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Why Class Warfare Succeeds

Mitt Romney’s declaration that he lost the election because President Obama gave “gifts” to “the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people” was a fine example of disconnect from the American psyche that was the actual reason that he lost the election.

Both Doug and Steven have laid out the case that, not only is this bad politics, it’s a sign that Romney and company just don’t get it.

There’s a visceral level at which I sympathize with Romney on this. Irrespective of whether it was otherwise good policy, for example, the auto bailout almost certainly helped win Obama Ohio. That could easily be looked at as a “gift” to the auto companies and the unions in particular. Similarly, student loan forgiveness, the extension of childhood to age 26 for parental insurance coverage, and the like were indeed “gifts” to beneficiaries, paid for by someone else.

Now, of course, all of these groups—African Americans, Hispanics, union workers, and the young—are natural Democratic constituencies. They voted overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008 before he gave them anything more tangible than hope.  So, that notion that he bought their votes with taxpayer dollars, except maybe at the margins, doesn’t make sense.

But it’s true that a core Obama message was “we’re going to give you things you want and pay for them by increasing taxes on the rich.” That’s why, despite recognizing the need for progressive taxation, free public education, a single payer healthcare system, and other forms of economic redistribution, I’m nonetheless very uncomfortable with the Democrats’ class warfare message: it basically gives people a sense of entitlement to things paid for by other people, often while implying that said people really didn’t earn their money, anyway.

Where I disagree fundamentally with Romney, though, is that he takes it to the other extreme.: He’s not just concerned about the polarization that class warfare from the left creates but wants to fight the class war from the right.

I’m uncomfortable with having 47 percent of the voting population not pay federal income tax, because I think it creates perverse incentives. But Romney seems to genuinely believe that most of those people are simply “takers,” leeches on society who don’t contribute anything. That’s, of course, nonsense.

For one thing, even those who don’t pay federal income taxes pay federal payroll taxes, so they’re at least putting money into the Social Security kitty. Which doesn’t really exist, so they’re effectively paying income taxes by another name. And almost everyone pays other taxes, notably state and local sales taxes.

For another, most of those who aren’t paying federal taxes are either very poor, elderly, or both:

We’d be far better off having these debates on the level of what’s the best public policy interest of the country rather than pitting the 53 percent against the 47 percent or the 99 percent against the 1 percent. Conflict and division are, alas, more compelling.

It doesn’t help that most Americans don’t understand the tax code or have any idea how much they contribute. By design.

Most of the 47 percent who pay no federal income taxes not only think they do but think they pay way too much in while others are getting over. Because everyone who gets a paycheck has taxes withheld, they assume that they’re actually paying a sizable chunk of their income. And, of course, the distinction between regular income taxes, FICA, Medicare, and the like—or even between federal and state taxes—is immaterial to most of us. That they actually get more back at the end of the year than they put in isn’t at all obvious.

For that matter, most people think that the top marginal rate is paid on all income earned rather than all income above a certain threshold. Beyond that, they think they’re paying a flat rate, when in fact various deductions and credits lower the number substantially.

Unless, of course, one gets hit by the Alternative Minimum Tax. In which case you don’t actually get the deductions for mortgage interest, dependents, and so forth that you think you are.

Through this mismash, most of us think we pay too much in taxes—and that those like ourselves are paying the lion’s share of taxes, while those above and below us get off light because of government handouts and write-offs.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. sam says:

    “For another, most of those who aren’t paying federal taxes are either very poor, elderly, or both”

    But, of course, we have this situation because, beginning with Milton Friedman’s idea of the negative income tax, successive administrations, Republican and Democrat, have structured the tax code to achieve this result. It began with a conservative idea.

    And why can’t this,

    But it’s true that a core Obama message was “we’re going to give you things you want and pay for them by increasing taxes on the rich.”

    have it’s mirror image in the Romney/Ryan tax plan

    “We’re going to give you [rich folks] things you want and pay for them by increasing taxes on the poor.”

    I think it was Warren Buffett who said, “Hell yes there’s class warfare going on, and my class has been winning.”

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 37 Thumb down 0

  2. john personna says:

    I think you have a lot of the pieces right, but you put them together emotionally. I know you do acknowledge as much, that you believe in progressive taxation and still dislike it.

    The rational way to deal with all of this is bottom up, from the data, from the income distribution and profiles. You have to look at how people live, and if they are making it.

    If you can’t do that, you can fool yourself, Michelle Bachman style. You can have every poor worker send you $1 in Federal Income Tax. And then you can mail them back $1000 in food stamps, so they can live. Suddenly they have “skin in the game,” whoo hoo. That it is all less efficient than just sending them $999 in food stamps doesn’t matter. It fools the primitive brain.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 0

  3. An Interested Party says:

    But it’s true that a core Obama message was “we’re going to give you things you want and pay for them by increasing taxes on the rich.” That’s why, despite recognizing the need for progressive taxation, free public education, a single payer healthcare system, and other forms of economic redistribution, I’m nonetheless very uncomfortable with the Democrats’ class warfare message: it basically gives people a sense of entitlement to things paid for by other people, often while implying that said people really didn’t earn their money, anyway.

    Were you also uncomfortable with Romney promising people a bunch of stuff? And, of course, there is also the Republicans’ class warfare message…

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  4. michael reynolds says:

    You left out the fact that the rich also take from the government. Part of the legitimate function of government is the protection of property and commerce. Those with more property and who do more commerce obviously get significantly more of that protection.

    If our navy is used in part to ensure the free flow of oil, who benefits more? The guy on a bus in an urban area? Or the guy with a four car garage?

    Who benefits from regulation of the financial industry? The guy with nothing but a debit card? Or the guy moving millions around.

    Now ask who exerts more influence in Washington, the woman working at Wal-Mart, or the guy writing checks to Super Pacs.

    We have this aggrieved class of rich people — Drew comes to mind — who are disproportionately benefited by government while denying they get any benefit at all, and who wield disproportionate power over that government and yet whine that they are victims of a leech class.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 49 Thumb down 0

  5. MBunge says:

    “wants to fight the class war from the right.”

    The problem isn’t that Romney and conservatism wants to wage a class war from the right. The problem isn’t even that they want to wage such a war while lying to voters about what they’re doing. The problem is they want to wage a class war from the right while lying to themselves about what they’re doing. You can make some sort of political accommodation with almost anyone…except the delusional.

    Mike

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  6. michael reynolds says:

    The rich are also the ones who define all this as a zero sum game. Every dollar they surrender to taxes is seen as a loss for them. This despite the fact that they live in a complex web of relationships that have, despite their incessant self-pitying mewling, result in them being rich in a stable society.

    There is a blindness that descends on some of the rich. It never seems to occur to them that the poor and working class have enough votes to simply start dispossessing rich people, if they chose to do so. They seem blind to the fact that a social safety net is in part about keeping enough people content that such drastic measures don’t occur. In other words, we’re buying protection. We’re paying for the stability that works very much to our benefit.

    Wiser wealthy folks get it, but Mr. Romney is not among the wise.

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  7. Geek, Esq. says:

    Having plutocrats pay lower tax rates than most working Americans: rational economic policy.

    Ensuring that no American will die of preventable disease because they are poor: class warfare.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 0

  8. Eric the OTB Lurker says:

    Echoing some of the above comments, James, I just don’t get this whole Obama giving stuff complaint. Frankly, it seems trite.

    I mean, isn’t that what politics is largely about? Finding ways to get “stuff” to the people? That some of those people getting the “stuff” happen to be part of a Democratic constituency really just strikes me as incidental (and, in any event, Romney himself made similar promises of getting “stuff” to his own constituencies). Indeed, we can even ask, Is it really the promise of “stuff” that makes one vote one way, or is it one’s a priori belief about the nature of government that makes one vote a certain way?

    We can argue over what kind of “stuff” people “get”; but, in the end, that’s really just a semantic difference, isn’t it? Aren’t we just arguing the same thing.

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  9. michael reynolds says:

    Part of what the Republican party has managed to do is appropriate the language of victimization that was accurate for African-Americans and other disadvantaged groups and make it their own.

    The rich are now victims! Whites are now victims! And they’ve linked the whiny rich to whiny racists in a bizarre conspiracy of self-pity, all the while preaching that real victims aren’t victims at all. It’s part of the series of Big Lies that undergird all of Republicanism: the rich as a victim class. Whites as a victim class. African-Americans as privileged. The working poor are lazy, only the rich really work, especially trust fund babies.

    The myth is that 100% of what the rich have they got entirely by their own efforts. They didn’t inherit. They didn’t get a legacy education. They didn’t benefit from country club connections. They didn’t get a huge leg up from rich parents. They don’t special treatment from their Congressman.

    And of course the poor aren’t just poor, they’re corrupt, lazy, incompetent, stupid, useless. They aren’t just poor they deserve to be poor. They secretly want to be poor. The rich demand a self-serving moral justification for disparity.

    This I think is why this piece doesn’t work for me, James. I think it still has the odor of privilege about it.

    The poor don’t hate the rich nearly as much as the rich despise the poor. After all, the poor want to be the rich, the reverse is never the case. There’s no moral parity here.

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  10. Scott says:

    I think the whole concept of class warfare is nonsense. However, since it this article is framed this way, let me ask this. All the special breaks in the tax code from interest and capital gains to the whole range of deductions, are all these a product of class warfare? Is it class warfare that capital is taxed at a lower amount than labor? Is it class warfare that there are special tax treatments for a class of very special wealthy folks? Really, the whole argument of class warfare just puts up a cloud of dust that prevents honest discussion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  11. stonetools says:

    Jonathan Chait weighed in on that here:
    He points out that Obama has gone beyond the class warfare debate in his victory speech.

    Obama then proceeded to define the American idea in a way that excludes the makers-versus-takers conception of individual responsibility propounded by Paul Ryan and the tea party. Since Obama took office, angry men in Colonial garb or on Fox News have harped on “American exceptionalism,” which boils our national virtue down to the freedom from having to subsidize some other sap’s health insurance. Obama turned this on its head. “What makes America exceptional,” he announced, “are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on Earth. The belief that our destiny is shared; that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations.” Obama invoked average Americans living out this ethos of mutual responsibility (such as a “family business whose owners would rather cut their own pay than lay off their neighbors,” the example of which stands at odds with the corporate ethos of a certain ­Boston-based private-equity executive). And even the line about red states and blue states began with the following statement: “We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions.”

    Obama actually began framing the “class war” debate in his speech in Kansas last December:

    You see, this isn’t the first time America has faced this choice. At the turn of the last century, when a nation of farmers was transitioning to become the world’s industrial giant, we had to decide: would we settle for a country where most of the new railroads and factories were controlled by a few giant monopolies that kept prices high and wages low? Would we allow our citizens and even our children to work ungodly hours in conditions that were unsafe and unsanitary? Would we restrict education to the privileged few? Because some people thought massive inequality and exploitation was just the price of progress.

    Theodore Roosevelt disagreed. He was the Republican son of a wealthy family. He praised what the titans of industry had done to create jobs and grow the economy. He believed then what we know is true today: that the free market is the greatest force for economic progress in human history. It’s led to a prosperity and standard of living unmatched by the rest of the world.

    But Roosevelt also knew that the free market has never been a free license to take whatever you want from whoever you can. It only works when there are rules of the road to ensure that competition is fair, open, and honest. And so he busted up monopolies, forcing those companies to compete for customers with better services and better prices. And today, they still must.

    This is the nub of the new Republicans disagreement with Democrats. In the end , a Paul Ryan or Mitt Romney just doesn’t disagree with LBJ or FDR: they really disagree with an earlier Republican : TR.
    Now , Dr. Joyner, do you really stand with the guys who want to relitigate Theodore Roosevelt’s view of government? Well , since you voted for them, we have our answer to that.

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  12. Ron Beasley says:

    As tiresome as it might be it was effective this time around because of a couple of things.
    1) The bank bailouts which resulted in the banksters getting richer while everyone else got poorer.
    2) Romney was the worst possible candidate in this atmosphere. The stereotypical plutocrat who’s attempts at empathy came across as forced and insincere.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  13. JKB says:

    Long ago I read a book on cognitive development and perceptions. The author picked a few points in the lifecycle to highlight. The 5-yr old’s mind, 10-yr olds (?), teenager, etc. The 5-yr old being very selfish, etc. The teenager developing the immature grey area, i.e., he’s a bad kid but she sees the good in him.

    One point I remember is the author asserted that political ads were targeted at the severe black and white, selfish 5-yr old mind as the more subtle and sophisticated arguments wouldn’t have as broad appeal to the electorate.

    Seems to me the Dems are going hard appeal to the 5-yr old mind. The class warfare isn’t unlike the perceived slight when a cookie is divided. The ads targeting single women went past right to choose and implied Romney would take away women’t suffrage. Biden directly stated that Romney wanted to put blacks in chains.

    Of course, it didn’t help that Romney in some instances took the nah uh rebuttal approach. I thought rather than writing off the 47% he should have argued he was going to poach it by developing a plan for people to free themselves and return to being producers via his ideas to improve the economy.

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  14. john personna says:

    To expand a bit on “bottom up,” consider food stamps. Republicans used it as a theme that food stamp use expanded during Obama’s term. Now up to about 20% of the population. It was Obama’s fault, and one of Obama’s gifts to his 47%. Treated with suspicion.

    Do you know what we never see? A discussion of the criteria for the plan, if it might be flawed, of if the benefit could be more targeted (nutrition not sodas). Both camps are at fault somewhat. Republicans just want to spend less, and Democrats want to protect expanded spending.

    I’d really like a nuts and bolts approach. Tell me exactly why 20% need it. Tell me if targeting core food products would make “optional users” drop out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  15. Rafer Janders says:

    Irrespective of whether it was otherwise good policy, for example, the auto bailout almost certainly helped win Obama Ohio. That could easily be looked at as a “gift” to the auto companies and the unions in particular.

    Um, no, it can’t really be easily looked at as a “gift.” The purpose of the auto bailout was to preserve the American auto industry, and with it the American economy, American taxpayers, and American competitivesness world-wide in a vital field of industrial policy. If it was a “gift” at all, it was to the American people at large — which, after all, is what the government is meant to do, effect policies that benefit the economic well-being of Americans.

    It’s just a bizarre and alien way of thinking, to me, to see something like that and regard it as a gift.

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  16. grumpy realist says:

    @michael reynolds: This is like my justification for progressive taxation: think of it as insurance against revolutions. Having a strong middle class in a society takes constant work, because the upper class invariably is trying to re-write the cash flow mechanisms so they get more money and more power. It’s human nature. Historically, the aristocrats would be kept under control because the King would demand them to supply the leaders for the armies and a certain amount of money. (Plus could demand financial and other support per fiat.) Sensible aristocrats realize you want a large middle class who is fat and happy because they’re a good protection against the peasants revolting. So you have to have mechanisms set up to continually protect the middle class against the continued rent-seeking of the aristocrats.

    The problem with the American rich is they don’t realize exactly how much they’re receiving from the government. Protection by the police, the fact that they don’t have to automatically shield themselves from kidnapping……there’s a lot that they take for granted. And think they don’t have to pay for, because they think that being able to walk around on safe streets is “natural”. It isn’t.

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  17. mantis says:

    Do you not see the massive contradiction in your perception here, or are you experiencing some cognitive dissonance?

    To wit:

    I’m uncomfortable with having 47 percent of the voting population not pay federal income tax, because I think it creates perverse incentives.

    Just a few paragraphs later:

    Most of the 47 percent who pay no federal income taxes not only think they do but think they pay way too much in while others are getting over.

    If they don’t think they are getting a sweet deal, how in the hell do you think they are incentivized, perversely or otherwise?

    By your thinking, apparently the low income worker is thinking, “I’m getting screwed by these high taxes! What a great deal!” It makes no damned sense.

    Sorry James, but you’re just spouting more Republican bullshit because you are conditioned to do so. Snap out of it and think about what you are saying.

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  18. john personna says:

    @JKB:

    You guys want it both ways. Anyone poor voting for a tax increase is greedy. Anyone rich voting for a tax increase is a “coastal elite” or some such BS.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  19. Why Class Warfare Succeeds

    Because we evolved from animals with a naturally affinity toward hierarchical social structures that leaves us instinctually susceptible to “Us vs. Them” arguments?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  20. JKB says:

    @john personna: You guys want it both ways.

    I’m so glad you know what I want. Now I’m sure to get what I want for Christmas.

    Oh and don’t forget the pony. A unicorn, if possible.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 6

  21. Eric the OTB Lurker says:

    @grumpy realist:

    The problem with the American rich is they don’t realize exactly how much they’re receiving from the government. Protection by the police, the fact that they don’t have to automatically shield themselves from kidnapping……there’s a lot that they take for granted. And think they don’t have to pay for, because they think that being able to walk around on safe streets is “natural”. It isn’t.

    Boy, you would think that this would be obvious with just a cursory review of human history. You might even think this would be obvious with Mexico just to the south. But, no, that would be too obvious, I guess.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  22. James Joyner says:

    @sam: But we’re not increasing taxes on the poor; we’ve cut them such that most are paying no income taxes at all. And letting people keep the money they earn isn’t a gift.

    @john personna: There’s something to that, of course. At some very low level of income, it just makes no sense to create the illusion of paying taxes. $26,000 seems an awfully high ceiling, though. Still, my problem is that you wind up with a large chunk of those voting on tax issues having no stake in low taxes. Why not raise them to pay for stuff if someone else is going to do the paying?

    @michael reynolds: Most of the police protection is at the state and local level. But, sure, there are ways in which the very rich benefit from government that the very poor don’t.

    And “It never seems to occur to them that the poor and working class have enough votes to simply start dispossessing rich people, if they chose to do so” is really the problem. Why should they have the right to vote themselves a share of other people’s money?

    @Geek, Esq.: Plutocrats don’t pay lower rates on ordinary income; they pay higher rates. The problem is the web of alternative rates, such as on capital gains, carried interest, etc.

    @Rafer Janders: It was a gift to one segment of the American economy and to a certain segment of the work force that happens to be a huge Democratic constituency.

    @Scott: Most of that’s rent seeking done behind closed doors. Class warfare is explicit and open pandering for political purposes.

    @mantis: Two different things. Obama is pledging to raise taxes but only on the very rich, which he actually defines as the upper middle class. While some people who are actually poor and some who are actually rich think of themselves as middle class, few who are middle class think of themselves as rich. So, an appeal to free stuff paid for by the rich is appealing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 11

  23. There’s a visceral level at which I sympathize with Romney on this. Irrespective of whether it was otherwise good policy, for example, the auto bailout almost certainly helped win Obama Ohio. That could easily be looked at as a “gift” to the auto companies and the unions in particular. Similarly, student loan forgiveness, the extension of childhood to age 26 for parental insurance coverage, and the like were indeed “gifts” to beneficiaries, paid for by someone else.

    And this is the big problem. One can argue that bailing out GM was bad from a policy standpoint, yet still feel bad for the GM workers whose lives were upended in the process. The problem with Romney is that he doesn’t feel bad; quite the opposite, he sees those workers as subhumans who deserve to suffer. In some cases, Republicans almost come to the point where making those workers suffer seems to have been the primary point of the policy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  24. Geek, Esq. says:

    @James Joyner:

    My point exactly. We decide to tax extraordinary income at much lower rates than we do ordinary income. But that’s not considered class warfare.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  25. gVOR08 says:

    @john personna: This whole “skin in the game” thing started as a straightforward tactic. What do we want to do? We want to cut our own income taxes. Who will vote for that? Us. Who will vote against? All the “lucky duckies” who don’t pay income tax. (In their simplified version.) How do we get them to vote for cutting income taxes? We’ll hit them with burdensome income taxes, then they’ll vote for cutting income taxes, including ours. How do we get anyone to vote for this? Well, we can’t tell them what we’re really doing, so we’ll talk about fairness, and lucky duckies, and “skin in the game”.

    So the outer party believe this and “skin in the game” becomes a magical incantation. I’ve asked conservative friends, ‘Why is it so important poor people pay income taxes?’ ‘Then everyone will have skin in the game?’ What difference does it make if they pay a few dollars in income tax?’ ‘They’ll have skin in game.’ ‘What difference does it make that they have skin in the game?’ ‘They’ll have skin in the game.’ How oo you argue with, or even clarify, a non sequitur.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  26. JKB says:

    @grumpy realist: Protection by the police, the fact that they don’t have to automatically shield themselves from kidnapping……there’s a lot that they take for granted. And think they don’t have to pay for, because they think that being able to walk around on safe streets is “natural”. It isn’t.

    Except that the tax increases don’t go to providing police or fire service (which has grown in size even as the number of fires has decreased significantly) etc. The new taxes go to provide free cell phones and internet or increase welfare payments, etc.

    Here we see the 5-yr old mind. Black and white, no grey on the issue. No discussing the extent, it is an either or. Let’s talk about the level of services, the extent of support for the poor beyond subsistence, the conditions on such support, etc.

    The class warfare makes the discussion either/or, no continuum. How many here have rush to declare any opposition to raising taxes as advocacy for the dissolution of all government? There is a reason why Robin Hood is a children’s story.

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  27. Eric the OTB Lurker says:

    @James Joyner:

    Why should they have the right to vote themselves a share of other people’s money?

    I don’t think that this is a fair characterization, James. One could reply that this is precisely what the wealthy do every day when they pay their lobbyists to push for legislation that benefits mostly themselves. In fact, I would argue that most people would believe that the wealthy give themselves a larger share of the pie rather than the reverse.

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  28. michael reynolds says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I think we tend to mistake a modern business school education with an education. These people don’t learn history. History — the balance sheet of the human race if you will — is despised as one of those mushy non-STEM, non-MBA wastes of time.

    They’ll know the phase “bread and circuses” perhaps, but have no idea what it meant. The Romans didn’t feed “the mob” out of natural goodness, they did it as an act of self-preservation. And medieval lords didn’t just subsidize the monasteries out of piety, but also because only the monks could read and write and do basic accounting. The redistribution of wealth and the codification and democratization of power come from centuries of lessons in how to build and grow and maintain civilization — without which the rich have nothing.

    What does an investment banker know about that? About as much as a Romanoff, I suspect.

    This is why the simple counter to every libertarian is this: where on planet earth, or in the history of planet earth, have you seen a successful libertarian society? And why do you suppose it is that every wealthy nation on earth has both a strong government and a mechanism for redistributing wealth?

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  29. Eric the OTB Lurker says:

    @JKB:

    Except that the tax increases don’t go to providing police or fire service (which has grown in size even as the number of fires has decreased significantly) etc. The new taxes go to provide free cell phones and internet or increase welfare payments, etc.

    Hmm… these “facts” look fairly black and white to you, don’t they?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  30. David M says:

    @JKB:

    Except that the tax increases don’t go to providing police or fire service (which has grown in size even as the number of fires has decreased significantly) etc. The new taxes go to provide free cell phones and internet or increase welfare payments, etc.

    Here we see the 5-yr old mind.

    FIFY

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  31. JKB says:

    @Eric the OTB Lurker: @David M:

    Ya’ll are funny. Would you like to add something substantial to the debate or are you happy just calling me a poopyhead?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 8

  32. David M says:

    @JKB:

    Welfare, phones, internet are not a significant contributor to the deficit. Start talking about substantial issues if you want to be taken seriously.

    And really, I used your own words, so a complaint about them seems kind of misplaced.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  33. C. Clavin says:

    “…it basically gives people a sense of entitlement to things paid for by other people, often while implying that said people really didn’t earn their money, anyway…”

    Gotta call bullshit on that.
    Tally up how much corporate welfare Bain Capital got and then we can continue the discussion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  34. Rafer Janders says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Protection by the police, the fact that they don’t have to automatically shield themselves from kidnapping……there’s a lot that they take for granted. And think they don’t have to pay for, because they think that being able to walk around on safe streets is “natural”. It isn’t.

    I spent a bit of my youth living in the Third World. What the American upper class doesn’t seem to understand is that you can pay taxes and have an honest and effective FBI and police force….or you can pay bodyguards and live behind high walls topped with barbed wire. But whichever way it turns out, you have to pay. It’s just far, far more pleasant to do it the first way rather than the second.

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  35. rudderpedals says:

    It’s called class warfare when the left fights back. We just litigated in the “you didn’t build that” vs. “yes I built that” maker/taker threads a few weeks back the same theme and resolved it after all of the Makers turned out to be government dependents.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  36. swbarnes2 says:

    I’m uncomfortable with having 47 percent of the voting population not pay federal income tax, because I think it creates perverse incentives.

    They’re poor! Why is it perverse to let those people buy food for themselves as opposed to making them pay for a a subsidy for big industry?

    We’d be far better off having these debates on the level of what’s the best public policy interest of the country

    Well, did you want to have that conversation? Or did you keep starting threads about what was really in Romney’s heart? Your pal Doug kept starting threads about how hilarious it was that Republican lawmakers think that pregnancy from rape is a gift. Did you ever think “Hmm, maybe this thread should mention what effects those kind of policies will have on women”?

    This is your blog too. If you really wanted to have conversations on policy, you’d be having them already.

    it basically gives people a sense of entitlement to things paid for by other people,

    Yes, awesome. Keep making the argument “You poor people, your children don’t deserve clean water, or educations, or medicines that work, let alone food”. That’s a winning policy for sure.

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  37. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Why should they have the right to vote themselves a share of other people’s money?

    At some basic level, you just don’t seem to believe in democracy. Look, there are several reasons: (a) this is a democracy and voting is how we decide on things, and (b) it’s not just “other people’s money”, it’s in some sense everybody’s money because we all live in a society together, it costs money to run the country, and we, like it or not, we have to come up with mechanisms to apportion that money to we can keep things running smoothly.

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  38. john personna says:

    @James Joyner:

    @john personna: There’s something to that, of course. At some very low level of income, it just makes no sense to create the illusion of paying taxes. $26,000 seems an awfully high ceiling, though. Still, my problem is that you wind up with a large chunk of those voting on tax issues having no stake in low taxes. Why not raise them to pay for stuff if someone else is going to do the paying?

    When I am assured that one needs every penny of $250,000 to live in NYC …

    Seriously though that is the question. Have we structured our society so that fully 20% cannot feed themselves?

    If we have, which party is closer to the answer?

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  39. Rafer Janders says:

    I’m uncomfortable with having 47 percent of the voting population not pay federal income tax, because I think it creates perverse incentives.

    A perverse incentive to be poor? No one wants to be poor. Pretty much every poor person, if you gave them the choice “poor or not poor?” would choose not poor.

    I mean, I realize you and your right-wing cronies are obsessed with taxes, but most normal people don’t think like that. They’d rather pay 30% taxes on $100,000 of income than 0% taxes on $10,000 of income.

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  40. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    26,000 seems an awfully high ceiling, though.

    To echo Megyn Kelly, James, is just this math that you tell yourself as a Republican to feel better?

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  41. stonetools says:

    @Eric the OTB Lurker:

    I don’t think that this is a fair characterization, James. One could reply that this is precisely what the wealthy do every day when they pay their lobbyists to push for legislation that benefits mostly themselves. In fact, I would argue that most people would believe that the wealthy give themselves a larger share of the pie rather than the reverse.

    Apparently, when the wealthy engage in class warfare….its not class warfare! Its just the way things ought to be.

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  42. grumpy realist says:

    @James Joyner: People have the right to vote themselves a share of other people’s money because we live in this thing called a democracy.

    There is no society anywhere that has managed to survive without having something like taxation. Either you’re paying taxes, or you’re going to be paying protection money to the Warlords. Take your pick, boyo. I prefer taxes. If you don’t like how people are voting, you can attempt to convince them to vote along a different direction. Would you rather have a bunch of men with guns show up and take whatever they felt like? I think not.

    (The problem is that Republican and Libertarians have no understanding of so-called property rights. Property rights are defined by the State. In exchange for the enforcement of that definition, you pay something to the State. Oh, you want to do it all on your own? Then hire a whole bunch of goons with spiked clubs to stand around your property 24 hrs a day. And hire another set of goons to ride herd on the first set of goons, so they won’t get funny ideas about using the spiked clubs to take away all your stuff. Then you had better pay a third set of goons to police the first two sets of goons….

    Are you SURE you wouldn’t prefer paying taxes?

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  43. stonetools says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    A perverse incentive to be poor? No one wants to be poor. Pretty much every poor person, if you gave them the choice “poor or not poor?” would choose not poor.

    I mean, I realize you and your right-wing cronies are obsessed with taxes, but most normal people don’t think like that. They’d rather pay 30% taxes on $100,000 of income than 0% taxes on $10,000 of income.

    THIS. When I was unemployed due to illness, I would have LOVED to have been working and earning enough money to pay federal income tax. Seriously, what kind of bubble do people live in to think that being too poor to pay income tax is a disincentive to work?

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  44. Rafer Janders says:

    I’m nonetheless very uncomfortable with the Democrats’ class warfare message: it basically gives people a sense of entitlement to things paid for by other people,

    Um, everyone IS entitled to things paid for by other people — that’s what human society is. Society is simply too large, sprawling, complex and complicated for us all to have only what we can each afford to pay for ourselves. Instead, we pool our resources, and get things like an interstate highway system, Social Security, the SEC, FBI, CIA, police and fire departments, clean drinking water, roads, air traffic control, sewers, courts, the US Army, etc. etc. etc.

    Every single day, James — virtually ever single minute — you yourself are the beneficiary of programs and policies that are paid for by millions of other people. And if any of those programs and policies stopped for even one day, you’d feel yourself cheated out of something you were entitled to.

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  45. Geek, Esq. says:

    Why should they have the right to vote themselves a share of other people’s money?

    It’s only your money because the government creates it, prints it, recognizes your legal right to it, and protects your right to it.

    Part of this social compact means making sure that the less fortunate have reason to buy into this arrangement. If people are starving, dying of disease, watching their children grow up with no hope, etc, then their rational basis for respecting private property and the rule of law diminishes considerably.

    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

    John F. Kennedy

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  46. Rafer Janders says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Property rights are defined by the State. In exchange for the enforcement of that definition, you pay something to the State.

    Well-stated. James keeps going on about “my money.” But what he doesn’t understand is that it’s only “his money” because the rest of us keep up a social compact to pretend that it is. No United States of America, and with it its Treasury, courts, police system, banks, then no money for James or anyone else. So yes, we will vote to tax away some of your money, because without the rest of us to maintain that United States of America, you don’t have that money or anything else at all other than what you can protect with your own two fists.

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  47. Coop says:

    There’s a visceral level at which I sympathize with Romney on this. Irrespective of whether it was otherwise good policy, for example, the auto bailout almost certainly helped win Obama Ohio. That could easily be looked at as a “gift” to the auto companies and the unions in particular.

    This is a common theme put forward by Republicans on why the Democrats won. As Rush said, “you can’t beat Santa Claus.”

    Could it be that people voted for Obama because (gasp) they honestly thought that it was best for the country as a whole?

    I’m sick of this widespread notion that everybody in America votes on the basis of what benefits them personally. And you see it on both the left and right.

    The left accuses CEOs and billionaires of voting for their own low taxes b/c it is in their self interest. What about Bill Gates and Warren Buffett? And what makes you think conservative CEOs don’t actually think conservatism is good for the country as a whole? Is it that surprising that some successful capitalists have full faith in the ability of unbridled American capitalism to lift people out of poverty?

    While the right accuses welfare recipients of always voting for Democrats because of the federal benefits they receive. What about poor conservatives? The Red States after all are the biggest “takers.” As for subsidized democrats, is it that far fetched and naive to think that they are concerned with other people being benefited by liberal policies, as they experience the benefits of these policies first hand?

    Our political debate needs to get past this notion that people only vote for self-interest. Not only is it entirely unsubstantiated, it only functions to demonize the other side and leads to more divisiveness.

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  48. anjin-san says:

    Would you like to add something substantial to the debate

    Sure. In Sacramento and San Jose, the size of the police force is shrinking, and crime is going up. Hurrah for limited government!

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  49. anjin-san says:

    Romney and company just don’t get it.

    Yet you voted for him…

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  50. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    It was a gift to one segment of the American economy and to a certain segment of the work force that happens to be a huge Democratic constituency.

    Again, to me, that’s just pure nonsense. Sustaining a critical part of America’s industrial economy is not a “gift” in any way I can understand, and in this case I think your brain is literally not working the same way mine is.

    I think maybe you don’t understand the word — a gift is a voluntary transfer of an item of value from one party to another, made gratuitously to the recipient. It is, in other words, a present. But the auto bailout wasn’t a present — it was an act of economic self-interest, made by the United States government to assist the citizens of the United States. It was an act of economic necessity, done to bail out not just the auto industry specifically, but all other industries and the region which depended on that industry, and in a wider sense the larger American economy of which that industry and region are a major part.

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  51. Rob in CT says:

    The person earning $26k pays taxes. THEY HAVE SKIN IN THE GAME. They pay taxes. They don’t pay federal income taxes.

    The “skin in the game” argument has really started to piss me off, on a visceral level (to use the same word James did). Who has more skin in the game:

    The household earning $250k (or better yet $25 mil!) and paying ~25% of that in federal income taxes (marginal rates, remember how they work)? Or the fella earning $26k, which is eaten entirely by basics like rent and food and commuting costs and what have you and then you gotta go and negotiate the governmental bureacracy to get some help.

    Which leads me to another point. Conservatives love to talk about crappy government customer service – the old standby is, of course, the DMV (I’ve typically had no trouble with the DMV, but whatevs). But then, apparently without noticing the contradiction, some have the gall to go on about Lucky Duckies? Are you f*cking kidding me?

    Others have made the points I typically make about societal stability. This is not just a moral/altruistic thing. But that’s obvious to anyone with a sense of history, and I think James has such a sense.

    This is an emotional thing about feeling like you’re put upon. I get it, I really do. Keep it in perspective, though.

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  52. Rafer Janders says:

    It was a gift to one segment of the American economy and to a certain segment of the work force that happens to be a huge Democratic constituency.

    Wall Street, we can agree, is not traditionally regarded as Democratic-leaning. Was the bank bailout therefore also a gift to a huge Republican constituency? If so, isn’t it a bit baffling that the Obama admistration would give such a gift?

    Or maybe, must maybe, they took action based on what they thought was necessary for the good of the country as a whole, not just narrow partisan self-interest?

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  53. michael reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:

    Most of the police protection is at the state and local level. But, sure, there are ways in which the very rich benefit from government that the very poor don’t.

    And “It never seems to occur to them that the poor and working class have enough votes to simply start dispossessing rich people, if they chose to do so” is really the problem. Why should they have the right to vote themselves a share of other people’s money?

    Wrong on so many levels. The police are local because there are other “police” that aren’t. It’s a system, a civilization. Law is maintained at every level, with each level relying on the rest. I pay for the Tiburon police. Do you think they’d be able to protect me if the Marin City (our nearest poor area) police weren’t also doing their jobs? And the CHP? And the FBI? That’s just silly. You would never say something so superficial on foreign policy. But on the domestic level you just suspend reason in order to maintain faith in your own entitlements.

    James, we have a civilization. It all needs to work for the local elements to work. My little richy rich town is surrounded by the bay, and across that bay is San Francisco, and beyond the bay bridge is the ocean, and above it all is the sky. And in all those dimensions, my wealth and stability are protected. By the Coast Guard, by SFPD, by CHP, by DEA, by FBI, by the FAA, by the US Navy. True or not?

    The food that I buy at my local market comes across the ocean, and across borders, and from the valley, and from local farms, all of which happens because of civilization: roads, trade agreements, meat inspections, regulated pesticides and so on: civilization.

    If we suffer an earthquake most of the houses won’t fall down because the state and the town regulate building, and the courts and the agencies discipline the manufacturers who may be in other states so that they don’t build houses of inferior materials. Materials that may come from other countries via trade agreements and defended oceans. Through ports that are policed by other jurisdictions, that may be subsidized by the federal government. If we do have an earthquake the federal government will help us to recover.

    I mean, seriously, is any of this news to you? Are you unaware of the incredibly complex web that makes it possible for me to sit on my ass on my hillside here and type? Do you think all that happens for free? Who is supposed to pay for the navy, the coast guard, the FBI, the regulators and inspectors who make my life so pleasant? Wake up, Rip Van Winkle, it’s 2012, we are not islands, we are products of a civilization. An expensive civilization.

    As for “Why should they have the right to vote themselves other people’s money?” Well, because it beats the hell out of them deciding to come and take it. That’s one reason. Again: civilization. Read some history. We didn’t simply arrive at this overnight. There are well-established reasons for ruling classes to maintain a degree of quality of life for the poor and working class. French Revolution, Russian revolution, uncounted thousands of revolts and uprisings. Not to mention the crippling effect on societies that don’t educate their people, or maintain basic sanitation and health for their people.

    Jesus, dude, you’re shaking my confidence in you. The answers are not in ideology but in history.

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  54. Scott says:

    @James Joyner:

    @Scott: Most of that’s rent seeking done behind closed doors. Class warfare is explicit and open pandering for political purposes.

    So I suppose by your definition class warfare can only a one way definition. Since rent seeking is available only to a very small segment of the population and is not class warfare, are you implying that campaigns to limit lobbying, to limit campaign financing, to have transparency in campaign financing is engaging in “explicit and open pandering for political purposes” are a form of class warfare. I guess I have a problem with that definition.

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  55. anjin-san says:

    @ James

    it basically gives people a sense of entitlement to things paid for by other people

    If you had become disabled while serving in the military, you would have been entitled to support for yourself and your family. And I would have been happy to pay for it.

    How is this complicated?

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  56. Rob in CT says:

    Ok, so let’s go back about 2000 years.

    The Gracchus brothers. Here’s a couple of guys basically from the lower rung of the elite, saying “you know, it’s not really a good thing that all the land is owned by a small group, getting smaller all the time. We need to redistribute.” This, and their tactics (which, it should be noted, were no cruder than the standard of the day), got them whacked. The elite reaction was horror, indignation, and violence.

    And then they spent centuries trying to manage “the mob.” And why was there a mob? Because the small landowners – the Roman version of a middle class – had been pushed out. They’d been squeezed, and bit by bit land ownership was increasingly concentrated in the hands of the few. Hordes of slaves worked the land, which was owned by absentee landlords (who were exempt from taxation). The displaced ended up in Rome and kept more or less barely placated with bread and circuses. Today we don’t have slaves. We have lots of machines, though. And from an economic perspective, the two are rather similar: both are expensive capital investments and neither is paid a wage.

    Both parties really need to put their thinking caps on here. The Dems are less wrong in that they aren’t standing their screaming about having to hand out the bread. But they really don’t have much beyond that sort of palliative care.

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  57. DRE says:

    James, I’m really having a hard time understanding how you could hold these two thoughts in your head at the same time.

    That’s why, despite recognizing the need for progressive taxation, free public education, a single payer healthcare system, and other forms of economic redistribution, I’m nonetheless very uncomfortable with the Democrats’ class warfare message: it basically gives people a sense of entitlement to things paid for by other people, often while implying that said people really didn’t earn their money, anyway.

    We’d be far better off having these debates on the level of what’s the best public policy interest of the country rather than pitting the 53 percent against the 47 percent or the 99 percent against the 1 percent. Conflict and division are, alas, more compelling.

    The Democrats don’t have a “class warfare” message. We have a belief in a society where the people make the rules (limited by constitution), the people live by the rules, and that a well-functioning government is a necessary part of that. The Republicans don’t seem to believe in that system any more, and have begun to champion a special “job creator” class that should make the rules, and then only follow the rules to the extent that is convenient

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  58. stonetools says:

    If you had become disabled while serving in the military, you would have been entitled to support for yourself and your family. And I would have been happy to pay for it.

    How is this complicated?

    Republicans never think misfortune could happen to them. When it does, their hands are often the first ones out. Remember, Bobby Jindal and the Louisianians begging for government help after the oil spill?

    But of course, Louisianians themselves have forgotten. They went for the guy who would have dismantled FEMA and mollycoddled BP. Conservative self-delusion knows no bounds, apparently.

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  59. stonetools says:

    Also too, its important to remember that the Republican’s ” class warfare” rhetoric is about raising the maximum tax rate back to where it was in 1999, when we were apparently a stagnant socialist hellhole and everyone felt entitled to free stuff.

    When you looked at the actual policy being debated, its clear that its not remotely ” class warfare” .Its really arithmetic, to quote a former budget balancing President.

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  60. grumpy realist says:

    @Rafer Janders: On one trip to Russia I ran into someone who was royally norked that Russia was trying to divide up land as being “personal property.” She told me that traditionally, houses were “owned” by whoever lived in them. A family would leave the area, the property would be left vacant for the next family who moved in and farmed the land. Land wasn’t considered able to be linked to any one owner–it was held communually.

    As said, our concepts of property and the bundle of rights that is associated with it depends on tradition and our system of law. Even in the US, we have covenants, and right-of-ways, and adverse possession….

    “Property rights” aren’t what you think they are.

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  61. anjin-san says:

    Wandering off topic, but worth noting:

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s nonpartisan budget analyst says the state now faces a much smaller deficit of $1.9 billion through the end of the next fiscal year and could even see surpluses after that.

    http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-11-14/calif-dot-budget-deficit-shrinks-to-1-dot-9b-with-taxes

    It may not be time to call a priest in for CA after all…

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  62. Moosebreath says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Good analysis showing why redistribution is in all classes best interest. Rome repeated this a generation or so later, with Sulla killing off thousands of that era’s liberals to avoid redistribution. And then, a generation or so later, it was the liberals who won, and while they didn’t kill off the conservatives to the same extent Sulla did, they also reworked the system to keep them from getting power again.

    “The displaced ended up in Rome and kept more or less barely placated with bread and circuses.”

    And when that didn’t work anymore, they started to subscribe to a new belief system (Christianity) which minimized their involvement in society.

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  63. DRE says:

    @James Joyner:

    At some very low level of income, it just makes no sense to create the illusion of paying taxes. $26,000 seems an awfully high ceiling, though. Still, my problem is that you wind up with a large chunk of those voting on tax issues having no stake in low taxes. Why not raise them to pay for stuff if someone else is going to do the paying?

    You are forgetting the whole marginal income tax rates yourself now. You don’t pay any income tax on your first $26,000 of income either. Probably even more of your income if you have a decent tax preparer and have a mortgage. And perhaps you don’t understand this, but it is not only the rich guy who might be thinking about what’s good public policy. Just because a person pays no income taxes, doesn’t mean that he believes that taxes have no effect on him. If he believes as you do that high income taxes will be a drag on the economy then he has more reason than you do to vote against them.

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  64. stonetools says:

    @anjin-san:

    It may not be time to call a priest in for CA after all…

    Could it be that California’s budget deficit is shrinking because Republicans have so declined that they are unable to prevent the Democrats from passing sensible deficit cutting measures:

    Brown, a Democrat, bet big this November by asking voters to approve Proposition 30, which raises the statewide sales tax by a quarter cent and boosts income taxes on the wealthy to help solve the state’s ongoing deficit. Voters, particularly minorities and those between the ages of 18 and 29, agreed.

    The tax hikes are expected to provide an additional $6 billion a year for the state and deliver on a campaign promise Brown made two years ago to fix the state’s perpetual budget deficits and to raise taxes only if voters approved.

    DING DING DING!

    And thereby hangs a lesson. I predict that the US will not solve the its deficit problem until the Democrats achieve filibuster proof majorities in both chambers of Congress and the innumerate, self deluded Tea Party Republicans are voted out.

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  65. bill says:

    the dumbing down of America is working, or maybe just apathy? the entitlement crowd figured out how to vote themselves more money, just don’t comprehend the consequences of it in the long term.

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  66. David M says:

    @bill:

    How is that different than Republicans campaigning on spending more on Medicare?

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  67. jukeboxgrad says:

    michael:

    There are well-established reasons for ruling classes to maintain a degree of quality of life for the poor and working class. French Revolution, Russian revolution, uncounted thousands of revolts and uprisings. Not to mention the crippling effect on societies that don’t educate their people, or maintain basic sanitation and health for their people.

    That wacky Marxist Alan Greenspan has said this:

    As I’ve often said… this [increasing income inequality] is not the type of thing which a democratic society—a capitalist democratic society—can really accept without addressing.

    Joseph E. Stiglitz (Nobelist and former Chief Economist of the World Bank) explained why (5/11):

    Americans have been watching protests against oppressive regimes that concentrate massive wealth in the hands of an elite few. Yet in our own democracy, 1 percent of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation’s income—an inequality even the wealthy will come to regret. …

    Alexis de Tocqueville once described what he saw as a chief part of the peculiar genius of American society—something he called “self-interest properly understood.” The last two words were the key. Everyone possesses self-interest in a narrow sense: I want what’s good for me right now! Self-interest “properly understood” is different. It means appreciating that paying attention to everyone else’s self-interest—in other words, the common welfare—is in fact a precondition for one’s own ultimate well-being. Tocqueville was not suggesting that there was anything noble or idealistic about this outlook—in fact, he was suggesting the opposite. It was a mark of American pragmatism. Those canny Americans understood a basic fact: looking out for the other guy isn’t just good for the soul—it’s good for business.

    The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.

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  68. grumpy realist says:

    @bill: You mean the entitlement crowd like hedge fund and private equity traders, who pay only 15% taxes on so-called “carried interest”? Those guys?

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  69. An Interested Party says:

    I’m so glad you know what I want.

    You really have no right to get huffy about that as you often act as if you know exactly what is in the minds and hearts of other people…

    Oh and don’t forget the pony. A unicorn, if possible.

    Ohhh, so you are quite familiar with Mitt Romney’s tax policies…

    Ya’ll are funny. Would you like to add something substantial to the debate or are you happy just calling me a poopyhead?

    When one is spouting bullshit, it seems to be right on the mark to call that person a shithead…

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  70. Pharoah Narim says:

    Hmmmmm….my gut tells me that anybody that believes that not paying income taxes is incentive enough to continue to struggle to make ends meet: a) has never been poor, b)has never personally known anyone who is, and , c) is probably unqualified to speak or write about those who are.

    To address a larger point however. The economy collectively belongs to us all–you can’t have an economy without people. There’s a social compact to allow participation in the economy and for people to enjoy the money they extract from it. However, extraction to the point that everyone else’s participation is limited (effectively shrinking the economy) can’t be tolerated in a free society. Its simple self-preservation. Would you want your liver or kidneys taking most the oxygen rich blood and have the rest of your organs make do the best they can? Such a person would be sickly indeed. We have to recognize that all money isn’t necessarily wealth and certainly all money isn’t “earned”. The Gov’t has an apt role in identifying these scenarios and acting as a circulating mechanism to prevent any unhealthy edemas in our economy be it in a certain class or industry.

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  71. bookdragon says:

    It strikes me that a lot of what the liberals, or moderates with an appreciation of history, are trying to get across here could be summed up with a simple but very true proverb:

    The wolf pack dines on venison; the lone wolf on mice.

    We support each other as part of a society and work together to make our ‘pack’ strong, or play the lone wolf (or pretending-to-be-Galt) game and wind up with next to nothing.

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  72. bill says:

    @Pharoah Narim: if you’re talking about some 3rd world shithole i can see it- but if you’re talking about America maybe you need to travel more. our “poor” live like kings compared to the rest of the worlds “poor”. and relying o others taxes is not a motivator either, it just fluffs up our economy and gives us a false sense of security. go to a public park in a lower income part of town and see how much people appreciate what’s provided for them vs what they pay for themselves.

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  73. mattb says:

    @bill:

    the entitlement crowd figured out how to vote themselves more money, just don’t comprehend the consequences of it in the long term.

    Explain to be how this is different than people voting based on their desire to get a tax cut?

    BTW, you command of talking points is truly something to behold.

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  74. Pharoah Narim says:

    @Bill

    I’ve got more miles of world and CONUS travel accumulated than I’d care to have that’s for sure. But your argument doesn’t hold weight because those 3rd world abject poor don’t live in this country. You see, the real damage that poverty does is to the human psyche. A psyche which always makes reality judgments in relative terms.

    We see that same phenomenon amongst those that were on the cusp of the upper class but had to take a haircut in the Great Recession in ’08. “Oh…we have to send the kids to a cheaper private school, sell the boat, and vacation in the US instead of abroad…oh wooahh is us!”

    The poor is this country will alway see their plight framed in contrast to how the upper crust lives and how much in common their lifestyles show with the common middle class experience. How some 3rd country national working in Oman lives won’t and shouldn’t be factored into their equation. The only people that would want such a comparision is those that want to placate them for having experienced less of the American dream than their fellow citizens. Sometimes from their own shortcomings but mostly just due to the numbers game. We’ve lauded market “efficiency” and outsourcing, stripping our form of capitalism of the labor intensive redundacy that acted to “spread the wealth around” without gov’t intervention. Now the surplus labor is trapped in our safety net with no clear path out.

    Funny how your arguments are never presented in reverse. We doesn’t chastise plutocrats from making more business deals because they are already soooooo much richer than the rich of other nations–do we? Im sure you don’t…

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  75. jukeboxgrad says:

    The poor is this country will alway see their plight framed in contrast to how the upper crust lives

    Yes, and vice versa. This is a fundamental characteristic of human nature. Money is a positional good; it’s about status in the pack. Our experience of wealth or poverty is highly positional, rather than absolute. Link.

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  76. Katharsis says:

    I would add to this discussion that there is also an element of control going on that must be recognized. It isn’t just that entitled wealth seethes at the government taxing them, taking their ‘earnings’, but also that the government actually lets other people decide how best to use those funds. For people who are used to writing the checks and calling the shots, the idea that they can’t control their own money (not just WHAT it is spent on, but HOW is equally unnerving) will never stop vexing them. Money represents control to some people, especially for those who were born into wealth, and taking that away will never sit right with them.

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  77. Brummagem Joe says:

    Saving a core national manufacturing industry was a gift to the auto industry and the unions? So saving the entire financial system was a gift to the banks, insurance companies, et al and ultimately the entire US population who would have been the major sufferers had the financial system imploded.
    Another perhaps more intelligent way of looking at it is that all these actions were sound and prudent public and economic policy. Oh dear JJ is having to fall back on the tired Republican trope of class warfare. To the extent that class warfare exists the winners as Warren Buffett pointed out have been the upper classes who are now corrallng a share of national income unseen since the 20’s and in many case (eg. Romney) paying derisory levels of taxation upon it.

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  78. al-Ameda says:

    “Class Warfare” usually works to the political benefit of Republicans because White working class voters buy into the notion that one day, they too, could become fabulously wealthy (never mind the fact that the only way that happens is if they buy the right lottery ticket) and god forbid that the top tax rate be 4% higher than it is now.

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  79. bill says:

    @Pharoah Narim: “giving” people free stuff doesn’t make them feel good about themselves, it demeans them in the long run and turns them into addicts without even realizing it.

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