I think of myself as a primarily economic blogger. However, in looking back over my posts, I realize that hasn't been true for a long time, I guess because I got tired of saying some of the same things repeatedly in different ways. In the last couple of years, who is active on Our Salon has changed, and so my self-image doesn't match what current bloggers have seen of me, so I think I'l repost a few old pieces.
This was originally published on March 20, 2014, both here and on Open Salon. When I started posting here, I double-posted damned near everything.
There's a major philosophical argument underpinning the major economic disputes in Congress, and it has to do with whom is owed what.
Why aren't we taxing the wealthy enough?
There are two justifications given. The first is that you don't overtax people who create jobs if you want them to create jobs. This argument is complete crap because it misdiagnoses the problem: The reason jobs aren't being created sufficiently in the United States is not that investors don't have enough capital, the reason is that they don't perceive enough demand for such investments to make business sense. They're right, of course: Wealth is so polarized that the United States suffers numerically from a shortage of paying customers. But putting more money in the hands of investors doesn't fix that, particularly when they already have enough money; to fix that, you need to put more money in the hands of customers, and that's exactly what Republicans seem to have religious objections to doing.
The second justification is that they don't deserve to be taxed more. They built businesses, they earned what they have, so why should we punish success? And, most particularly, why should we punish them in order to subsidize the Undeserving Poor?
To begin with, the people with this viewpoint always fail to notice that we're already subsidizing the Undeserving Rich. There are energy companies out there who pay zero in taxes but get payments from the Government - in other words, their taxes are actually Negative. There are companies that pay their employees so little that the Government has to assist those employees with programs like SNAP, meaning the Government is subsidizing labor costs for these companies (Wal-Mart is the biggest perpetrator of this). We subsidize the middle class and the wealthy with the mortgage deduction, though overall we don't subsidize the middle class enough. Taxes are far lower on investments than on labor but, given that business is more starved for demand from laborers than for investment, that's now backward from the standpoint of helping the economy, and why exactly do investors Deserve more than people who actually work? And then, of course, there's the low inheritance tax, subsidizing the great example of people who get rich but have done absolutely nothing to Earn it or deserve it.
But there's another myth attached to this viewpoint that people don't talk about:
People build businesses by themselves, without any help, and so they don't owe anyone anything,
particularly the Government, which primarily functions as an enormous bloodsucking regulatory burden.
They are, as they used to be called, Self-Made Men (and women).
So Mr. Self-Made Man gets up in the morning, grabs his coffeepot, turns on the fawcett to fill the pot with city water that's miraculously clean and potable, plugs in the coffeemaker which miraculously doesn't short out or set the house on fire as it makes coffee, takes a quick shower that drains into a city sewer system that miraculously takes away his waste water, swallows a couple of pills that miraculously work and miraculously don't make him sick or kill him, gets dressed and into his car that is miraculously not Unsafe At Any Speed, backs out of his driveway onto a road that's miraculously waiting for him, drives through intersections with traffic lights that are miraculously hung properly and that the other drivers on the road miraculously know how to interpret so they don't crash into him and kill him, drives past a policeman who's miraculously watching out for his safety, drives past a firehouse that's miraculously convenient in case his house catches fire from a faulty coffeemaker, parks at work near a streetlight that will miraculously light the way to his car if he gets out of work late, checks his e-mails over an internet that is miraculously available on his computer, reads them due to having been taught to read at public schools that were miraculously in the neighborhood and miraculously staffed with trained and certified teachers while he was growing up, writes a check to put in mail service that will miraculously take it anywhere in the country for under fifty cents, checks inventory that came in primarily on trucks driving on interstate highways that are miraculously in place, has to dash out to drop one of his employees off at the local airport to take a business flight that's miraculously safe, grabs a fast food lunch that miraculously doesn't make him sick and miraculously gives him nutritional information so he can watch his diet, then heads over to the local Chamber of Commerce for a meeting where he complains about high taxes and wonders aloud what in Hell the Government ever did for him.
I guess being rich means you're entitled to miracles,
or at least to pretend that you're self-made.
Somehow I just can't bring myself to view low taxes on the wealthy as a moral imperative. But, somehow, there are a lot of people in Congress who do.
And, somehow, that has to change.