Every political campaign I've seen shrivels up into a pathetic excuse for a retort when trying to explain why tax cuts don't provide benefits equal to social programs. Politicians seem afraid of saying those words. Even Canada's left-wing NDP leader Jack Layton, who campaigned in 2008 on the importance of families' "kitchen table concerns" stumbled when confronted with the opportunity to discredit his opponent's plan that offered nothing but tax cuts. As if afraid of provoking a mass race for the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, we don't even want to think it out loud. Yet it's true.
Not only do not all people pay taxes, but non-taxpayers are in fact citizens and people, with the same rights as the rest of us. They are often the most vulnerable people in our society, those most in need of some form of government/community support. They are people with annual incomes so small it's a miracle they survive, and single parents whose family responsibilities make it impossible for them to work enough to "get ahead," and people born under fate's unhappy hand, disabled or injured, unable to achieve the American dream of self-sufficiency. They are the people at the very bottom of the gap between the rich and the poor, and closing that gap depends on our ability (as a society) to help improve their standard of living, which cannot be accomplished with tax cuts because, say it with me, not all people pay taxes.
The function of a tax cut is to offer a reduction in the taxes a person must pay. In general, this means a small amount of the taxes a person paid are returned to them at the end of the fiscal year, once they file their taxes. Tax cuts aren't inherently anything -- good or bad -- but what they are is misrepresented. I am so sick of hearing politicians promise to look after our society's most vulnerable with tax cuts, to take care of those who are the hardest hit by requiring that they pay fewer taxes. The principle is a shockingly simple one: the more money you have, they more taxes you pay, the more you benefit from tax cuts. Thus, the converse is also true: the less you have, the less you stand to gain. Whatever tax cuts are, they aren't a way of helping those who need it the most. It is a kind of bigotry I haven't even come up with a name for yet to suggest that only tax payers need or deserve help paying for childcare or public transit, but it's exactly what we're practicing when we give lip service to policies that "help struggling people afford the basics" by giving them another bloody tax cut. For those who don't pay taxes, tax cuts are worth nothing.
...and yes, I am a tax payer. However, I know full well that income should have shit all to do with citizenship. Hell, I'd feel a lot better about the 1/3 of my paycheck that I never see if it were going to programs instead of tax cuts and bailouts. Then I could believe, at least to some extent, that my tax dollars were helping.