Well, the Boston Globe is at it again. They’re pushing their anti-war agenda once more, this time trotting out the notion of “if more people had to suffer for the war, they’d smarten up and agree with us” schtick. This time they’re using tax policy as their club, much like those who call for the return of the draft.
According to the Globe, Americans making more than $300,000 a year are paying the lowest tax rates in 50 years. This is abominable to them, as there should be more “shared sacrifice” and they want Congress to raise taxes.
Oh, I’m sorry. They don’t want to “raise” taxes, they just want to repeal the Bush tax cuts. Because while the end effect is the same, what you call it makes all the difference in the world. By emphasizing “repeal the Bush tax cuts,” they achieve a couple of goals: they try to not only link Bush’s sagging popularity to the issue, they also push the notion that the prior tax rates were “normal,” and simply returning to them is OK. This bypasses the notion that, perhaps, the tax rates were too high and Bush’s tax cuts were actually moving them closer to where they ought to be.
The Globe authors also bypass a few “inconvenient facts” about taxes. For example, last week the inestimable Will Franklin also took a look at tax policy, absent the filtering lens of war opposition. So while the tax RATES might be lower, the tax burden has shifted — and shifted upward. Franklin looks at just who is paying what percentages of total tax revenue. Post-Bush tax cuts, the top 5% of income earners have seen their share of the total burden rise from 50% to (guesstimate here) 58%. In fact, the top 50% earners have all seen their share of total taxes rise, while the bottom 50% (that most definitely includes me) have seen their burden drop.
So the Bush tax cuts have already done what the Globe is calling for — they’ve shifted the tax burden upwards. Also, tax revenues have also risen.
So, just what is behind the Globe’s push for raising tax rates? Several factors. First, their anti-war position is enhanced. Second, it ties in quite nicely with their general philosophy of “punish the successful.” (I once heard a bit of wisdom that struck me as deeply profound: “I’ve never been hired by a poor man.” That, far more than “trickle-down economics” or any other catchphrase or lofty explanation, consolidated my belief in the free market.) Third, it advances their agenda of shredding any evidence that the Bush administration was anything but a complete, unmitigated, utter disaster.
Yeah, the government is in less than great financial shape. But the problem isn’t income, it’s outgo. It’s rampant, unchecked spending that would make a drunken Kennedy blush. (I’m sorry, that’s a very poor construction. For one, “drunken Kennedy” is almost redundant. For another, Kennedys don’t blush.)
The government has all the money it needs to do what it should, and then some. The problem is that it spends on a lot of things it doesn’t need to, and shouldn’t.
I recently quoted P. J. O’Rourke’s classic observation from “Parliament Of Whores,” and it’s worth repeating at every possible occasion: “Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.”