Professor Douglas J. Amy makes the case that, like the Tea Party protesters who demanded the government stay out of the business of regulating Medicare, most people take the benefits of government for granted.
Government benefits are also different because they are often less tangible than the goods we get from a store. These benefits frequently take the form not of the presence of something, but of the absence of something. Think of it this way: much of the job of government in our lives is to ensure that bad things don’t happen to us. We pay taxes so that our homes don’t get burgled, and our food doesn’t make us sick, our banks don't fail, and our bridges don’t collapse. In other words, often when people in government are doing their job right – nothing happens. No wonder no one notices. So while we really do get a lot for with our taxes, we often get it in a form that is largely invisible to us. This is one of the reasons why we too easily fall for the illusion that government is doing nothing for us.
Additionally, linguist George Lakoff argues that the rhetorical framing of the tax debate is partly to blame, as it contributes to the notion that hardworking taxpayers merely subsidize the wastes and excesses of Big Government without receiving any of the benefits themselves.
Conservatives have worked for decades to establish the metaphors of taxation as a burden, an affliction, and an unfair punishment – all of which require "relief." … And on the day that George W. Bush took office, the words tax relief started appearing in White House communiqués to the press and in official speeches and reports by conservatives. …The word relief evokes a frame in which there is a blameless Afflicted Person who we identify with and who has some Affliction, some pain or harm that is imposed by some external Cause-of-pain. Relief is the taking away of the pain or harm, and it is brought about by some Reliever-of-pain. … The term tax relief evokes all of this and more. Taxes, in this phrase, are the Affliction (the Crime), proponents of taxes are the Causes-of Affliction (the Villains), the taxpayer is the Afflicted Victim, and the proponents of "tax relief" are the Heroes who deserve the taxpayers' gratitude. Every time the phrase tax relief is used and heard or read by millions of people, the more this view of taxation as an affliction and conservatives as heroes gets reinforced.
There's a kind of immaturity about the notion that taxes should always be lower. Sensible tax policy should be concerned with setting ideal tax rates, not with seeking perpetually lower margins. It is a legitimate policy preference to desire a particular tax rate lower than exists today, and like any other policy preference, it's wholly appropriate to seek that end in budget negotiations. But to literally swear to never raise taxes under any circumstances is a bizarre practice, completely antithetical to the constitutional ideals of democratic deliberation and compromise. Setting fiscal policy is about navigating competing goals - economic growth, fiscal responsibility, moral fairness. To short circuit good faith policy deliberations with absolutist pledges not only precludes honest negotiations but could very well spell fiscal disaster if institutionalized gridlock becomes the norm.