Posted by lex, on January 8, 2008
There are windmills to tilt against.
Writing in comments to an earlier post, Our Paul presents the numbers as he sees them and links to this post decrying the Obamanon’s message of hopeful reconciliation. No, what is apparently needed is yet more scorched earth political warfare leading to the complete destruction of The Other. In order to get cracking on some of that good old fashioned “eat the rich” class warfare. People have been more successful than others, comrades – it’s time for some smart kid-driven leveling.
Our Paul has been much too generous and kind in his presence here to attribute to him the attitudes of the Corrente poster, who quite lives up to his blog’s moniker of “boldly shrill.” So I won’t, and will instead focus on the link he provided.
Although, frankly, it’s hard to know where to start. One is tempted to scoff at the self-important seriousness of those who continue to believe that Better Governance Through Electing Guys Who Think Like Us is the answer to all our economic problems, whether they be transitory or systemic. History does not favor the direction that argument is going in, but it does represent a characteristic and even charming naiveté; the idea that a $6 $13 trillion economy would be better regulated by an elite group of correct-thinking bureaucrats. But spending much effort there would be taking points off for style rather than substance.
Then there is the author’s conspiratorial certainty that Rush Limbaugh, Fox News and Drudge are somehow linked to the emergence of conservative think tanks that taken together have more to do with an agenda of billionaires to hijack the fruits of the national economy (maybe via the Trilateral Commission?). In truth, the think tanks and alternative media outlets were a reaction to the need for conservatives to 1) find a way home after decades spent in the political wilderness by developing a theory of government that they could, 2) communicate past legacy gatekeepers of the narrative. Krugmanesque “economics are politics” conspiracy theories are, 3) simply beneath contempt. Unless of course, you’re a class warfare veteran. In which case it all makes all kinds of sense in accordance with the material dialectic. Not that that’s a selling point.
I guess we could begin with all of that defense spending. Or if not, we could focus on the crushing burden of debt that we, uniquely, are passing down to THE CHILDREN!!!! But those arguments refute themselves: Defense spending represents a lower proportion of GDP than it has since World War II and is also a lower percentage of all federal spending, annual deficits decrease year over year due to increased taxable economic activity and our national debt remains within post-war historical averages.
What I really found interesting among the identity politics/politics of envy folks is the implication that individual economic success in this country is somehow immoral and that the government ought to step up and do something about it. You get the sense these people think that there is some fixed pool of ultra-rich plutocrats who are somehow not doing their bit. For the country.
In fact, many people at that level are folks that move briefly into the top category as a result of a really good year selling a business or their vested shares and who quickly drop back into the “merely comfortable” range thereafter. Whatever their provenance, the top 1% of wage earners shoulder nearly 40% of the federal tax burden during their day in the sun. Which, for those of you keeping score at home, is over three percent more than they did in the last full year of the Clinton administration – before the dot com bust depressed wages – and a full 21% more than they did before Ronald Reagan last pampered the rich at the expense of America’s working class by slashing taxes in 1981. The bastard.
While the dorm room crew earnestly schemes to soak the “ultra-rich,” lets do keep in mind that the top 5% already carry fully 60% of the federal load and that the AGI threshold for that category of earnings is a rather modest-sounding $145k per year.
Everyone gets excited thinking about Paris Hilton’s trust fund, but the average income for the top 0.1% of wage earners is only around $3 million per year – a lot of money to be sure, but nothing like the CEO numbers that get so much press and in any case those kind of earnings are spread over not so very many people – about 140,000 or so. So if you’re in favor of letting market mechanisms set compensation rates, you’re left with plundering Paris’ piggy bank. About which I ask again: What are you going to do with your 33 cents?
The next embedded assumption is that the only contribution of the successful entrepreneur to the economy is his tax return – a woefully shortsighted and government-centric point of view. Bill Gates became a very wealthy man creating a great deal of value for the consumer while creating out of nearly nothing an entire economic sector to 1) gainfully employ energetic people who, 2) create additional wealth through productivity improvements and 3) create tax revenues where none existed before that 4) go back to lower income taxpayers in the form of the “earned” income tax credit. The question we should ask ourselves is whether Mr. Gates somehow stole that money from someone more deserving, or whether he created it. And more importantly – the answer to the previous question being self-evident – whether he would have bothered doing so if confiscatory taxation enabled other men to dine on the bread wrung from the sweat of his brow.
It’s your money until they say it isn’t but there will always be new programs to fund. What it means to be “rich” will be continuously defined down if the busy little beavers of Building Our Better Future are to find ever more ways to “help” people by punishing success and, in effect, subsidizing indolence. Not on purpose, you understand, but as the inevitable by-product of a process which increasingly weds what had been an extraordinarily productive labor pool to an ever-increasing stream of addictive “entitlements.” Who then sit watching ” Lou Dobbs on the news on their 32-inch flat panel TVs (with surround sound speakers) seethingly certain that they are somehow being shafted.”
This is what we might have labeled the “German model,” a socially debilitating and economically anti-competitive focus on wage equality. I say, “might have labeled” because even the Germans, wedded as they were to a smothering, intrusive and paternalistic state apparatus, rejected that model in their election of a reformist Angela Merkel.
I’ve made it clear that Obama will probably not get my vote. But the fact of the matter is that his message of inclusiveness and unity – even with the proof not yet in the pudding – is exactly the right message for his party to be sending. Especially if the alternative is the happy crew at Corrente who only want to rob Peter to pay Our Paul.
(Just kidding, OP – I know you don’t want my money.)