Why higher taxes are not the answer

Victor Davis Hanson hits it out of the park with his post explaining why higher taxes are not the answer.  Some of his twelve reasons are better than others, but all are worthy of your consideration.  This is my favorite of the twelve, but I think you’ll like them all:

2) Inequality?

Liberals reply that income inequality is worse than ever. (Note here in their own lives they have no problem with other “merit”-based inequality: e.g., Why can’t Johnny Depp turn down a couple of roles so other less fortunate actors could star? Why doesn’t Cornel West at last break up his endowed mega-salaried professorship into three or four lectureships for the struggling part-timers? Why doesn’t Maureen Dowd go down to one column every other week to allow less compensated New York Times op-ed writers a chance to catch up? In other words, why not back off from the trough and let others have a go?) But back to income inequality: some of those figures are not just attributable to the proliferation of $200,000 orthodontists, but to factoring in the mega-fortunes of a Johnny Depp ($50 million last year in income alone) or a Warren Buffett. The onset of a globalized market allowed a new top bracket to make tens of millions of dollars, a world away from the lesser professional. There is no aggregate homogenous group of “the wealthy.” My big-farming near neighbor (500 acres in vineyard plus), who probably nets $300,000 on a rare good raisin year like this one, is a world away from the late Steve Jobs or the thousands of million-dollar-plus incomes in Silicon Valley. This incongruence is not a rhetorical point or special pleading, but evident through the president’s own rhetoric: “Millionaires and billionaires” is a deliberate attempt to weld two disparate groups together — one making 1000 times the other (if the president is talking of annual income), or one worth 1000 times more than the other (if the president is talking about net worth). But is the Menlo Park bungalow owner who teaches at Foothill College and might be “worth” $1 million (given housing inflation) really comparable to Meg Whitman? Mr. Obama knows that there is not enough of the 1% of the 1% to come up with enough revenue to cover his new $4 trillion in debt, but does he think that by going after the top 5% or 10%, well, there just may be?

I’m actually sensitive to this comparison issue, because Marin skews things. In most other parts of America (other than the other rich liberal enclaves scattered about America), we’d be rich. In Marin, we’re squarely in the middle. Because prices here are so ridiculously high, we live in a middle house, drive middle cars, shop at middle stores, and send our kids to public schools. If we had the same income in Kansas or Texas, we’d be much more comfortably situated — and in Texas, we wouldn’t be turning more than 50% of our money over to the government (state, federal and local).

Of course, we could move, but I like it here:  our house is near my aged mother who is too old to be relocated; the temperate climate suits me, because I’m a wuss; and our neighborhood is unique by any standards, providing a truly perfect backdrop to raising decent, honest, nice children.

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  • Old Buckeye

    Book, your remarks about why you CHOOSE to stay in Marin County sums up the entire argument about inequities in a nutshell: Individuals in the U.S. have always had the capacity to make CHOICES. You’ll always have inequities when people are allowed to choose their path in life. The OWS group griping about college costs could have chosen community or public college and emerged debt-free; those with no health insurance through work could have chosen high deductible personal policies instead of big-screen TVs or cigarettes (I’ve been paying for my own high-deductible insurance for years, so I know it’s possible). Every fork in the road offers a different set of opportunities–to everyone. Some have chosen wisely; others, not so much. What the current administration is trying to do is hogtie everyone into having no choices. You can see it with the housing market–retirees or near-retirees who thought they might have a choice in where they retired to are now forced to remain in their current homes because they can’t sell their home for near the amount their retirement nest egg had been predicated on. Obamacare would eliminate private health care choices. Taxing us senseless removes ever more choices and funnels the money to what the govt chooses for us. It seems to me that it fits the blueprint for what a totalitarian govt would want for its subjects.

  • Leah

    My Marin cousin was here for Thanksgiving and was all about the inequality in America, interestingly – she won’t be giving up anything for others to be equal. She whines about not having enough, so of course someone else should give up what they have to make others equal.
    Also, bumped into an old friend who just lost her house – the reality is here, not in some foreign distant land.

  • http://ruminationsroom.wordpress.com Don Quixote

    Of course higher taxes are not the answer, but why can’t they be part of the answer?  It is as if those who pay taxes have drawn a line in the sand and said, “Not a penny more.”  Maybe that’s appropriate.  But we need to come up with both solid economic reasons and solid ethical reasons for whatever line we draw.  I don’t believe we have done that.  Certainly, the twelve points in the article are generic and do not argue persuasively for any particular level of taxation.

    P.S.  I’ll grant that the burden should be on those seeking higher taxes, not on those opposing them, but that burden is easily met.  The government is deeply in debt and deficits are out of control.  Common sense suggests that the gap should be closed with both spending cuts and revenue increases.  That shifts the burden to those opposing the tax increases to show why the entire gap should be closed only through spending cuts, which, frankly, will be a very tough sell in the next election.  Too many people benefit from the spending.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Government is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    The problem in Oakland basically never came from guns, crime, or anything else. It has to do with the fact that Oakland is a breeding ground for Democrat voters who don’t know any better. They are paid by the government to be poor and ill educated. They are kept down by the System and Man, and this very resentment is then used to keep the slaves in check and obedient to the Man.

    Giving government more money, giving Demoncrats more money to bribe and intimidate people is about the worst idea on Earth. 

  • Leah

    Higher taxes can be part of the solutions when more than 53% pay federal taxes. The people calling for higher taxes want only to tax the rich and to create a large class of Americans dependent on government who have no skin in the game.

  • Charles Martel

    I agree with DQ that higher taxes would have to be part of a rational solution. It would be akin to my stopping taking on credit card debt—no new spending—and then paying down the ones I already have as quickly as I can by increasing what I pay toward them—higher taxes.
     
    But this is not a rational situation. The statists have promised before to reduce spending in tandem with higher taxes, but have never kept their promise. The better analogy here is a severely obese man bargaining with his doctor: “I will go on a diet if you will let me have a bigger supply of pork chops.”
     
    I will support higher taxes only when there is an ironclad arrangement that guarantees those taxes will go to pay down the debt even as the size of government is shrinking. But that’s not going to happen. So discussing our need to be open to paying higher taxes has about the same import as a bunch of half-stoned OWS tapeworms sitting around the Porta Potty solving the problems of the world.

  • suek

    >>It is as if those who pay taxes have drawn a line in the sand and said, “Not a penny more.”>>

    You’re right – but the reason for the line in the sand is that government has demonstrated an inability to manage the taxes they’re already collecting. I’m with Charles here – if taxes were to be increased, and _all_ of the resultant increase were to be applied against the principle that we owe, I’d certainly be willing to say ok. In fact though, we know that those who want to raise taxes simply want to continue to spend, continue to borrow money, and will use the increase in tax revenue to pay higher interest costs.

    That’s insanity.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Leah, tell us more…what was your Marin cousin whining about? What exactly is their world view?

    I would be hard pressed to think of a more privileged group than Marin residents. 

    I recall sitting in a pediatrician’s office in Point Reyes Station once when an old lady started barking about how Bush had destroyed the environment. I stood up, walked out the door, looked around, walked back to my family and said, “Whew…it’s beautiful out. I was worried because I heard a rumor Bush had ruined the environment”.

    Libs are so clueless. 

  • Charles Martel

    When I first heard the fairy tale about the princess and the pea, it gave me my first inkling that for even the most privileged people there can never be satisfaction.
     

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    This is why peasants often rebelled and went out to slaughter and kill all those privileged people. They just couldn’t take the arrogance and injustice any more. This was back when the peasants had zero chance of successfully rebelling, because they didn’t even have any weapons, let alone weapons training.

     

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    They talk about the war of haves vs the have nots. Well, we have not control of our own lives, and they have control of our money, land, rights, and lives. Who do you think this war will be won by?

     

  • jj

    You’re on both sides, Don.  Either the burden is on the “we” – whoever “we” are when we’re at home – to actively justify whatever line we draw; or the burden is on those seeking higher taxes.
     
    As everybody with a functioning brain and no particular reason to be other than honest (as opposed to demagogic) already knows, the top ten percent of earners in this country pay the vast – the huge – majority of the taxes.  The idea that the “rich aren’t paying their fair share” is purest liberal BS, and the need to point that out every five minutes – referencing the US Treasury’s own damn numbers – is becoming really boring.  47% of the people in this country paid no federal taxes at all last year – that’s a pretty goddam large percentage.  At this juncture it’s really, truly, hard for me to believe that so many democrats are so ill-educated – or are just such reflexive liars – that they can’t read the goddam chart the IRS and Treasury Department put out – EVERY SINGLE YEAR – explaining who pays taxes.  And it’s a little disheartening the average American moron can’t seem to locate and read it, either.  (OK, granted: the Treasury generally runs about a year behind in compiling the numbers.)  There it is, you can Google it – you don’t need a super-seceret, government-issued, memorize-it-then-chew-it-up-and-swallow-it password to find it, 12 year-olds can do it: there it is, for all the world to see.
     
    So “our” justification is pretty simple: (A) we already pay 95% of the bills for the federal government, in spite of what Bare-ass O’Bugger tells you; and (B) half the people in this country pay nothing.  As the picker-uppers of 95% of the bills already, do “we” really require more justification than that?
     
    The answer is pretty straightforward, and it’ll cause a revolution, either a real one, or one of sorts: get the federal government back in charge of federal matters, and leave the rest to the states.  This is what the guys who founded the country intended.  This is why we have a “federal” government instead of a “national” one, like damned near every other country on the planet.  Our federal government is supposed to be limited to being in charge of matters federal – and when looked at dispassionately you find that there are damned few of them, probably a lot fewer than you thought.  The states were – and are – the control.
     
    (A historical digression.  John Adams once said, in a lovely phrase, that the congress was “a meeting place of ambassadors.”  He meant it.  The word “congress” had a rather different meaning in the 18th century, that’s been lost on us today – probably deliberately.  Through legal twaddle.  A congress was an assembly of the representatives of sovereigns.  [When the representatives of Britain met with the representatives of France, Spain, Germany, and Denmark - that was a congress.]   Independent countries talking to each other.  When Richard Henry Lee stood up and moved that the united colonies ought to be free and independent states, he meant states in the original meaning of the word: Virginia is a state like Canada, Australia, and Britain itself are states.  In other words, independent countries.  Pennsylvania, Virginia, Denmark, New York, France, Russia, Delaware, North Carolina, Canada – no different, in the eyes of the world.  All the same.  All their own country.  What the founders did ["if we don't hang together, we shall surely all hang separately"] was recognize that as individuals they could not fight England, so they confederated for the common defense.  They paid for one army.  And that was all they confederated for – not for housing, education, health, blah-blah-blah the endless bullshit we somehow have today.  The first principle of American government was that sovereignty lay in the states.  At the Treaty of Paris, when George III admitted defeat, he admitted it to “the sovereign and independent states” of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations… etc.) 
     
    So getting rid of the debt is easy: chop down the federal government.  Cut it back to where it’s intended to be.  I have no (friendly) idea how to go about this, we have so many parasites, and they are so ignorant of their own origins now that it’ll undoubtedly cause trouble.  That’s too bad.  The federal government has no place in health-care.  It has no place in education.  It has no place in welfare.  It has no place in housing.  It has nothing to say about abortion, whether or not a state celebrates or ignores religion, or whether or not a state allows or disallows homosexual marriage.  It doesn’t need to rule next spring on national health care: there’s no such goddamned thing as national health care mandated from Washington in this country.  In fact, it’s a lot easier to list where it does have a legitimate writ, it takes about a sentence, and that’s pretty much it.  The guys who wanted a national government in the 1760s and 1770s lost the fight, and the sovereign and independent states are in charge.  (And the lawyers and the federal courts – and they aren’t co-equal, the courts were always intended to be the weakest branch of government – started chipping away at that simple reality the morning after the paperwork was completed, and they haven’t let up for an instant since.  Thus we have what we have: a mess.)
     
    But the answer remains simple.  Just chop the out-of-control, brainless, endlessly-open maw of federal government – in areas where it has no business being, don’t forget! – down to where it should be.