for the privileges of membership in an organized society.
—Franklin D. Roosevelt

♦ Excessive taxation … will carry reason and reflection to every man’s door, and particularly in the hour of election.
—Thomas Jefferson

♦ Unless we wish to hamper the people in their right to earn a living, we must have tax reform.
—Calvin Coolidge

♦ The power of taxing people and their property is essential to the very existence of government.
—James Madison

♦ The taxpayer—that’s someone who works for the federal government but doesn’t have to take the civil service examination.
—Ronald Reagan

♦ The goal to strive for is a poor government and a rich people.
—Andrew Johnson

♦ A government which lays taxes on the people not required by urgent public necessity and sound public policy is not a protector of liberty, but an instrument of tyranny. It condemns the citizen to servitude.
—Calvin Coolidge

♦ The government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.
—Ronald Reagan

♦ If we run into such debts as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our callings and our creeds, as the people of England are, our people, like them, must come to labor sixteen hours in the twenty-four, and give the earnings of fifteen of these to the government for their debts and daily expenses; And the sixteenth being insufficient to afford us bread, we must live, as they do now, on oatmeal and potatoes, have no time to think, no means of calling the mismanagers to account; but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains around the necks of our fellow sufferers; And this is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for a second, that second for a third, and so on ’til the bulk of the society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery, to have no sensibilities left but for sinning and suffering … And the forehorse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression.
—Thomas Jefferson


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