Wednesday, March 16, 2011
This is good:Jonathan Chait
on the history and current state of the Republican anti-tax stance. (2,600 words) Key excerpt: (emp add)
There is one idea that explains Republican behavior: moral disgust at income redistribution. Since it doesn’t poll well, this is not an idea that you often find expressed in talking points or in other means of public persuasion. But occasionally this sentiment pops up in the form of a kind of raw royalism, usually from conservatives who don’t have to run for office. Former Bush economist Greg Mankiw endorses the belief that free markets are a flawless arbiter of income distribution. Republicans, he writes, believe that “in a free society, people make money when they produce goods and services that others value, and that, as a result, what they earn is rightfully theirs.” ...
The underlying sentiment is that the practice of levying higher tax rates upon the rich amounts to an oppressive form of discrimination—democracy as mob rule. Conservatism’s commitment to flattening the tax code, so inexplicable to those outside the movement, is an inviolable principle within. ...
This state of affairs helps explain the increasingly bitter partisanship of the American political debate. Opposition to the progressive income tax is at once a sacred and a hidden value for Republicans, and thus one that makes compromise nearly impossible. You cannot bargain with a partner whose stated goals are merely pretexts. A slow economy proves that tax cuts are needed, or a prosperous economy shows that tax cuts are affordable, or tax cuts will reduce the deficit by increasing revenue, or tax cuts will reduce the deficit by starving government of revenue. Vast swaths of public discourse are couched in nonsense.
Not long ago, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan—who enjoys unparalleled prestige on budget issues among conservatives of all stripes—railed against the deficit and was asked about the massive cost of extending tax cuts. He replied, “Keeping tax rates where they are, and preventing them from going up, is not spending, because that is people’s money in the first place.” What on earth could this mean? Here is the answer. Ryan has declared his deep intellectual debt to Ayn Rand. He required all his staffers to read her work. When he responds to a question rooted in simple accounting with a moral claim (“people’s money in the first place”), he is saying that the arithmetic of revenue, outlays, and deficits does not matter to him. None of the pecuniary issues that he claims to care about so deeply ultimately matter. He is fighting a class war, which he views as a war for freedom itself.
> Republicans, he writes, believe that
> “in a free society, people make money when they
> produce goods and services that others value,
> and that, as a result, what they earn is
> rightfully theirs.” ...
There was a time, once, when Democrats held these beliefs as well, and it was the wild-eyed Socialists and Communists who believed in the abolition of private property. It's only in recent years that outright socialism and communism has gone completely mainstream in the Democratic party.
I find it simply amazing that a mainstream liberal writer would preface that statement with Republicans believe, to explain the strange foreign concept of the sanctity of private property to other liberals.
Here's what Ben Franklin has to say.
_The First American; The LIfe and Times of Benjamin Franklin_ by H. W. Brands
New York: Doubleday, 2000
"When tax resisters justified their opposition on grounds that the government was taking money out of their pockets, he countered that they were fundamentally mistaken. 'Money, justly due from the people, is their creditors' money, and no longer the money of the people, who, if they withhold it, should be compelled to pay.'"
"If honesty was often the companion of wealth, and if poverty was exposed to peculiar temptation, it was not less true that the possession of property increased the desire of more property. Some of the greatest rogues I ever was acquainted with were the richest rogues."
Sounds like Mr Franklin knew people like the Koch brothers.
_Benjamin Franklin_ by Edmund S. Morgan
Hew Haven: Yale University Press, 2002
“That an enormous Proportion of Property vested in a few Individuals is dangerous to the Rights, and destructive of the Common Happiness, of Mankind; and therefore every free state hath a Right by its Laws to discourage the Possession of such Property.”
Guess old Ben was one of those wild-eyed Socialist and Communists.
Income redistribution is not "money justly due" to a "creditor."
The "proportion of property" quote refers to ownership of land. The United States does not have a problem with a small number of individuals amassing ownership of a large percentage of real estate, and has nothing to do with income tax, which is completely different from property tax.
But you're right. Franklin was radical by his own and modern standards. If he had been the sole drafter, the Constitution would be far different, and I don't think it would have endured.
Benjamin Franklin believed, "Private property therefore is a creature of society, and is subject to the calls of that society, whenever its necessities shall require it, even to its last farthing."
Guess he wasn't a Tea Party kind of guy.