Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Fiscal Cliff debate

Everyone seems very concerned that we avoid the "fiscal cliff." Talking heads on the television with their worried faces on are constantly tell us we must avoid jumping off the cliff, and of course, it is all the Republicans fault. Those dirty Republicans won't make a "deal" on extending the Bush Tax Cuts for the middle class, while allowing them to expire on the "richest" Americans. Everyone is talking about taxes, but nobody is talking spending cuts. Even Paul Ryan, he of pushing Granny over the cliff fame, only talked about slowing the rising baseline by a percent or two. We would still be spending more next year than we did this year under his "devastating" austerity measures.

All of this has me in mind of a couple of cartoon characters from my youth. The first is Wimpy, a character in the Popeye cartoons who goes about every day seeking a handout from anyone who is dumb enough to give him one. He uses the line "I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today." The "deal" Republicans are asked to take is kind of like Wimpy's deal; in return for increasing tax rates today, they will promise spending cuts later. But Republicans have seen this play before, and should know that the cuts will never happen. I am also reminded of Lucy, in the comic strip Peanuts, who every year would hold a football for Charlie Brown, promising not to pull it from him this year. Every year, old Charlie would be suckered into kicking the football, whereupon Lucy would pull it away at the last minute, and Charlie would land on his kiester. Democrats must sense that Republicans are a lot like Charlie Brown.  Behind the scenes, they must be laughing at us again.

Today, David S. Whitely asks at the American Thinker Will We Ever Get Our America Back?. Whitely is concerned that nobody is making the principled, moral argument that needs to be made in this debate. Rather, everybody is arguing over whose ox to gore, and by how much. Shall we kill the golden goose, or just harass him a bit more. Whitely:
Doesn't anyone ever consider that the public treasury isn't ours to give? Let me be clear: giving is great, giving of our own accord is doing the work of the Lord. Giving away the labor of others, being generous with other people's money, is not moral -- it's a grave and dangerous character flaw. For who but a robber takes great joy in taking or giving away another man's treasure? Who rests comfortably at night with a clear conscience after giving one man the labor of another? Does anyone -- let alone the cold faceless State -- have the ability to "love your neighbor" for you?

The taxes in the public treasury belong to "the people". We need to understand that this is an account of trust, governed by Constitutional law. The public treasury isn't a gift bag to be given to the constituency of the winner of an election. Nor is it to be spent any way one person or party believes it should be. There are rules to follow, though you wouldn't know it from national politics today.
We used to understand these things. People in government used to understand that they had a fiduciary duty to the people to spend "the peoples money" wisely, to not go into debt, and that there should be a relationship between taxes taken and benefit received. What is the basis, then, for the notion of progressive income taxes?  Does not the Army defend both rich and poor alike? Can you seriously make the argument that our foreign policy helps the rich more than the poor? But today, we have the case where the ObamaPhone Lady gets more benefits from the government than she pays for, while a moderately well off individual gets less benefits.  How is this fair?

The basis for a progressive income tax is at core simple envy.  Someone somewhere is seemingly enjoying life, and we don't like it.  We don't like our jobs.  We don't like eating hamburgers instead of eating caviar.  We want to wear expensive suits instead of slacks we got a WalMart.  Somehow, life is always greener somewhere else, if only we had the money to get there.  It is the politics of the chronically unhappy.  With our inflated sense of importance, we believe we would be richer if the rich didn't hog all the money.  But properly understood, wealth is an IOU from society for excess goods and services already provided.  Bill Gates' $66 billion represents a huge debt that I an others owe to him for Microsoft products alread delivered.  Further, the existence of Bill Gates' wealth doesn't in the least harm me, indeed, had not a Bill Gates existed,  I would be unable to bring you this blog.  So thank you Mr. Gates.  Indeed, thank you Mr. Rockefeller for seeing the use of oil, and saving the whales.  Thank you Mr. Ford for building cars I could afford.  Thank you Mr. Edison for coming up with a workable light bulb.  We should be thanking these and others every day for making our lives better.

Oh, and one more thing, most of these guys give away a lot of money to various causes.  We should thank them for that too.  But we shouldn't make them pay more in taxes.  There is no moral justification for that. 

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