Michael J. Graetz, "The Power to Destroy: How the Antitax Movement Hijacked America" (Princeton UP, 2024)


The anti-tax movement is "the most important overlooked social and political movement of the last half century", according to our guest Michael J. Graetz. 

In his book The Power to Destroy: How the Antitax Movement Hijacked America (Princeton UP, 2024), Graetz chronicles the movement from a fringe theory promoted by zealous outsiders using false economic claims and thinly veiled racist rhetoric to a highly organized mainstream lobbying force, funded by billionaires, that dominates and distorts politics. 

Building on vague and disproven theories about "supply side" economics, the movement has undermined long-held beliefs that taxes are a reasonable price to pay for civil society, sound infrastructure, national security, and shared prosperity. 

Leaders have attacked the IRS, protected tax loopholes, and pushed aggressively for tax cuts from Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump. Also known as "trickle-down" or "voodoo" economics, these theories falsely claim that tax cuts will pay for themselves, when in fact they have led to the need for increased debt, including massive foreign debt, to pay for critical national investments. 

The antitax movement has expanded to include anti-government ideas and now, as told by Graetz, threatens the nation’s social safety net, increases inequality, saps American financial strength, and undermines the status of the US dollar.

In 1819, Chief Justice John Marshall declared that the power to tax entails “the power to destroy.” In this book Graetz argues that it is the antitax movement itself that wields this destructive power. 

Suggested reading: Cloud Cuckoo Land, by Anthony Doerr

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Meghan Cochran

Meghan Cochran studies human systems of belief, both as a technologist and as a student of religion, business, and literature.
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