The Politics of Wealth

Romney says "We're the party of people who want to get rich."

Earlier this week, presidential candidate Mitt Romney said the following (source):

At a fundraiser at a country club in Mississippi this evening that was expected to raise a record-breaking $1.7 million, Mitt Romney defended the Republican Party against its reputation as the “party of the rich” explaining that really, it is a party focused on helping the poor.

“We’re accused, by the way – in our party – of being the party of the rich,” Romney said. “And it’s an awful moniker, because that’s just not true. We’re the party of people who want to get rich. And we’re also the party of people who want to care to help people from getting poor. We want to help the poor.

“We also want to make sure people don’t have to become poor,” Romney said. “And we know what it takes to keep people from becoming poor.”

Emphasis mine.

I find the statement interesting for a variety of reasons.

One is that statements like this underscore the entire predicament of the politics of wealth that Romney finds himself in.  He is not the first wealthy candidate to run for the office, nor is he the first to find wealth the be a campaign liability (for example, John Kerry had similar problems in 2004).   however, the amazing thing is that Romney is having an exceptionally hard time not being the Poor Little Rich Kid running for office, which is especially problematic in the aftermath of the Great Recession.  His identity seems more wrapped up in his wealth than anything else.  (Of course, part of his problem is that he can’t run on his time as governor because of RomneyCare).

Another issue that strikes me about the statement is that, taken at face value, it has profound logical problems on a variety of levels.  For instance:  lots of Democratic voters would like to rich (and, in fact, many are).  Mores significantly, however, is the problem that no matter what, there is going to be a finite number of rich persons, and they will always be a minority.  This is not something upon which to build a political party (or public policy), therefore.  Of course, if taken at exact face value, he is claiming the GOP is for the wealthy and the aspirational, but there are two type of aspirational persons:  those who have a shot at succeeding and those who have no shot.  The latter group is therefore delusional.  As such, is Romney stating that the GOP is for the Rich + The Realistically Aspirational + The Delusional?  If so it is worth noting that it takes The Delusional under such a formulation for the party to be a mass-level enterprise.

In other words the bottom line is this:  there are only ever going to be  handful of truly rich persons in a given society, since “rich” itself is a relative term that derives from comparisons amongst various levels of income/wealth and general living conditions.  As such, that means that even a “party of people who want to get rich” is going to be made up of the rich (a small proportion) and those who seek to be rich, but won’t be (the vast majority).  As such, one is left wondering if, ultimately that such a party is not, by definition, ultimately a party of the rich.   I say this because the rich in that party will seek to promote policies that favor the rich (e.g., a low top marginal tax rate) and then tell the wannabes that they, too, will enjoy the fruits of said rate when they, too, are rich (even though logic dictates that not everyone can make that kind of money.

What might be useful is a party that recognizes that while being rich would be nice and all, that most people won’t be rich, so policies have to consider not the best case scenario (i.e.. riches for everyone!) and rather one that looks to the needs of the middle class.

It also make me wonder why, if the Republican Party is to be “the party of people who want to get rich,” that the party doesn’t recognize that the main path to mass improvement of living standards is education, including pre-K, K-12, and higher ed.  If the goal is to help people improve their lots in life, some attention (and funding) might be helpful in these areas.

Ultimately, Romney is tapping into the guiding mythos of modern conservatism:  that all that matters is hard work and getting the government out of the way.   The problem is that it is not so simple.   On the one hand, one can certainly find example of hard work paying off.  On the other, lots of people work very hard their entire lives and wealth is nowhere to be found.  And if we were from the planet Edos, we could further note on yet another hand that a lot of rich people did not start out in life poor, even if they did end up richer than they started (two names that come immediately to mind:  Mitt Romney and Bill Gates).

Again:  certainly we want a system that promotes the ability of people to improve their lives.  However, since we aren’t going to all be rich, we need policies that take this fact into account instead of pretending like we can all be part of the top tier (with only the lazy left behind).

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Campaign 2012, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. anjin-san says:

    I think “Joe the Plumber” is a great example of a typical modern conservative. He had a fantasy about buying a plumbing company and making 250k+ a year. In his mind, he was a guy who was destined for success. Of course the reality is that he was making 40k a year, and his plan for buying the company consisted of one conversation with the owner years earlier that went nowhere.

    Oh, yes, he resented Obama for planning to raise taxes on his fantasy income of 250k a year.

    The GOP is very good at exploiting people like this, the ones who fancy themselves as basically being cut from the same cloth as the millionaires and billionaires, guys who are sure they would be raging successes if only the government would get out of the way…

  2. mattb says:

    Additionally, this seems to narrowly define “richness” (and therefore the Republican party) in purely economic terms and individualistic terms.

    That they only thing that matters is the pursuit of personal riches, with little consideration of the means by which those riches are acquired. Not immediately clear are questions about where community and nation fit into this pursuit.

    Intentional or not, this is tied to the modern interpretation of Smith’s Invisible Hand as some how being only good. And has been point out numerous times, this is not an interpretation that the ascended Scotsman would most likely support.

  3. @anjin-san:

    I would have told the story of Joe, and the people who were sympathetic to him, a little more sympathetically … but essentially yes.

  4. mattb says:

    To your point that “As such, one is left wondering if, ultimately that such a party is not, by definition, ultimately a party of the rich.” it seems to me that Romney’s remarks tacitly addressed that:

    At his first fundraiser of the day, Romney told the guests – who each had to have contributed $50,000 to the campaign to attend – that it was likely the “most expensive lunch” they’ve ever had. …

    “I know that people in this room are probably doing relatively well, relative to folks across this country. But not everyone in America is doing so well right now, it’s tough being middle class in America right now,” Romney said. “The waiters and waitresses that come in and out of this room and offer us refreshments, they’re not having a good year.

    How would you have liked to have been a waiter or waitress working that room, being singled out and put on display as examples of “the struggling middle class.”

  5. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Hmm.

    Well, one way to look at a six or seven-sentence verbal statement is to parse one of those six or seven sentences and then to nitpick that one parsed sentence until it’s been torn into little bits and pieces and buried alive, so to speak.

    Incidentally, ironically enough, lawyers make their livings doing that sort of thing. Many of them have become quite rich doing do.

    The other way to look at a full graf’s worth of spoken sentences is to read them in conjunction with each other and to realize that as robotic as a guy like Romney is he’s not actually a robot, and at least he has some degree of colloquial and figurative intentions in the words he says:

    “We’re accused, by the way – in our party – of being the party of the rich,” Romney said. “And it’s an awful moniker, because that’s just not true. We’re the party of people who want to get rich. And we’re also the party of people who want to care to help people from getting poor. We want to help the poor. “We also want to make sure people don’t have to become poor,” Romney said. “And we know what it takes to keep people from becoming poor.”

    Sometimes cigars merely are cigars and sometimes a statement that Republicans want to help poor people and to try to help them endeavor to be rich merely is just that and not any cause of high dudgeon mode nor for OCD mode.

  6. anjin-san says:

    “I know that people in this room are probably doing relatively well, relative to folks across this country.

    Someone who can drop 50k on a fundraise is doing “relatively well”??

    Romney’s clues don’t have a clue…

  7. Boyd says:

    I find it interesting that you believe that it’s delusional to aspire to something one will never achieve.

    I also find it interesting that you believe that not-rich people only oppose hyper-progressive taxation because they (unrealistically) expect to be among the rich. As opposed to, y’know, believing it’s inherently bad policy, the logical extension of which is that people who say it’s a bad policy must be lying, since they really only want the policy because they hope to be rich some day.

  8. @Boyd:

    Here’s the problem. Let’s say I’m a young Joe starting out. Let’s say I face problems like cyclical employment in plumbing, high medical costs, high college costs, and etc. Do I acknowledge the conditions faced by me, my family, and my peers, or do I create an alternate self-image?

    Should the aspirational world trump the real one?

    To me that is orthogonal to actually having the dream, and working at it. It’s being real.

    … and of course even if you think you will make the cut, and be actually rich, can should normally develop some compassion along the way, for the people you see pluggin’ and not making it.

  9. Rob in CT says:

    It’s not just delusion (people unrealistically thinking they’ll strike it rich someday).

    The GOP has been very successful at making a moral argument against wealth redistribution (in all its various forms)*. The Dem pushback has been poor, until quite recently. Or perhaps it’s always been about the same, but the recent bubble/bust/crappy recovery coupled with (here’s my aspirational, possibly delusional hope) Peak Wingnut has simply illustrated the issues a bit better. Either way, only now is the pushback really starting to click. We’ll see if it lasts.

    * the perfect example, for me, is the estate tax. Sure, there’s been a bunch of Conservative misinformation designed to make people think it might hit them when it won’t, but mostly people get that they’ll never pay it. But lots of them still think it’s wrong. And that is due, in part, to moral arguments advanced by Conservatives. Moral arguments I think are garbage, but you can’t ignore ’em.

    So no, it’s not just delusion about one’s likelyhood of getting rich. The moral component is a big deal.

  10. legion says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: The problem is the entire second half of that graf – it’s all lies. And sadly transparent lies, at that. Some people have Ambition – they want to be successful, have a good life, set their children up to do better or have an easier life than they had – and that’s all well and good. But some people are just plain Greedy. And that’s a problem. An Ambitious person doesn’t feel threatened when someone else succeeds, but a Greedy person feels that he can’t be a “winner” unless someone else is a “loser” – that everything is a zero-sum game. And that’s exactly the Republican Party Mitt describes in those first sentences: a group of greedy bastards who don’t just want to succeed, they want to be Rich, and they can’t be rich unless a lot of other people are poor – to say you want to become rich and stop other people from becoming poor is a logical contradiction.

    To summarize, as has been said before, there are only two types of Republicans: millionaires and suckers.

  11. @Boyd:

    I find it interesting that you believe that it’s delusional to aspire to something one will never achieve.

    To aspire to the types of incomes it would take to be truly “rich” (or even to have a taxable income of over $250,000) is, in fact, a delusion for most people. And you cannot, and should not, make policy on the notion that it is possible.

    Further, there are lots of things that are simply not possible. Our college campus are filled with young men who are certain that they will be drafted by an NFL or NBA team. However, almost all of those young men are delusional. Working for a goal is one thing, but when one is a mediorce WR on a mediocre team, one has to be realistic about one’s likely options.

    I could tell you that I aspire to have an endowed chair at an Ivy League university, but I assure you that to in fact think such a thing to be possible would be, in a word, delusional.

  12. @Boyd:

    BTW, to bring it home to a hard detail, the Ryan/Romney budget includes:

    Cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program) would throw 13 million low-income people off the benefit rolls, cut benefits deeply — by over $1,800 a year for a family of four — or some combination of the two. These cuts would primarily affect poor families with children, seniors, and people with disabilities.

    Some of those 13 million plan to be rich someday, so it’s OK?

  13. @Steven L. Taylor:

    To aspire to the types of incomes it would take to be truly “rich” (or even to have a taxable income of over $250,000) is, in fact, a delusion for most people. And you cannot, and should not, make policy on the notion that it is possible.

    I would quibble on semantics. Strictly speaking an aspiration is a “Hope or Ambition”

    It becomes a delusion when it loses that meaning, and becomes a “secret identity.” True without being true.

  14. @Boyd:

    I also find it interesting that you believe that not-rich people only oppose hyper-progressive taxation because they (unrealistically) expect to be among the rich.

    Well, there is some evidence to suggest that there are aspirational elements to the policies people support. I do agree that there are multiple reasons for why one supports a given policy, however.

    But, seriously, opposing a change in the top marginal rate from 35% to 39.6% is to “oppose hyper-progressive taxation”? Because, realistically, this is what we are talking about here.

  15. Boyd says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Maybe we have different definitions for “aspire.”

    At any rate, you have reemphasized that you believe people support “pro-rich” policies because they’re delusional about their future. Do you really believe that conservatives are that self-centered, stupidly being led around by the nose by the already-wealthy? Or if they’re not stupid, that they’re lying when they say they believe, for instance, that progressive income tax rates are bad policy?

  16. @Boyd:

    Lol, maybe we’ve noticed that discussion of progressive taxation does jump to a lot of seemingly irrational claims. I mean “35% free market, 39% socialism” kind of begs snark.

  17. Boyd says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    But, seriously, opposing a change in the top marginal rate from 35% to 39.6% is to “oppose hyper-progressive taxation”? Because, realistically, this is what we are talking about here.

    That’s a digression from the point I’m trying to make, Steven. But you’ve acknowledged that there are more aspects and rationales behind what policies people support.

    I just felt that your posted article went too far out by hanging everything on people expecting to get rich. I would suggest that the people who support conservative policies for that reason are a rather small minority. Your post made no allowance for any other reason than self-centeredness.

  18. mattb says:

    @Boyd: perhaps its cynical, but in my experience most movement Republicans support “pro-rich” policies because they dislike the idea of the government taking away any of their hard earned cash.

    There are, I’m sure, many that have well articulated rationals that transcend that of course. But I think that for most of the “asperationals”, the Republican party (and right wing media) provide an easy set of rationalizations for the idea that money fundamentally belongs to you the individual and the government does not have the moral right (different than legislative right) to take it away from you.

  19. @Boyd: First, I think that you are caricaturing what I am saying.

    Second, I think that if one steps back and looks at the policy prescriptions that are offered by the GOP they are, ultimately, pro-wealth and power. And I think that the GOP uses a lot of rhetoric, like that of Romney above, to make it sound like the goal is, to use the old metaphor, to let a rising tide lift all boats.

    I used to subscribe to that view. And while I remain fundamentally in favor of markets, I also see that markets and existing power structures tend to favor the status quo elites. America is not anywhere near as upwardly mobile, for example, as the mythos claims.

    Also: the fundamental argument for low taxes is “I will keep mine and you keep yours” but who benefits from that? The rich, not the middle class. The rich can send their kids to nice private schools while the middle class has to live with the under-funded public school. The rich can easily send their kids to college while the middle class kids have to take out huge loans because cuts in state funding mean tuition is through the roof, etc. So yes, I do think to some degree there are lot of people voting against their own interests.

  20. @Boyd:

    For extra credit, how many trillion does the “improved” Ryan/Romney tax plan add to the debt?

    My goodness, because we might be rich someday, we should not pay the bills today.

  21. JKB says:

    @anjin-san:

    Some people call that fantasy of Joe the Plumbers, a dream. Now we know, the Democrats a all about snuffing out people’s dreams. They’ve done a good job of crushing Martin Luther King’s dream and we now have a country where people are judged not by the content of their character but the color of their skin. Or some high cheekbones of a relative in Elizabeth Warren’s case. But we must not speak of the content of Obama’s character as it is racist to speak of such things about someone non-white.

  22. Boyd says:

    @mattb: But there’s a difference between “it’s immoral for the government to take their money away” and “it’s immoral for the government to take my money away (in the future when I’m rich).”

  23. Jeremy R says:

    We’re the party of people who want to get rich.

    So much of modern GOP rhetoric is wrapped up in fluffing the almost mythical “job creators” / “producers” / “innovators” and is contemptuous of the vast majority of the working class in this country. This is demonstrated by how much of Romney’s stump speech is devoted to feigning outrage for perceived slights to that rarefied group or in singing their virtues. That quoted statement is an attempt at an olive branch to those so clearly left out of this extremely narrow vision (to trick them into thinking they’re somehow included).

  24. Modulo Myself says:

    What’s funny is if someone ran for President with the slogan “All You Need Is Love” the entire country would laugh their ass off. This isn’t because, theoretically, the entire country is against Love, but it’s because most sane adults have some awareness that love is complicated and ambiguous.

    But this is essentially what Romney is saying, and what people are paying 50K to have said to them.

  25. @Steven L. Taylor: Not to quibble–okay, yes to quibble–but that’s no longer the truth. Obama-era surtax brings that top rate to more like 44% for some taxpayers, though realistically, probably a small group. http://financialducksinarow.com/2482/how-the-new-3-8-surtax-may-affect-your-roth-ira-conversion-strategy/

    Then of course there are state and local taxes. Current all levels spending is 40% of GDP IIRC; either we slash the spending, or *someone’s* going to have to pay a lot more than 40% of their income. One of the two is going to have to happen in the next four years. So while I wouldn’t characterize our current tax burden as hyperprogressive, it’s pretty accurate to say that we’re arguing about whether we want dramatically higher and more progressive taxation, or not. Since most of the movement has taken place at the federal level, that’s where the decisions will probably take place, too.

  26. Boyd says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I can see how you would view my portrayal as a caricature, Steven, but you have the luxury of knowing what’s in your mind, in addition to what you wrote.

    We, on the other hand, can only go by the pixels that you actually pushed. And I don’t think my analysis of what you wrote (as opposed to what you believe) is inaccurate.

  27. @Boyd:

    @mattb: But there’s a difference between “it’s immoral for the government to take their money away” and “it’s immoral for the government to take my money away (in the future when I’m rich).”

    This strikes right at the pragmatism issue I’ve been hitting for a day or two.

    I’m going to say that both of those are psychoses. I’ve accused an irrational segment of the right of picking their tax rate based on the way it feels. WTF man, have you seen the debt?

    You just split it so that there was a right and wrong way to say that deficits don’t matter. Only some infantile morality matters.

  28. stonetools says:

    The problem for Romney is not that he is wealthy- its how he made his wealth and what his policies are. Remember, he ran and lost against the similarly wealthy Edward Kennedy in 1994. Some analysis from Chait:

    : The main point of the attacks on Bain is to soften up Romney for the final argument about policy. The Ryan budget, with its tax cuts for the rich and massive cuts to the social safety net, is so far out of line with public opinion that many undecided voters have trouble believing that Romney would do such a thing. Defining his biography is a way to set up that argument.

    http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2012/07/republicans-advise-mitt-attack-defend.html

    Its one thing to be a wealthy, successful businessman: Its quite another to be a wealthy, successful businessman who made his money by outsourcing jobs and ruining blue collar communities.Its even worse if you are espousing policies like “downsizing” Medicare and Social Security, cutting taxes for the rich, and repealing a national health insurance plan to replace it with “Nothing”.

  29. @Megan McArdle: Of course you actually hit on a key problem in any discussion on taxation: there is no single number to which we can refer to say what people pay. It make discussion and debate difficult.

  30. Boyd says:

    @john personna: Sorry, John, I’ve been unclear about what I’m trying to point out. I’m not arguing actual policies, such as what constitutes hyperprogressive tax rates or how to address the federal deficit. I’m talking about Steven’s characterization of people who support conservative policies.

  31. anjin-san says:

    Some people call that fantasy of Joe the Plumbers, a dream.

    If you have one conversation about owning the business, and do nothing to make it a reality, it is a fantasy. Did Joe have a business plan? Did he go to college to learn business skills? Did he have a savings account where he was building up the capital to buy the business? Did he have ongoing discussions with the owner about the eventual transition? My understanding is that the answer to these questions is no.

    I spent the first half of my life having fun and working enough to get by. When I turned 30, I decided I wanted more, and the dream of being a successful professional came into my life. I researched different career paths. I overcame some of the destructive behavior in my life that held me back. I started college on my 35th birthday. I started associating with professionals and learned how to network.

    18 years later, I have a nice career, own two homes, and generally have the life I dreamed of once. There was a lot of hard work and sacrifice along the way.

    I know the difference between a dream and a fantasy, thanks.

  32. @Boyd:

    I’m talking about Steven’s characterization of people who support conservative policies.

    Well, while I do make some general inferences, I was mostly trying to parse out the logical conclusions of what Romney said. I don’t think I made a blanket statement about why all conservatives support specific policies.

    Although I do think that a great deal of the appeal that the GOP makes is based on people’s hopes for the future, rather than the now that they are living in.

  33. stonetools says:

    @Megan McArdle:

    So while I wouldn’t characterize our current tax burden as hyperprogressive, it’s pretty accurate to say that we’re arguing about whether we want dramatically higher and more progressive taxation, or not. Since most of the movement has taken place at the federal level, that’s where the decisions will probably take place, too.

    We should always remind ourselves that during the long postwar boom, the top tax rate was well north of 50%. Even if we accept your characterization, we still aren’t getting any where near the economically crippling hyper-taxation right wingers talk about.

  34. JKB says:

    @anjin-san:

    I’m sorry but I have it on good authority,

    Somebody else made that happen.

  35. Terry Hinote says:

    “It also make me wonder why, if the Republican Party is to be “the party of people who want to get rich,” that the party doesn’t recognize that the main path to mass improvement of living standards is education, including pre-K, K-12, and higher ed. If the goal is to help people improve their lots in life, some attention (and funding) might be helpful in these areas.”

    Are you implying here that neither attention nor funding is being supplied to education? Well, of course not. But what it does seem like is you are arguing that 1) more money need be allocated to education and 2) the republicans are anti-education.

    First lets address the notion that somehow the Republican party doesn’t acknowledge that education is a catalyst for success. Between 2001-2006 U.S. Department of Education spending on elementary and secondary education was increased from $27.3 billion in 2001 to $38 billion in 2006, up by nearly 40 percent. According to the department, annual spending on the Title I program to assist disadvantaged children grew by 45 percent between 2001 and 2006. In 2007, the department will spend 59 percent more on special education programs than it did in 2001. Bush was in office and the Republicans controlled the purse. During this same period government support (again, under a republican controlled congress) Department of Education spending on federal Pell Grants grew from $8.7 billion in 2001 to $13 billion in 2006, nearly 50 percent growth. The federal government spends considerably more on higher education today than it did during the Clinton administration… Does this mean that Clinton, and subsequently the democratic party did not acknowledge the idea that education was the best path to self-improvement?

    Emphasis here: On a side note, it should be noted that the tripling of education spending per capita, and adjusted for inflation over the past 3 decades has not shown to have any marked effect on the quality of result- ie, it is not necessarily the case that more education $ = better education, or better results.

    Which brings me to point #2: Is pumping more money into the Federally run Dept. Of Education 1) effective, and 2) the answer? Spending has increased yet results remain flat. So how can it be that :”If the goal is to help people improve their lots in life, some attention (and funding) might be helpful in these areas?” When funding is ample, even increased, yet results remain flat. Your insinuation that funding is absent, or that the republicans have not advocated for increased spending on education are disingenuous.

    Old study, but to the point: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2008/09/does-spending-more-on-education-improve-academic-achievement

  36. @Boyd:

    OK, Sure. And my frustration would be that tax fairness is so often claimed independent of revenue. As if, in fact, it was an issue independent of revenue considerations.

    @Megan McArdle:

    Then of course there are state and local taxes. Current all levels spending is 40% of GDP IIRC; either we slash the spending, or *someone’s* going to have to pay a lot more than 40% of their income. One of the two is going to have to happen in the next four years. So while I wouldn’t characterize our current tax burden as hyperprogressive, it’s pretty accurate to say that we’re arguing about whether we want dramatically higher and more progressive taxation, or not.

    Do we actually have the choice? I think the numbers demand both higher and more progressive taxation. Either that, or we keep going until we fail a Treasury bond offering.

  37. mattb says:

    @Boyd: That’s an interesting perspective, and one that I need to think about…

    Though I suspect that much of the base is motivated by “it’s immoral for the government to take my money away (in the future when I’m rich).”

    Or, rather it might be “it’s immoral for the government to take my money away (and I’m not even rich… if I was rich it would be even worse).”

    At least my anecdoctal experiences in north-eastern, middle class life suggest that.

  38. stonetools says:

    @JKB:

    Sigh. The full quote, with context:

    If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

    The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

    Had Obama slowed down and said ” Somebody else made those happen,” or avoided that construction altogether, Fox News would have never mentioned it and righty bloggers wouldn’t have their outrage of the moment.

  39. mannning says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Yes, it is a bit silly to oppose a mere 4.6% rise for the year, but if you take the long view and the historical view, such a rise singling out the wealthy signals the distinct possiblilty of further rises over the next four years up to the confiscatory levels of perhaps 60 to 90% in ever easier steps. Would it not be prudent to oppose the first step and thereby help to avoid the next steps to follow, as well as to oppose the envy-based (“fair share”) principle of excessive redistribution of wealth?

  40. Anderson says:

    @stonetools: But if you did remind yourself of the facts, you wouldn’t be a hack, and you wouldn’t be Megan McArdle. If she doesn’t like the apples, she compares them to oranges.

  41. stonetools says:

    @john personna:

    Do we actually have the choice? I think the numbers demand both higher and more progressive taxation. Either that, or we keep going until we fail a Treasury bond offering.

    Well, since Ronald Reagan , the Republican solution is that we “eliminate waste, fraud , and abuse” and cut spending for the “undeserving poor” and Cadillac driving “welfare queens”. Delusional, but there it is.

  42. J-Dub says:

    @mattb: How does he know the waiters are not having a good year? He probably thinks that by definition someone who is waiting tables is having a bad year. He must think they are all out-of-work accountants.

    They will have many bad years if Romney is elected. They’ll be able to look forward to higher “fees”, possibly losing their mortgage deduction tax “loophole”, losing their chance at subsidized health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, overcrowded public school classes for their children because of teacher layoffs, the list goes on and on. The Republicans will screw the poor worse than any time since the Industrial Revolution.

  43. michael reynolds says:

    This would be a better country, and a happier one, if rather than aspiring to be rich or even worse, famous, people aspired to do their jobs really well. When I was a waiter I was a damned good waiter. I’m still proud of being a good waiter, though I haven’t done the job in 23 years.

    Being good at something is a realistic goal and ought to be a satisfying one. A tiny percentage of people get rich, fewer still get famous, but most people could be really good at something. And if those people all knew they could make a resectable living, have health insurance and a modest lifestyle, I think more people would pursue excellence.

  44. David M says:

    @mannning: Yes, if there’s anything we’ve seen over the last couple decades, it’s that tax increases pass easily and moderate tax increases are followed by larger tax increases.

    In other words, that’s a problem that simply does not exist. We may as well be discussing the Easter Bunny as worry about that.

  45. @mannning:

    Heh, mannning … do you suppose inventing “confiscatory levels of perhaps 60 to 90%” is a little like inventing a future identify for yourself?

  46. mannning says:

    @john personna:

    Along with significant spending cuts! Raising taxes must not be the only answer.

  47. anjin-san says:

    @ JKB

    Somebody else made that happen.

    Well, the public college & university I attended that other people created sure helped. As did the creation on the internet, something the government kinda played a role in.

  48. stonetools says:

    @mannning:

    Yes, it is a bit silly to oppose a mere 4.6% rise for the year, but if you take the long view and the historical view, such a rise singling out the wealthy signals the distinct possiblilty of further rises over the next four years up to the confiscatory levels of perhaps 60 to 90% in ever easier steps. Would it not be prudent to oppose the first step and thereby help to avoid the next steps to follow, as well as to oppose the envy-based (“fair share”) principle of excessive redistribution of wealth?

    This may be a bit blunt, but slippery slope arguments are the last argument of those who have no logical argument. What’s to stop taxation from rising to the “confiscatory levels ” of 1945-60-those times of Communist domination? Political power, that’s what . The rich have enough political power in both parties to ensure that taxation never rises to those levels again, absent alien invasion-and may be not even then.

  49. mattb says:

    @mannning:

    Along with significant spending cuts!

    I’d have a stronger belief in the GOP’s interest in substantial spending cuts if a number of their members were not fighting tooth and nail to overturn the Automatics ‘across the board’ spending cuts which apparently hit too close to their sacred cows.

  50. @mannning:

    I wasn’t afraid of the Grand Bargain.

    It was a huge give-away by people you perceive as being tax and spend. They were willing to cut spending in high ratios relative to tax. 3 to 1. 6 to 1. It doesn’t really matter, it was a huge win. Anything with more on the cut side than the tax side was a win.

    And yet the GOP chose ideology, and this undeveloped morality that “what’s mine is mine.”

    You wanted spending cuts, and there they were.

  51. @mattb:

    Yes, and is especially painful because the argument a year ago, against the Grand Bargain, was that you couldn’t take tax cuts from the Democrats because they wouldn’t stand by their word. They would reverse them.

    Unbelievable.

  52. mannning says:

    @john personna:

    Doesn’t follow. I am retired. I have a sufficient nest egg, I believe. And my life expectancy is most likely well under 10 years. So I can’t understand “identify” for myself.

    Those levels of taxation have been reached in the past under progressive leadership, so what is gong to stop the next progressive government from doing it yet again? Obviously conservatives.

  53. @mannning:

    I was really looking for the parallel there, about things that are not in our current reality. “Confiscatory levels of perhaps 60 to 90%” are not real or current. They are future, and indeed fear, based.

    Right now we have too much spending. Everybody agrees on that. While they disagree about some sacred cows, they should be able to make a consensus list of programs nobody likes. That Congress can’t is probably one of the reasons they are at 18% approval.

    If we were good, if we were a functioning democracy, we’d do that first, and then spend some time talking about sacred cows. If they could not be cut, by a vote, in Congress, then Congress should bite the bullet and raise taxes to match.

    That’s pretty reasonable, isn’t it?

  54. mannning says:

    Perhaps my memory is wrong, but is it not true that several times in the past a so-called Grand Bargain was reached that first raised taxes significantly, with the cut spending part to be followed, but it never was?

  55. (The converse, that we can’t lower spending or raise tax, that this is us … it’s embarrassing.)

  56. @mannning:

    I believe all of the proposed ratios were 3:1 or higher, with the high side being cuts.

  57. J-Dub says:

    Maybe we shouldmake FedEx pay their share to build airports, bridges, and roads. While we are at it, any company that has their products built in China and shipped here should pay for the Pacific Fleet that protects their passage to the USA. Romney might be on to something here! We don’t need any gov’t involvement!

  58. Scott F. says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    …I also see that markets and existing power structures tend to favor the status quo elites. America is not anywhere near as upwardly mobile, for example, as the mythos claims.

    Cause and effect – pure and simple.

  59. JKB says:

    @anjin-san: Well, the public college & university I attended that other people created sure helped. As did the creation on the internet, something the government kinda played a role in.

    Why you? Why you and not the guy who sat next to you in your public university classes? Or the girl who had the next IP address?

    Why did the government not help them?

  60. stonetools says:

    @JKB:

    Why you? Why you and not the guy who sat next to you in your public university classes? Or the girl who had the next IP address?

    Why did the government not help them?

    The government did help them, that’s the point. It gave them an opportunity at a college education. What they did with that opportunity was up to them.

    No government help would have meant no state university , or for that matter, no public school. Are you in favor of the government helping by providing elementary through 12 education or not? Are you in favor of state colleges and universities or not? Because all that is a result of that evil ” gumint” spending.

  61. LaMont says:

    @Terry Hinote:

    The notion that you get a serious case of diminishing returns on the money spent on public education is at its core false. Especially sense we have evidence that tuitions spent on private education is and can be wildly successful. The real concern is how the money is being spent in the public sector.

    Bottom line is, we all know it takes money (and by example of elite private schools, a lot of it) to give our kids an A1 education. However, the solution to fixing public education is not simply to reduce the funding. Rather fixing the inefficiencies of the process of funding is key. But I don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. Public education has already been painted with a political brush that sadly polarizes it. And law makers seem to only make decisions within their political bubble.

  62. JKB says:

    But let us look at this “rich” theory of Steven’s. He posits that we should look to the delusional aspirational. Of course, the GOP has tried to improve such peoples chances by championing school vouchers to permit them to escape the damaging public schools. Public schools, we might point out, that have seen a tripling of budget, reduction in students but a decrease in student outcome. So simply funneling more money to a failed enterprise is insanity.

    And what of those who have no aspirations. Well, sometimes breaking their plate is the best way to get them to step up, to end dependency. As well as offering religious and other moral teachings to inspire them to live better lives. Such acts are much better than the “low expectations” of the Left with handouts without obligation and moral justification/promotion of bad choices such as unwed motherhood

    So, yes, Romney claims the GOP is the party of the want to be rich. Those willing to put forth the effort to reach above their station regardless of the roadblocks thrown up by the government in choosing the winners and losers.

    If you aren’t failing, you aren’t learning and if you aren’t trying you can’t win.

  63. @JKB:

    Of course, the GOP has tried to improve such peoples chances by championing school vouchers to permit them to escape the damaging public schools

    The problem is: if we went to a fully voucherized system, we would still need to pay for the vouchers. This would require taxation.

    Due to the lousy state of the available public schools in my area (and because of some learning issues for one child), I send two kids (out of three) to private schools. I pay far, far, far more in tuition than I do in property taxes (although my sales taxes also go to the public schools). There is little doubt that many people, under a fully voucher system would get more in vouchers than they pay in taxes–so where is the money going to come from.

    This is just one problem with your position.

  64. @Megan McArdle: But is not the surtax in question on investment income, which is already taxed at a lower rate?

  65. mattb says:

    @JKB:

    Why you? Why you and not the guy who sat next to you in your public university classes? Or the girl who had the next IP address?

    Why did the government not help them?

    Considering that all of you are sitting at a college which most likely receives Government funding (unless its a private tech college) and using technology developed on a Government Research backbone (i.e. the internet), your argument fails.

    Pretty much anyone who goes to a not-for-profit college is reaping government benefits.

  66. stonetools says:

    @JKB:

    So, yes, Romney claims the GOP is the party of the want to be rich. Those willing to put forth the effort to reach above their station regardless of the roadblocks thrown up by the government in choosing the winners and losers.

    If you aren’t failing, you aren’t learning and if you aren’t trying you can’t win.

    Actually, the GOP would say: If you are failing, tough sh*t. You had your chance.

    Democrats have plenty of people who aspire to be rich. This is what Democrats say:

    There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. You built a factory out there? Good for you, but I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads that the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everyone at your factory and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.

    Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea – God bless. Keep a big hunk of it, but part of the underlying social contract is that you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

    Read more: http://www.sweetspeeches.com/s/2548-elizabeth-warren-on-debt-us-crisis-and-fair-taxation-not-class-warfare#ixzz210XYFjH1

    A-F*****G-men . They should put this to music and make it the Democratic convention song.

  67. stonetools says:

    @JKB:

    So, yes, Romney claims the GOP is the party of the want to be rich. Those willing to put forth the effort to reach above their station regardless of the roadblocks thrown up by the government in choosing the winners and losers.

    If you aren’t failing, you aren’t learning and if you aren’t trying you can’t win.

    Actually, the GOP would say: If you are failing, tough . You had your chance.

    Democrats have plenty of people who aspire to be rich. This is what Democrats say:

    There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. You built a factory out there? Good for you, but I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads that the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everyone at your factory and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.

    Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea – God bless. Keep a big hunk of it, but part of the underlying social contract is that you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

    Read more: http://www.sweetspeeches.com/s/2548-elizabeth-warren-on-debt-us-crisis-and-fair-taxation-not-class-warfare#ixzz210XYFjH1

    A-men . They should put this to music and make it the Democratic convention song.

  68. JKB says:

    @stonetools: Because all that is a result of that evil ” gumint” spending.

    Your position is foolish and non-contributory. The advocation for smaller government and less taxation is not an advocation for no government and anarchy.

    The acceptance of some programs, such as public schools, is not an acceptance of all socialistic programs government may devise.

    Public schools if properly administered can improve community outcomes by preparing students to become contributing members of society. Others, however, are little more than dangerous warehousing with little actual benefit to even those students with an ardent desire to learn. In any case, one can justify about 25% of the current expenditures as being beneficial to the community as a whole.

    The rest:

    hinder, constrict or penalize entrepreneurial activity; or
    • benefit some people to the detriment of others; or
    • waste money on bureaucracy, overhead or ill-considered expenditures that end up indebting the nation and by extension all Americans.

    So we could easily continue public education and even defense research and still save trillions. Of course, that part of public education that is not producing needs to at a minimum be escapable by its victims if not exposed to intense competition that would drive it out of existence rather than having a captive pool of students with little hope of benefit from failed administration.

  69. mannning says:

    @john personna:

    That I can agree with. It puts the cart before the horse. The only caveat is the possibility that virtually every program becomes classified as a sacred cow, especially entitlements, which are nearing 70% of the budget, in which case it all bogs down again.

  70. legion says:

    @Megan McArdle:

    Since most of the movement has taken place at the federal level, that’s where the decisions will probably take place, too.

    Unfortunately, this fails to learn a lesson most recently taught by the GWB administration – when you cut federal spending on things that support citizens, it pretty much automatically drives _up_ the burden on state and local coffers… and they in turn demand more federal aid. Which their members of Congress invariably get them. Your goal can’t be reached unilaterally…

  71. mannning says:

    OOPS! I meant horse before the cart!

  72. Rob in CT says:

    “Roadblocks put up by government.”

    Translation: programs that help people out when they’re down.

    Those who wish to get back up and try again can and will. Those who don’t, won’t, but won’t starve either.

    The GOP is apparently the party of people who believe they’d be rich if it wasn’t for the goshdarned gummint taking their money and giving it to shiftless layabouts.

    As for the public education argument, I don’t think those facts are actual facts (tripled budgets I think is an exaggeration, though they certainly have grown over the past ~40 years). Last time I looked into this, the data appeared (to me, and I admit this is not something I’ve studied in depth) to tell a much better story. Not a perfect one by any means, but a story of improvement.

    Some quick googling provides this article:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45120103/ns/us_news-life/t/best-ever-us-student-math-scores-still-behind/

    Which basically confirms what I recall. I think one problem is that there is some mythology out their about the quality of US schools in the past. That, coupled with typical “kids these days!” grumbling and crappy media reporting = the widespread idea that our schools are always getting worse, even though no, they’re not.

    I’m checking on the spending thing… looks like spending from 1980-2012, using 2005 dollars, increased from ~$300B to ~$800B. So almost triple. As a % of GDP, it’s gone up from about 5.5% to about 6%. Would have to do more digging to try and figure out the total student population during that time. Which would seem important.

  73. @stonetools: Sort of. The rates were higher but the deductions were higher too. Perhaps more importantly, for the class we’re discussing, T&E allowances were out of sight. All those jokes about padding the expense account basically predate the 1986 tax reform, because it used to be literally possible at many companies to hand in a made up list of stuff and have them cut you a check. Now you have to fill out a lost receipt affidavit for every tiny expense, and the accountant gets grouchy if the tab’s too big because meals are only 50% deductible to the company. The tax arbitrage lowered the apparent income of white collar workers, while raising their actual income quite a bit compared to their blue collar brethren. It’s far from the only source of rising reported inequality–it doesn’t explain what’s happened in finance, for example. But the CEO of RJR Nabisco had a lower reported income in 1980, but he also had what amounted to a fleet of private jets that he didn’t even have to put much effort into pretending were being used for company business. Tax paid on this perk? 0%; indeed, it lowered RJR Nabisco’s reported income.

  74. JKB says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    But refusing to explore such options on fallacious suppositions does not offer any hope to improvement. If the public school system is not producing students who have at least a chance at becoming contributing members of society, then regardless of its economy in dollars, it is outrageously expensive.

    Well, perhaps you pay less in property taxes than in cost to privately educate your children because there are those like me in your community who pay property taxes and receive no direct benefit from the school system due to not having school age children.

    In any case, vouchers could prove to be too expensive but we’ll likely never know since certain groups fear they may prove to be a bargain compared to student outcome.

  75. @stonetools: I should say that I don’t think the US economy will grind to a halt if tax rates on the top bracket go north of 50%, though I personally don’t think anyone should have to work more time for others than they do for themselves. But I don’t think the downward pressure on economic growth would be zero, either, particularly if we try to tax capital income, which is both more tax elastic, and more mobile.

  76. mannning says:

    @stonetools:

    I suggest that what you have stated is in reality a version of the “American Dream” and that dream is not the sole possession of the Democratic Party; it is a dream for us all. What all of this posting seems to be about is in reality the relative size of your chunks every year, nothing more.

  77. @john personna: We could cut spending. Do I think this is the most likely outcome? Probably not.

    However, I also think you are making the common, and wrong, assumption that we can leave spending intact (maybe some defense cuts) and close the deficit without a massive middle class tax hike. Mathematically close to impossible, and leaving morality aside, the politics of a massive cut to Medicaid and SNAP look a lot better than the politics of hiking taxes on households in the $75K range.

  78. @Steven L. Taylor: I am told there is some question as to whether 401(k) & IRA income, which as you know, is taxed at ordinary rates.

  79. Rob in CT says:

    I have one comment in moderation (I assume b/c of a link). Here’s some more date on education spending: per pupil spending.

    http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=66

    Obviously a dramatic increase. I’m inclined to throw out the 60s because of segregated schools. You’d expect a jump after we decided to actually bother trying to educate everyone.

    But even if you start in the 70s or 80s, per pupil spending is way up. About double.

    I think there are a lot of factors in play here. SPED, ESL, Gifted programs, technology maybe (computers), school lunch programs, poor administration, teacher compensation (driven, most likely, by healthcare cost inflation that’s wrecking everything)… and more to be sure. My hometown, which is very well off, recently built a new elementary school. From what I can tell, it’s a bit like colleges do: it just had to be super duper awesome. It can’t just be functional, no. It’s gotta be some sort of freaking monument.

    I think it’s important to recognize that a lot of this is done at the local level.

  80. @JKB:

    But refusing to explore such options on fallacious suppositions does not offer any hope to improvement. If the public school system is not producing students who have at least a chance at becoming contributing members of society, then regardless of its economy in dollars, it is outrageously expensive.

    Speaking for myself, I am not opposed to exploring the option. My fundamental point is that a voucher system has to be funded, and a universal voucher system would have to be funded in much the same way we fund the current system.

    However, since we are currently unwilling to adequate fund public school (I can easily make this claim for the state of Alabama, for example) then what makes you think that we would fund a voucher system?

  81. Lib Cap says:

    @mattb:

    How would you have liked to have been a waiter or waitress working that room, being singled out and put on display as examples of “the struggling middle class.”

    My guess: That was a lot of spit that the fundraising attendees were eating at $50,000 a plate.

    Considering that was LOTS more than the average wait staff in that room was making a year.

    Tip: Don’t have the soup.

    (the first rule about waiter club…)

  82. mattb says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    However, since we are currently unwilling to adequate fund public school (I can easily make this claim for the state of Alabama, for example) then what makes you think that we would fund a voucher system?

    But… um…

    Free market?

    Nicely argued btw.

  83. Lib Cap says:

    So…

    Let’s consider this “aspirational methodology to wealth” vs. “Free Gubmit stuff”.

    Which has Bishop willard used to build HIS weath?

    Well, it looks like it was “Free Gubmit stuff”.

    .

    If you have yet to read: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jennifer-m-granholm/romney-and-bain-got-milli_b_1683775.html

    Quote:

    Let’s just take one example — GST Steel. Here is a little Kansas City, Missouri steel company Bain Capital bought for $75 million, but put only $8 million of its own money into the deal. They borrowed the rest. Within a year, Romney and Bain put GST Steel further into debt, borrowing another $125 million. Some of that money was put to good use, modernizing the factory. But $36 million of the borrowed money was paid to Mitt Romney and Bain in the form of a dividend. Do you get that?

    Less than a year after loading the company up with debt, Romney and Bain gave themselves bonuses four times bigger than the $8 million they had put into the deal. And guess what the tax rate they had to pay on that unearned income was? A lot less than yours. You guessed it: 15 percent. Thank you for all that extra “free stuff” from the U.S. Government’s tax code!

    Bain also asked Kansas City for a $3 million tax break. The Bain executives were taking home $36 million in borrowed funds and were asking Kansas City to forfeit $3 million in public money for police officers, roads and schools? More free stuff!

    Then, when GST Steel filed for bankruptcy and laid off 750 people, we learned that Bain had consciously underfunded its pension obligations to those employees. The company simply decided not to meet its legal responsibilities. The end result: the federal government’s pension benefit guarantee corporation was stuck with a $44 million bill.

    That federal agency was created for the purpose of guaranteeing pensions in the event of a catastrophe in the private sector — the ultimate safety net. And it had to fork over the money to save the worker pensions that Bain chose to underfund.

    So, that’s $44 million for the pensions, $3 million for the local tax breaks and $7 million from the federal tax code. A total of $54 million in free stuff from the government. And that was just one of Bain’s companies!!!

    ————————-

    He certainly knows how to keep himself from being poor.

  84. Terry Hinote says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: The average pupil, if educated K-12 in public school will have had $111,000 spent on them during their schooling years (this is a 2008 # from Heritage and confirmed by the Dept. of Education). So I ask you, what amount would you consider to be adequate? And again, the point remains unaddressed- Spending on education has tripled in the past few decades, yet output remains flat. Facts like this would seem to indicate that throwing money at the problem isn’t working. Also, the Dept of Education’s budget was almost doubled by the Bush Admin and his republican controlled congress… Hardly the act of a group who would not acknowledge that education is the key path to bettering ones own life.

  85. @Terry Hinote: Among other things, you keep citing the DOE’s budget. That’s not the issue, the issue is state-level funding with both K-12 and higher ed.

  86. Dave Schuler says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The rich can send their kids to nice private schools while the middle class has to live with the under-funded public school.

    Steven have you seen Waiting for Superman?? If not you really should.

    As Rob in CT the problem with the education that most people in public schools receive isn’t under-funding. Real per pupil funding has increased enormously over the last 30 years. Not only are we not getting value for the additional spending but we are, at the very least, getting less for each incremental dollar spent. We are arguably getting not just less per incremental dollar but less the more is spent which is frightening.

    In Chicago the median income for a CPS teacher is $76,000. There’s currently a battle between City Hall and the CTU over whether it should be raised to $100K. The mandatory arbitrator has just released a report agreeing with the union’s position that’s what should happen. That’s exclusive of benefits. That kind of a raise would either require terminating a substantial number of teachers or taxation at a level that would be punitive or both.

    The problem is emphatically not under-spending. It is that education has lost its way in a fundamental manner.

  87. anjin-San says:

    @ JKB

    The person sitting next to me got the same opportunity I did, affordable, quality education. Nobody was picking winners.

    That being said, as someone who was able to climb the economic ladder, I did not do it alone. I benefited from being a member of a society that created a climate that gives people a chance to succeed. My grandfather, who busted his ass as a dry cleaner helped to build it, my dad, who created a lot of jobs over the years built it too. Now I am doing my part. God willing, I will be able to help a few other folks have some of the same chances I did.

  88. gVOR08 says:

    There are only two kinds of Republicans. The ones making money off it, and dupes.

  89. mannning says:

    @Megan McArdle:

    After suffering for 10 years under a national tax rate of 62% and a VAT tax of 18% in the fine nation of The Netherlands, which adds up to about 80% of gross, I can vouch for the negative effects of such taxation. However, the corporation I worked for instituted a “net value” program for employees that raised the scale of pay for everyone in lock step with the raises in taxes. The corporation was able to shift that added burden to its customers, until it began to lose business a few years later (higher prices being a major factor), and it then was sold off to a French company.

  90. KariQ says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    This may be the best comment I’ve seen here. Truly, it deserves to be highlighted and saved.

    And it even makes me feel guilty for snickering at

    is Romney stating that the GOP is for the Rich + The Realistically Aspirational + The Delusional? If so it is worth noting that it takes The Delusional under such a formulation for the party to be a mass-level enterprise.

    but not quite guilty enough to resist pointing out that a hefty portion of GOP voters are pretty darned delusional.

  91. stonetools says:

    @JKB:

    Your position is foolish and non-contributory. The advocation for smaller government and less taxation is not an advocation for no government and anarchy.

    The acceptance of some programs, such as public schools, is not an acceptance of all socialistic programs government may devise.

    You do understand that practically every government program that is not defense related has been attacked as “socialistic” , right?

    Social security
    Medicare
    Medicaid
    S-chip
    Aid to Families with Dependent Children
    Unemployment Compensation

    The list goes on. Just about every program helped at helping the poor and unfortunate has been attacked as being ” socialistic’, “mollycoddling the undeserving poor”, ” sapping entrepreneurial zeal”, “benefiting the Cadillac driving welfare queens” or whatever the current right wing canard is these days.

    Are these Government programs perfect? Nope. But there is zero evidence that they” sap entrepreneurial zeal”(whatever that even means. ) All they do is help (albeit imperfectly) the poor and unfortunate. They should be reformed, not eliminated.

  92. @Dave Schuler:

    The problem is emphatically not under-spending. It is that education has lost its way in a fundamental manner.

    Well, I think that we are both arguing a bit based on local situations, which I will allow is a problematic way to go about this discussion.

    The schools in most of Alabama are, in fact, underfunded. This is certainly the case in the state capital, where we are still dealing with the long-term and pernicious effects of segregation. Beyond that, the state has an anti-tax culture that is rather entrenched and remarkable. The property taxes on a house valued at ~$200k is around $450-$500 per year, for example.

    Likewise on the higher ed front, there have been ongoing state budget cuts that have led to ever-increasing tuition. So students end up taking out loans.

  93. rudderpedals says:

    @Dave Schuler: $76K sounds like a lot until you compare it to the median income for a family of 4 in Chicago.

  94. Dave Schuler says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Nationally, real per pupil spending (cf. Rob in CT’s link) is twice what it was 30 years ago and almost three times what it was 40 years ago. It may be that Alabama’s problems are distinctive. I think it’s fair to say that Chicago’s situation is a microcosm of the national problem.

  95. Dave Schuler says:

    @rudderpedals:

    Median income for a family of four in Chicago is $38,000. And $76,000 is the median income for a Chicago teacher. Half are above and half below. The starting salary for a Chicago teacher, bachelors only, ten month contract is around $46,000.

  96. stonetools says:

    @JKB:

    Sort of. The rates were higher but the deductions were higher too. Perhaps more importantly, for the class we’re discussing, T&E allowances were out of sight.

    There’s a lot of research that makes it clear the tax burden on the rich is the lowest its been for at least 50 years. See links at

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/12/the-long-run-history-of-taxes-on-the-rich/

    No sane person thinks that if the tax burden went back to where it was in say, 1980 or even 1960 that the economy would collapse . Yet the Republicans would have you believe that going back to the rates of 2000 would be fatal to the “job creators”. I’m sorry but that’s natural fertilizer.

  97. @Dave Schuler: Perhaps. Still, I have my doubts about looking simply at aggregate national numbers because it fails to encompass the degree which there are substantial inequalities across school systems even in a given city, let alone a state.

    However, I do agree that money alone is not the issue.

    I would note, too, that over the timeframe you note (40 years) includes the desegregation era, which forced a lot of increased spending. Further, there are a variety of issues, such a technology that go into those numbers. Still, there is no denying that we are spending more and not seemingly getting our money’s worth.

  98. Dave Schuler says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Nearly all of the increased per pupil spending over the last 20 years is due to increased spending on administration. I’ll see if I can dredge up the link.

  99. @Dave Schuler:

    Actually, I can readily believe that, and agree is is a situation in need of rectifying.

  100. Dave Schuler says:

    @michael reynolds:

    This would be a better country, and a happier one, if rather than aspiring to be rich or even worse, famous, people aspired to do their jobs really well.

    The problem with this is that doing your job really well does not, generally, expand your range of opportunities while higher income does.

  101. (Of course, that really isn’t per-pupil spending in the way it should be, but that’s the problem, of course…)

  102. al-Ameda says:

    “We’re accused, by the way – in our party – of being the party of the rich,” Romney said. “And it’s an awful moniker, because that’s just not true. We’re the party of people who want to get rich. And we’re also the party of people who want to care to help people from getting poor. We want to help the poor.
    “We also want to make sure people don’t have to become poor,” Romney said. “And we know what it takes to keep people from becoming poor.”

    Is there a more tone deaf class warrior than Mitt Romney?

    There are 3 obvious ways to keep from becoming poor:
    (1) Be born to a wealthy family, as Romney was.
    (2) Create LBOs to acquire companies, strip away assets and lay off American workers.
    (3) Win the Lottery (very similar to #1, except that it’s post-birth.)

  103. stonetools says:

    @mannning:

    After suffering for 10 years under a national tax rate of 62% and a VAT tax of 18% in the fine nation of The Netherlands, which adds up to about 80% of gross, I can vouch for the negative effects of such taxation.

    Yet despite that , the Netherlands seem to be doing quite well. No one thinks of the Netherlands as being an economic hell-hole. They have 2.5 % inflation, and an unemployment rate of 6 %. According to Wikipedia,

    The Netherlands has a prosperous and open economy, which depends heavily on foreign trade. The economy is noted for stable industrial relations, fairly low unemployment and inflation, a sizable current account surplus, and an important role as a European transportation hub. Industrial activity is predominantly in food processing, chemicals, petroleum refining, and electrical machinery. A highly mechanised agricultural sector employs no more than 2% of the labour force but provides large surpluses for the food-processing industry and for exports. The Netherlands, along with 11 of its EU partners, began circulating the euro currency on 1 January 2002. The country is one of the leading European nations for attracting foreign direct investment.[12]

    Plus, they have had universal health insurance for years, along with other generous social benefits. They tax you high, but they apparently spend those taxes really well.

  104. wr says:

    @Megan McArdle: ” leaving morality aside, the politics of a massive cut to Medicaid and SNAP look a lot better than the politics of hiking taxes on households in the $75K range. ”

    Of course, leaving morality aside, it’s much better to steal a couple million dollars from a bank than work a lifetime for a fraction of that. Most human beings, however, don’t “leave morality aside,” and thus don’t decide that it’s better to watch poor people die from lack of food or medical care than raise some taxes a little.

    But that’sonly most human beings. I don’t include sociopaths. Or libertarians.

  105. al-Ameda says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The schools in most of Alabama are, in fact, underfunded. This is certainly the case in the state capital, where we are still dealing with the long-term and pernicious effects of segregation. Beyond that, the state has an anti-tax culture that is rather entrenched and remarkable. The property taxes on a house valued at ~$200k is around $450-$500 per year, for example.

    I’m amazed at how high property taxes in the East are as a percent of a home’s value – in many cases, it’s as high as 3%.

    Here in California Prop 13 set the rate at 1% of value, and it cannot go up by more than 2% (1.02) per year. So, a $200K home would be taxed at $2,000 (plus any other voter approved indebtedness) Also, in CA on average, about 60% goes to schools K-12.

  106. KariQ says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Here in California Prop 13 set the rate at 1% of value, and it cannot go up by more than 2% (1.02) per year. So, a $200K home would be taxed at $2,000 (plus any other voter approved indebtedness) Also, in CA on average, about 60% goes to schools K-12.

    Thus explaining much of California’s budgetary problems. Of course, being unable to raise property taxes has also taken control away from local city and county governments to a large degree, and shifted the burden of taxation away from businesses and the wealthy and put it on the lower income earners through sales taxes. Prop. 13 has seriously distorted California’s budget.

  107. john personna says:

    @Megan McArdle:

    There are all kinds of cuts that I like. I’m with the right on some, the left on some, and pretty much alone on some.

    None of that matters though, what matters is whether Congress can horse trade and do any cuts any time soon.

  108. john personna says:

    @Megan McArdle:

    By the way, just as it is sad to discuss tax independent of revenue requirements, it is tragic to discuss SNAP cuts independent if the people who get them. Some talk about the “need” to cut SNAP by X% without explaining the condition of the people kicked out, or how they’ll fare. It worrying, actually, that they think “roll back to 2007” is a rational argument.

  109. BTW, I always succeed at budget games like this because I’m willing to keep making changes until the numbers work out.

    Many above have talked about what they like or don’t like. IMO too few have just demanded that Congress do something that works.

  110. rudderpedals says:

    @Dave Schuler: No, it really is $76K. If you’re on the city’s site use the 100% column.

  111. al-Ameda says:

    @KariQ:

    Thus explaining much of California’s budgetary problems. Of course, being unable to raise property taxes has also taken control away from local city and county governments to a large degree, and shifted the burden of taxation away from businesses and the wealthy and put it on the lower income earners through sales taxes. Prop. 13 has seriously distorted California’s budget.

    Prop 13 had two primary effects:
    (1) It created tax certainty for homeowners – they can buy a home and know what their tax bill will be in the coming years. (a good thing)
    (2) It transferred fiscal control and power from Municipalities to the State, and further removed local citizens from control of their local tax dollars.

    FYI, in California, on the local Sales Tax rate – it is usually the case that 1% ends up in the City where you purchased the item, about 1% to the County, and at least 5% to the State. The State controls most important revenues that locals need to run their government.

  112. Dave Schuler says:

    @rudderpedals:

    That site isn’t reporting what you think it is. It’s reporting qualifications for aid by area.

  113. stonetools says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    I think one of the problems in the school debate is that many consertvatives jump from identifying problems with publiuc schools to solutions that don’t seem warranted.

    ” Abolish the Department of Education ”
    Institute a voucher program”
    “Break the teacher’s unions”

    and all will be smooth sailing. That seems simplistic to me
    If you look at the wonderful school systems in other countries, they are all government funded school systems-with teacher’s unions, even. Yet those Finnish, German and Singaporean schools do pretty well.
    The top rated Stuyvesant High School in NY is a school with unions too but its students excel. So maybe the simple solutions offered by conservatives may not be all that relevant.

  114. mannning says:

    @stonetools:

    There is a time problem here. My sojurn there was from 1974 to 1984, and they were then headed for fiscal disaster. Some time after I left, perhaps 5 years, the Right took over and straightened things out somewhat. Now it is far better shape, or so my son-in-law and daughter who lives there tells me, and yes, we had health insurance–the expensive version: NEZIFO.

    What Wickipedia won’t tell you is that they then had about 120,000 foreigners on the dole out of the some 250,000 in the nation at that time, mostly Turkish gastarbijters (guest workers). They were being paid at 70% of their last job salary until they found a new job, and had free health care. Many had been on that dole for years waiting for an “acceptable job” to appear. Plus there were many Dutch men and women on the dole because of “back problems.” A next door family was on the disabled list, yet they were able to bicycle 50km to the next town and back (with bables on their backs) just to shop nearly every week. My estimate at the time was that I was taxed enough to pay for two families on the dole.

    In short, they had seriously overdone the entitlement thing and had to retrench rather significantly.

  115. Plus, they have had universal health insurance for years, along with other generous social benefits.

    Universal health insurance is not a generous social benefit. In most cases is a safety net, and in some cases it can be used to cut medical costs. Universal Health Insurance is in most countries *basic* health insurance, that can be complemented with private care.

    Medicare, that is far more generous and subsidized is another story.

  116. An Interested Party says:

    Some time after I left, perhaps 5 years, the Right took over and straightened things out somewhat.

    And yet, even conservatives there kept the welfare state, proving that those conservatives are to the left of even the Democratic Party in this country…

  117. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @mannning: Shorter Manning:
    “I’ve got mine, not f-off and leave me alone (and keep your government socialist hands of Medicare, while your at it.)!

  118. KariQ says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Prop 13 had two primary effects:
    (1) It created tax certainty for homeowners – they can buy a home and know what their tax bill will be in the coming years. (a good thing)
    (2) It transferred fiscal control and power from Municipalities to the State, and further removed local citizens from control of their local tax dollars.

    FYI, in California, on the local Sales Tax rate – it is usually the case that 1% ends up in the City where you purchased the item, about 1% to the County, and at least 5% to the State. The State controls most important revenues that locals need to run their government.

    Prop 13 wasn’t all bad, just mostly. As you say, tax certainty is a good thing. But it set it too low a level, and also prevents changes as the value of the property increases. That’s not such a big deal for single family homes, since they tend to change hands with some frequency, but corporate owned real estate, the valuations for tax purposes are getting dramatically out line with the actual value of the property; given the way the law is written, some corporate owned properties will never be revalued because no one owns 50% of them.

    It’s one of those things that I keep hoping we will finally change and get a more sensible approach to property taxes.

  119. anjin-san says:

    The ten worst states to retire in. High poverty & crime rates. Romney country…

    http://www.bankrate.com/finance/retirement/worst-states-for-retirement.aspx?ec_id=m1078090#slide=11

  120. Scott O says:

    I suspect that many in the GOP base don’t oppose tax increases on the wealthy, or anybody else for that matter, because they expect to be rich someday. I think they’ve bought into the notion that the government is evil. Supporting an evil enterprise is illogical, even immoral. Limbaugh et al. constantly preach that everything the government’s done, besides the military, has been a failure. Teachers are brainwashing the kids, the TSA is groping grandma, food stamps are buying drugs, etc.

  121. mannning says:

    @stonetools:

    Regarding DE: The question is whether the overhead in administration is worth the cost, and are the teaching programs they foster consistent with true American values, as opposed to merely liberal or secular humanist values and negative stories. I doubt it.

    Regarding Vouchers: This is a partial, even temporary, solution to many local problems where some schools have become little more than teen social events, whereas down the street may be a school that actually manages to teach something to their students. Cure the ailing school and vouchers become unnecessary.

    Regarding Teacher’s unions: I have never met a teacher that wants a union here in Virginia. But they are stuck with them and with the constrictions placed on what they must teach, what materials they use, and how they teach, plus the substantial dues subtracted from their pay for the union, only to hear that their union donated significant amounts of their dues to political campaigns that they disapprove of adamantly. They are good and motivated teachers, but they are hamstrung by the union and resent the political involvements with their money. They are even afraid to speak out at the table in my home, fearing for their job. There is a lot wrong here that appears not to be balanced by the benefits of unionism.

  122. mannning says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Major changes are as difficult to legislate in Holland as they are here in the US. The conservative citizens that i knew recognized that they had to work slowly and carefully to move the nation further to the right.

    One big win that occurred while I was there was the utter defeat of the unions’ attempt to institute levelling of the pay scales. The 10 largest corporations informed the unions in writing (which I was allowed to read) that if they persisted, the corporations, with their workforce of 85,000, would move their operations out of the country, specifically to either the UK for Royal Dutch Shell, and the US for Philips, for two examples. There was no more talk of levelling.

  123. rudderpedals says:

    @Dave Schuler: Now you’re chasing your tail. It doesn’t matter what it’s for if it correctly represents median income.

    Why is it relevant.? $76k isn’t out of line. In fact it’s smack dab in the middle. Takes the wind out of overpaid teacher meme.

  124. wr says:

    @al-Ameda: But the real purpose of prop 13 — and the one that is still almost never mentioned — is that it freezes property taxes for businesses as well as individuals. So Disney is paying taxes on Disneyland’s property at its mid-70s valuation, as are Universal and Warners and all other big corporations with large land holdings.

  125. wr says:

    @mannning: “and are the teaching programs they foster consistent with true American values, ”

    And by “true American values,” you mean YOUR values, right?

  126. @john personna: Let me be clear, I’m not stating my preferential regime; SNAP probably would probably be low on my list of things to cut, though I generally think it should be a cash benefit, at least for those who aren’t cognitively disabled.

    But which do I think is more likely to happen: elimination of the mortgage interest deduction, or cuts to SNAP? Cuts to SNAP. No party in the country is willing to suggest letting tax rates roll back to 2000 levels for people making under $250,000, a no-brainer first step we should have taken years ago. If we won’t tax, we can’t spend, in the long run anyway.

  127. @wr: I’m sure that made you feel much better. However, my point was not “morality doesn’t matter”, but “There’s no point debating the morality, because politically, cuts look feasible, while really large middle class tax hikes don’t.”