Thursday, June 7, 2012

Straussians and Randians

Joseph and I have a recurring argument about who presents the greater threat, Straussians (my choice) or Randians (Joseph's). This post by James Kwak on the Republican push to tax the lower 47% definitely has me rethinking my position:
The other, even-more-disturbing explanation, is that Republicans see the rich as worthy members of society (the "producers") and the poor as a drain on society (the "takers"). In this warped moral universe, it isn't enough that someone with a gross income of $10 million takes home $8.1 million while someone with a gross income of $20,000 takes home $19,000.* That's called "punishing success," so we should really increase taxes on the poor person so we can "reward success" by letting the rich person take home even more. This is why today's conservatives have gone beyond the typical libertarian and supply-side arguments for lower taxes on the rich, and the campaign to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich has taken on such self-righteous tones. 
This just goes to show how pathological the Republican Party has become. It would be so much simpler, more logical, and more politically appealing if they would just draw a line against higher taxes for anyone. That's what the Taxpayer Protection Pledge does, and it makes a certain amount of sense, even if I think it's bad policy. The fact that Eric Cantor feels compelled to go out of his way to talk about raising taxes on the poor shows how the nasty instinct for class warfare is undermining what should be a simple, small-government agenda.  on the Republican push to raise taxes on the bottom 47% did a good job making me question my position.
The whole thing is worth checking out. While you're at it, take a look at the Bruce Bartlett post Kwak cites:
Once upon a time, Republicans were more concerned about the number of rich people with no income tax liability.

On Jan. 17, 1969, just days before Richard Nixon’s inauguration, the departing treasury secretary, Joseph Barr, disclosed that in 1967, 155 Americans with an income of more than $200,000 had no income tax liability, including 21 with an income above $1 million.

This was considered such a scandal that Nixon sent a tax package drafted by the Johnson administration to Congress with his endorsement. When the Tax Reform Act of 1969 was enacted, including a minimum tax to force rich people to pay something, he praised that provision.

As Nixon said in his signing statement:

A large number of high-income persons who have paid little or no federal income taxes will now bear a fairer share of the tax burden through enactment of a minimum income tax comparable to the proposal that I submitted to the Congress, which closes the loopholes that permitted much of this tax avoidance. 

Ronald  Reagan defended his tax reform proposal on the grounds that it would reduce the number of nontaxpaying rich people. In a June 6, 1985, speech, he said:

We’re going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that have allowed some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share. In theory, some of those loopholes were understandable, but in practice they sometimes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying 10 percent of his salary, and that’s crazy. It’s time we stopped it. 

Among the specific measures Reagan supported to increase tax fairness was an increase in the tax on capital gains to 28 percent from 20 percent.

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