Not only is the “taxpayer money” frame damaging, it doesn’t reflect how public spending actually works. A household or a business may have to stash or borrow money before it can spend any, but we are users of the currency. The U.S. government, which is the issuer of the currency, works differently: Congress votes to spend “new money” on something, then the Treasury and the Federal Reserve credit the relevant bank accounts, and...that’s it. The government has spent new money into existence. Later, Congress may tax “old money” back out of existence, but it isn’t collecting money in order to spend it. It’s “offsetting” earlier spending. It may also offset spending by bumping student loan rates, policing for profit, or various other activities. Although Congress taxes everyday people too heavily, calling public money “taxpayer money” makes as much sense as calling it “student debtor money” or “suspicious driver money.”
Look at a dollar bill, and you will see the signatures of its creators: not taxpayers, but the public officials who let the taxpayers hold it in the first place. Money doesn’t grow on rich people. We should heavily tax the billionaire class so we stop living in an oligarchy, but we don’t need private capital for public spending. The federal government doesn’t confiscate dollars and redistribute them. It uses its legal power to create and destroy them.
Margaret Thatcher’s mantra was backwards: There is no such thing as “taxpayer money,” only public money. Modern money is a creature of the public, and we should use it for public power. We are all the public, and we each deserve a clear, equal say in how our economy and society work, no matter how much we each pay in taxes. It’s time to claim our democratic rights.