22 April 2009

Illegitimate Tea Parties

Marie Cocco wants taxpayers to know that they are not being over-taxed. This, despite the fact that it's their money being taxed and therefore up to them to decide how they feel about the value of the money coming out of their paychecks. In other words, despite their own subjective valuation of their money, and their own subjective valuation of the use of those tax dollars, the protesters are not being over-taxed. Marie Cocco knows better. She is smart. She knows the protesters really don't have the proper valuation of the money coming out of their pockets. What's more, the money isn't coming out of their pockets. They don't know the facts; she is going to set them straight, because they actually have it quite good. After all, 95% of them are getting their taxes cut. They'd know that if they wouldn't let themselves be led astray by right wing party hacks.

Her argument is two-fold. First, the tax rates are actually quite low. So tea partiers shouldn't be complaining. Second, the money is going to good causes and, although she doesn't come out and say it, one can easily believe she would add that only the selfish and heartless would deny their hard-earned funds to these worthy causes. This takes us back to her underlying assumption, that the real masterminds behind the tea parties are partisan activists, not "real" people, working people, middle-class people. Working and middle-class people were not at the tea parties: they were working. Those people are warm, and kind, and compassionate; and they would never object to having money sucked out of their pockets to pay for worthy causes or -- even better -- to receiving tax cuts while the "wealthy" receive tax increases, unless their minds have been twisted by partisan activists who are "locked out of power and floundering with low public approval". Those partisan bastards. If only they weren't so partisan; if only they were more high-minded; if only they weren't so ideology-driven -- like Marie Cocco.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office...released an updated analysis of the effective federal tax rate -- that is, what individuals and businesses pay after they take exemptions, deductions, credits and so forth. And it turns out that the effective federal tax rate that households across the income spectrum pay is lower now than it was 30 years ago, with an average rate of 20.7 percent. That encompasses all federal taxes, including excise and payroll taxes.
Cocco wants us to feel good because the effective federal tax rate is, on average, 20.7%. Frankly, I'm shocked she didn't say only 20.7%. (As if federal taxes are the only sort anyone is bothered about.) "Look," she says, in effect, "in addition to the fact that you real taxpayers -- by virtue of being working and middle-class types -- aren't paying any income taxes, even if you were, you're being allowed to keep almost 80% of your money, so shut up. Stop being deceived by partisan activists who are locked out of power and floundering with low public approval." Let me stipulate to all that she says, only because nothing I have to say depends upon her being wrong, which she isn't, as far as she goes. The simple fact of the matter is that it is really for people whose money is taken from them to put a value on the money taken from them. It is for the people whose money is being taken to decide whether an effective federal tax rate of 20.7% is too high. What if I prefer an effective rate of 2.07%, rather than 20.7%? Who is she to tell anyone that they should gladly accept 20.7%, rather than 2.07%, as the effective tax rate? It isn't her money she's talking about. (And, as far as her money is concerned, she can pay as much in taxes as she wants. More power to her.) It long ago ceased to amaze me that people like her can be so glib about assigning value to other people's money.

Not only does she purport to tell people how to value the money coming out of their pockets, she also has the temerity to tell them how to value the things these tax dollars pay for:

So what do we really spend all this tax money on? About two-thirds of it goes toward defense programs and health expenditures, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

[...]

Social Security accounts for another 21 percent of spending and big health programs -- Medicare, Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program -- another 20 percent.

Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Children's Health Insurance -- perhaps these are things we should value. Perhaps the people who benefit from these programs are helped by our money and should receive our money. But it is our money. Everyone else who wants our money either must give us something in exchange, or, for worthy, charitable causes like provision for the poor and elderly, the children, even university education, has to call my house, talk to me, and ask for it. And they have to ask nicely. And, should I say no, they have to live with it. They don't get to suck it out of my paycheck and tell me to shut up when I complain, on the grounds that these are worthy causes and I should be grateful to be left with whatever they don't decide to take. But, for people like Marie Cocco, my compassion for my fellow man is not properly demonstrated by what I freely do for him with my money, but what is done with money forcibly taken from me, or from my wealthy neighbor.

The message of the Tea Parties was quite simple: It's our money, whatever class we belong to. And I'm not going to be lectured by sanctimonious journalists. I'm not going to accept my middle-class tax cut on the grounds that my wealthy neighbors' taxes are being raised, any more than I'd accept it if Cocco put a gun to man's head and stole $100 from him and wanted to give a portion of it to me. As Mona Charen observes, some of us won't be bribed.

What angers me about the left is really quite simple. They are all pretense about how the right wants to impose their values on everyone. You know: anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, anti-porn, anti-drug, anti-Smurf, anti-Barney, anti-Tickle-Me-Elmo, anti-Teletubby, whatever. Now comes Marie Cocco and her ilk, as they have done for generations now, to impose their own values on us and draft the money for their values out of the pockets of whichever class has the bad luck to have earned Least Favored Taxpayer status. Today it's the wealthy. In other times and places it was the Jews. "Wealthy" is the new "Jew". You know, if these people reasoned about the wealthy the way they reasoned about other groups, we could justly call them anti-semites: Jews are disproportionately represented in the ranks of the wealthy; going after the wealthy means going after Jews.

Cocco is right about one thing. None of this is new:

[W]e must batten down the hatches for another one of those periodic Great Leaps Forward into statism that have afflicted us since the New Deal (actually, since the Progressive Era). The cycle works as follows: Democrats engineer a leap forward of activist government, accompanied by "progressive," "moving America forward again" rhetoric. Then, after a decade or so, the Republicans come in armed with conservative, free-market rhetoric, but in reality only slow down the rate of statist advance. After another decade or so, people become tired of the rhetoric (though not the reality) of the free market, and the time has come for another Leap Forward. The names of the players change, but the reality and the phoniness of the game remains the same, and no one seems to wake up to the shell game that is going on.

[...]

Much propaganda is made about the horrors of the deficit, of the necessity of "sacrificing" for the future, for our children, in order to help close the deficit. That is the excuse for the vanishing of [one] tax cut, to be replaced by [another]...tax increase..... And yet, at the very same time, there is supposed to be a massive spending increase. Why? For two reasons to "jump start the economy," which is [in]... a recession...; and second, to provide "investment" for an economy that has been stagnating...and needs more...investment.

Always with these people it is the same. No matter what the state of the economy, it is always been bad enough to warrant ever more statism. When one thinks about it, the tea parties were really about statism, which is nothing without taxes, regardless the effective rate.

Incidentally, the two quoted passages above are by Murray Rothbard, written, not during the last 92 days but in 1993. The first was written in January 1993, the second in May 1993. Admit it: You wouldn't have guessed.

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About Me

James Frank SolĂ­s
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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