Taxation is inherently authoritarian, but it’s not necessarily unfair. What is unfair is a system in which 2 families with identical characteristics can pay wildly different amounts of tax based on their exploitation of vagaries of the tax code. Similarly, it is unfair for family A to pay 25% of their income in tax when family B pays 2%.
Former President Bill Clinton was busy today, again denying that policy makers bear any responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Apparently to Clinton and other liberal leaders, President Obama being one such, there is no correlation between their tax-and-redistribute agendas and resentment on the part of those burdened with the impact of the legislation they champion.
"We shouldn’t demonize the government or its public employees or its elected officials," Clinton said. "We can disagree with them, we can harshly criticize them. But when we turn them into an object of demonization, we increase the number of threats."
That’s certainly true. It is inappropriate to threaten harm to or physically act against any person in the absence of a threat or criminal activity.
However, political authorities whose public agenda is fundamentally premised on the idea that they have both the right and duty to forcibly take resources from one group of citizens to enrich another group would be wise to understand that they are in fact initiating hostile action against their own citizens and creating the conditions from which future confrontations will arise through their policies. Such confrontations are the inevitable and necessary result of government playing favorites among voters rather than performing its function in an impartial manner.
Unfortunately, this elementary fact is evidently lost, either deliberately or because of remarkable stupidity, on Democratic leaders and dignitaries like Mr. Clinton.
If President Obama wishes anti-government sentiment to decline, then perhaps he should redirect the efforts of his administration and Congress toward issues that the American people approve of rather than aggressively pursuing a left-wing agenda that is contrary to the wishes of the voting class.
What made Joe Stack, 53, a computer programmer with a history of trouble with the Internal Revenue Service, write a lengthy diatribe blasting the government in general and the IRS in particular, then deliberately take to the air and crash his private plane into an office building housing the IRS’ “office of last resort”, killing himself and another person believed to be an IRS employee?
To an observer such as myself, Stack’s actions don’t make a lot of sense. Whatever the man’s beef with the feds – and there are many legitimate reasons to have one – going out kamikaze-style, while vivid imagery, can have only one ending for the pilot, a painful death.
Further consider that the U.S. government, while having grown far beyond its Constitutional authority, is still relatively benign by comparison to other nations, even western ones. Why then does it so enrage a fringe element of society such individuals come to believe that homicidal attacks of revenge are their only recourse against it?
Here’s part of what Joe Stack had to say just before he dive-bombed the IRS building, killing a person believed to have worked with the agency:
Obviously Stack either didn’t take the time to sew the threads of his logic tightly together or he wasn’t fully capable of it. Nevertheless, he raises points that have been discussed in many homes and office buildings around this country of ours since the house of cards Wall Street built began to crumble a couple of years back.
What enrages arguably deranged individuals like Stack and ordinary Americans like myself and many others, including the much-maligned Tea Party crowd, is relative injustice of life as a working citizen of this country.
In absolute terms, Americans live the easiest and most enjoyable lives of any people on the planet. Opportunity abounds here and the vast majority of us live comfortable lives in which the most oppression we have to deal with is an overbearing superior on the job. Compared to those living in Ethiopia or Sudan or even relatively civilized countries like Egypt or Turkey, we have virtually nothing to complain about.
Yet we perceive injustice because the federal government has grown in the last century from an entity that was unable to levy a national income tax to one that seems to find it both necessary and desirable to expand its influence into virtually every aspect of private life, including the recent trend toward spying on Americans’ private communications and controlling our medical insurance programs.
As any student of psychology knows, the actuality of a person’s situation is not so important as his/her perception of that situation. Thus Joe Stack.
In truth, government is out of control in this country. Barack Obama’s brief reign in the presidency is the textbook example of what the Founding Fathers of this country were guarding against: a wasteful, bullying, confiscatorial federal government that does exactly what 51% of Congress wants it to do with no regard for the consequences their inept economic and social programs will have on future generations.
The question is not whether Stack had just cause to rebel but whether more will follow in his footsteps. I think not in great numbers. Despite the ruinous fiscal policies of the last 2 administrations, it is still possible for a hard-working American to do well and create a prosperous life for his/her family. So long as that’s true the government can rest easy that the masses will take their revolt little farther than the ballot box.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, there’s a Joe Stack lurking inside many Americans and the powers-that-be should beware lest he come out in full force against them, destroying the rest of us in the process.
Let’s pray that our leaders recognize, however, the finite and fast-approaching limits to their power.
More than that, let’s take our beef with the feds precisely to where the battle should be joined – at the aforementioned ballot box. Vote the current crop of tax-a-lot-and-spend-more-than-that Congressmen out of office. Elect new representatives who will cut spending, eliminate the wasteful bureaucracy, balance the budget, and reduce the deficit.
It’s our choice and our right to control what the people we send to Washington do. Exercise that right and there won’t be any more Joe Stacks. Fail to do so and he’ll be back with a vengeance.
David Brooks summarizes Michael Kazin thusly and captures the true American virtue in print almost by accident:
The idea is that free labor is the essence of Americanism. Hard-working ordinary people, who create wealth in material ways, are the moral backbone of the country. In this free, capitalist nation, people should be held responsible for their own output. Money should not be redistributed to those who do not work, and it should not be sucked off by condescending, manipulative elites.
I couldn’t have said it better myself. And I truly mean that.
In a short, direct article Scott Hodge debunks one of the radical left’s essential talking points, namely that the American rich don’t pay enough taxes to support their poorer countrymen. On the contrary, the U.S. system is more liberal than any other country in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD):
Indeed, the IRS data shows that in 2007—the most recent data available—the top 1 percent of taxpayers paid 40.4 percent of the total income taxes collected by the federal government. This is the highest percentage in modern history. By contrast, the top 1 percent paid 24.8 percent of the income tax burden in 1987, the year following the 1986 tax reform act.
Remarkably, the share of the tax burden borne by the top 1 percent now exceeds the share paid by the bottom 95 percent of taxpayers combined.
Hodge’s conclusion needs no further comment:
We are definitely overdue for some honesty in the debate over the progressivity of the nation’s tax burden before lawmakers enact any new taxes to pay for expanded health care.
An honest debate would be great. But the truth is, there’s nothing else to say.
Earlier today economist Dr. Arnold Kling made a short, sweet distinction between government taxation/wealth redistribution and charity that we’d all do well to bear in mind:
your generosity is reflected in what you do with your own money, not in what you do with other people’s money. If I give a lot of money to charity, then I am generous. If you give a smaller fraction of your money to charity, then you are less generous. But if you want to tax me in order to give my money to charity, that does not make you generous.
Ultimately, Kling says:
You can be a bleeding heart, but you show it by what you do, not what you advocate forcing other people to do.
It’s alarmingly easy to spend other peoples’ money solving the world’s problems. It’s also wildly inappropriate in a society with the fewest barriers to class mobility that has ever existed. Giving away the earnings of others is not generosity, it’s confiscation.
This fact is lost on the editors of the NY Times, who yesterday bemoaned a cut in estate taxes for the wealthiest American families.
Under today’s estate tax, which is retained in both the House version of the budget and in President Obama’s version, 99.8 percent of estates will never owe any estate tax. That’s because the tax applies only to estates that exceed $7 million per couple or $3.5 million for individuals, and a vast majority of American families are not and never will be that wealthy.
Perhaps not. I am certainly not going to meet that threshold in the absence of an unforeseen confluence of the Texas lottery and an act of God.
Nevertheless, the fact that a small minority of people are more successful than others is neither a justification to steal from them nor a mandate for the state to force their children to “earn their money the old-fashioned way”, it’s merely a policy of social engineering founded on the basis of guilty feelings.
Mark Steyn tries, probably in vain, to point out to Gen Y’ers exactly what their support for Barack Obama’s big-spending ways will mean to them and their children.
We want to help the sick and heal the planet by voting for massive unsustainable government programs. Like the young, we’re still finding ourselves, but when we find ourselves stuck with a medical bill or a foreclosure notice it’s great to be able to call home and say, “Whoops, I got into a bit of a hole this month. Do you think you could advance me a couple of trillion just to tide me over?” And if there’s no one at home but a couple of second-graders, who cares? In supporting the political class in its present behavior, America has gone to the bank and given its kids a massive breach-of-trust fund.
Just a little something to thank the powers-that-be for, kids. Sorry, but I did my best to make things go the other way.
Speaking of which, Glenn Reynolds has some incredible photos from the Cincinnati Tea Party where approximately 5000 people showed up to protest Mr. Obama’s massive expansion of the government debt – well over $1T of new debt in the next fiscal year alone.
I especially love this one that speaks directly to the point that Steyn made in his article, that it’s the children who will have to pay for the excesses of our current leadership:
Good for you folks who both took it to the streets and kept it peaceful today.
Michelle Bachmann, she of we-should-investigate-anti-American-members-of-Congress infamy, said today that Republicans must do whatever they can to keep Democrats from consolidating power during Barack Obama’s time in office:
they’re trying to consolidate power, so we need to do everything we can to thwart them at every turn to make sure that they aren’t able to, for all time, secure a power base that for all time can never be defeated.
Unfortunately I’m inclined to agree. It’s not that I want Barack Obama’s presidency to fail. I want him to lead this country on a road back to prosperity, balanced budgets, and smaller government. But he seems disinclined to pursue any of those objectives in any comprehensible fashion.
For the time being at least, anything that hinders Democrats in their efforts to spend my children’s financial resources before they’ve even had a chance to earn them has to be considered a good thing.
Their $700+B spending spree poorly disguised as a stimulus bill is an abomination and a blatant use of fear and confusion on the part of Democrats to reap political gain and economic leverage. Barack Obama’s plans for a $3.7T federal budget are even more grotesque. This is a man who pretended to be a moderate during the presidential election? Yes, but he was lying. There’s no other way to say it.
Democrats’ spending spree is perhaps the ultimate example of political cynicism. Like children whose lollipop was snatched away by an adult, Democrats wailed like colicky infants for the short time they were out of power and are now laser-focused on doling out all of the money they were denied the chance to spend during the last 12 years.
It must be emphasized that a prime motivation for this liberal largesse is, of course, that by giving away other people’s money now Democrats effectively buy votes in future elections. This is an obscene distortion of the democratic process and one that needs to be opposed, even if it’s by Republicans who are little better themselves.
Steve Hayward says that if Barack Obama’s trillion-dollar tax increase is implemented that he will go on strike in the fashion of John Galt, Ayn Rand’s famous lead in Atlas Shrugged.
…my bigger idea is to go all Randian and literally go on strike (and I’ve never really been much of a Rand fan, by the way–Whittaker Chambers had her down right). I’m going to start converting income opportunities into more leisure by deliberately reducing my income. Already between federal and state income taxes, self-employment taxes, the AMT, and phased-out dependent deductions as income rises, I’m at a marginal rate of about 50% on my last dollars earned from writing or anything else. So it will pay to keep below Obama’s high income threshold. I suspect a lot of self-employed people will make similar calculations and adjustments, and the revenue yield will be far below what Obama’s people project.
If the economic disincentives to work are pronounced enough, it’s certainly possible that others will follow in Hayward’s footsteps. Not sure what Steve means by a lot, however.
I suspect that most of the self-employed, who in many ways define ambition by their willingness to forsake the relative safety of corporate/government work, will continue to keep plugging along if only because their ventures require a certain amount of care and feeding in order to produce anything at all. But it also seems likely that small business owners will re-invest in their companies rather than pay higher marginal tax rates on money they pay themselves, thereby achieving some of the same impact as an outright strike.
As many of you know, I am a big-time admirer of Rand. However, it must be said that her work ignores some of the realities of life, the most poignant being children and the love, attention, and costs they bring with them. Pure individualists may disregard such concerns but for most of us they are the reality of why we work. That’s one reason why I don’t think that Hayward’s plan will lead to a mass Galtian movement.
The other is that, unlike the liberal fascist American government in Atlas, I seriously doubt that today’s liberals would: A) recognize that their policies are what is killing western civilization as we know it; or B) have the courage to admit it if they did realize the effect of what they are doing.
Then again, who is John Galt?
When Barack Obama selected Tom Daschle to be his secretary of Health and Human Services one of the last thinks he could have imagined was that Daschle was a 6-figure tax evader. Yet here we are again.
What is it with Democrats and taxes? According to Vice-President Joe Biden, paying taxes is a patriotic duty. The left was in lock-step agreement with Biden after he made this statement. The disconnect between the left’s ideals and the actions of their elite politicians is embarrassing.
Hilzoy says that the problem is one of entitlement:
Part of what bothers me about this is the sense of entitlement: the sense that having a car and driver is just one of those ordinary things that happen to a person, not worth noticing or thinking of as compensation or a gift.
While that’s certainly true, Daschle’s problem goes much deeper than a lack of awareness about the people and things in his environment. Daschle’s unreported income over the 3 years in question was nearly $340,000.
That’s several years of salary for me, a college grad with a master’s degree and a good job in the technology field. For Pete’s sake, how does a man who used to be a U.S. Senator forget that he was paid enough to provide for 7.5 average American families? Well, math is hard.
Unfortunately, the unreported income isn’t even the real issue. What’s particularly offensive about Daschle’s “problem” is the other correction that he had to make to pass legal muster: reducing his charitable contributions by $14,963.
Claiming extra itemized deductions doesn’t just happen by accident or through negligence.