Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Class Warfare in Moral Terms"

Why not tax the rich until the pips squeak? After all, there are desperately poor people that need the money. You need to "spread the wealth" as then Candidate Obama told Joe the Plumber in 2008.

Well, now President Obama has bowed to political necessity and urged Congress to continue the Bush federal income tax rates, including the 35 percent top rate that Bush passed, reducing the Clinton 39.4 percent rate, but not yet getting back to the 28 percent top rate in the Reagan 1986 tax bill.

President Obama apparently accepts the notion that, in practical terms, now is not the time to raise tax rates, not while the nation is struggling out of a severe recession. But once the economy is out of danger, why not cream the rich and make them pay?

First, the facts. At the American Thinker today, my "Incomes Taxes, Millionaires and Billionaires" makes the point that the richest one percent, at current rates, already pay about 40 percent of federal income taxes while the bottom 50 percent pay about three percent. How much is enough?

But that is just a practical argument. Let us argue the point in moral terms as William McGurn argues in "Billionaires on the Warpath." And what better way to do it than with the seven virtues, starting with prudence?

Prudence is the practical virtue, and prudence argues that we don't want to distort the economy with high rates targeted at the rich. You end up with the monstrous tax code we have now, because people keep coming to Congress to get special exceptions. I've been looking through the Revenue Acts of the 1930s and 1940s as the tax rates were soaring during the New Deal and World War II. It is staggering so see the dozens of exceptions and special cases starting to appear in the code. Because, of course, when Congress enacts high tax rates then economic interests of all kinds find themselves harmed and go to Congress for relief.

Temperance. We shouldn't have swingeing anything. Especially in today's economy, the rich are not aristocratic families with vast land-holdings that exist upon the sweat of serfs. The rich hold their wealth and make their incomes from building economic wealth in startups and the great corporations that shower products and services on the American people. Moderation in all things, even for the taxation of the rich.

Courage. We should be courageous in opposing the hateful class warriors that gin up envy against the rich. Envy, remember, is one of the seven deadly sins.

Justice. If justice means anything, it means one set of rules for all leavened with the yeast of equity, the understanding that inflexible rules can sometimes result in the most awful injustice.

Faith. If we have faith in our fellow humans we must believe that there is good in the rich, good in the middle class, and good in the poor. To tax anyone with penal rates is to lack faith in the human project. It is to say that we are monsters, and monsters must be eliminated.

Hope. High tax rates and big government are not the policies of hope. They are the policies of despair, that the poor can never thrive on their own energy and labor. Instead the rich must be bled so that the poor can receive a transfusion. Without the transfusion, all hope for the poor is gone.

Love. How can you love anyone when you sicc the tax collectors on them? Love means wishing the best for other people in their terms, not yours. Socialists think they know what is best for everyone according to a universal rule of equality of results, but never ask what other people might want for themselves.

What we want from the rich is not a pound of flesh, cut from them by penal taxation. We want them to contribute openly and voluntarily in a million acts of kindness and generosity to the general welfare of the American people. As well as create jobs, products, and services with their businesses and their economic ideas.

Oh, and one other thing. The problem with high tax rates is that they protect the today's rich from competition from tomorrow's rich. High tax rates make it very hard to get rich.

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