On the Issues: Income Inequality and Taxation
Economics ought to be an area in which we’re all on the same side, because it’s just math; cold, hard, calculated objectivity.
The problem is, people have feelings and aren’t always objective. Their subjective experiences, their circumstances, and their self-interests cloud the issue and make it hard to see the facts. A lot of this is probably innocent ignorance or cognitive blindness, but much of it is also willful dishonesty.
I was prompted to write this article when a long-time, left-leaning friend of mine made what I considered to be a fairly ignorant statement on social media. I’m not gonna invoke his name, for sake of protecting his privacy, but the statement went something like this:
“These are the people whom the Right believes are ‘overtaxed’ and who ‘create jobs.’ The Right works tirelessly to transfer even more wealth to this class of superior, harder working ‘makers’ as opposed to the lazy, grubbing ‘takers’ among the 99%.
Late capitalism will come to its inevitable end in this country and result will be ugly.”
This of course is an overgeneralization and a stereotype of conservatives. It’s lazy thinking but is indicative of how people actually feel about the issue of taxes and income inequality.
Obviously, this statement didn’t occur in a vacuum. It was in direct response to a recent Tweet put out by Paris Hilton:
Personally, I’m more triggered by that missed period and extra ‘s’.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Fuck Paris Hilton!” Right? Believe me, the nastiness of her snatch is only outdone by the disgusting waste of money these doggie mansions represent. I’m with you there – and I say that as a dog owner.
It’s deplorable, and you may be wondering how anyone can possibly defend this.
Well, I’m about to tell you.
If you’ve been following my articles, you’ve already heard me talk about framing and optics. That something like this is highly triggering visual imagery, a dog whistle, so to speak, for leftist anti-capitalists who don’t understand the meanings of the words they use half the time, let alone basic economics.
So we have to rely on other means of persuasion to get through to them and help them see that what they really hate isn’t capitalism, but socialism and cronyism.
So let me see if I can help you and my friend understand it from the Right’s point of view.
The whole issue of taxes and income inequality comes down to a perception of fairness.
The Left sees this Paris tweet and says “no one should have that much,” whereas the Right sees this and says “everyone should have that much.”
Maybe we disagree on how to spend our money, but we all believe everyone should at least have enough that they can afford to make stupid decisions like this. We can both agree in the facts of inequality, on its consequences, and even agree in terms of the moral value we place on fixing the problem. Where we differ is in how we fix the problem.
Generally speaking, on economic issues, the Left prefers the gun of the State and the Right prefers peaceful voluntarism.
The Left won’t see it that way, and they’ll try like hell to deflect and rationalize, pivoting to social issues, which by and large are their strength; but we need to hold their feet to the fire on this and stick with it, dragging them kicking and screaming like a dog resisting that trip to the vet to get its rabies shots if we have to.
We need to fight them where we’re strongest, not where we’re weakest, and we are very strong when it comes to economics.
Strong enough to support the odd yappy Keynesian if we’re feeling generous.
Economic conservatives have the math on their side, which helps a lot. We just need to work on selling it better to the public, which is where we struggle. We’ve been fighting this war with facts, not feels, and we know that facts don’t matter in terms of persuasion.
One of the divisive tactics of the Left is to frame situations like this tweet precisely as my friend has done and highlight only the aspect that benefits a hated class, in this case the extreme rich.
The Right, however, views that as unfair since their position is not that they necessarily want to give special privilege to said class, but that they want everyone to receive the benefit and have equality of opportunity, which makes them true egalitarians, but unless you ignore that aspect, it’s hard to frame that as a negative.
If you had read Trump’s policy papers during the campaign (which I know most of you didn’t) you would have seen clearly and unambiguously that his plan included comprehensive cuts across the board, including ones that benefit working class Americans.
I wrote about this a year ago, and people didn’t wanna hear it then.
We’ll see if he sticks to that plan going forward as we get close to congressional discussion of taxes. I predict he will and that the RINOs will hold him up like they did with healthcare, but that’s neither here nor there.
The reason I bring it up is to call your attention to the fact that Trump very clearly said he wanted an egalitarian plan, but that’s not what you heard from the Left, was it?
You heard Hillary Clinton repeatedly reframe the issue in a way that emotionally appealed to her base, harping on the fact – and let’s be honest, it is a fact – that Trump’s policies would benefit the rich.
The duplicitous part, however, was in what she left out. She omitted the fact that it would benefit others as well, which would undercut her emotionally-driven argument. She deliberately manufactured a crisis in the minds of her supporters by manipulating their perception of the issue. Most would call that lying.
I’d call her a bitch, but that’d be insulting to my dogs.
On the issue of taxes, you may get a handful of self-identified conservatives who just want to help the uber rich – the RINOs and neocons behind “Too Big to Fail.” But in most cases, people on the Right want tax cuts for the poor as well and we need to do better at highlighting that fact, pushing back on the Hillaries and the Bernies of the world who class bait.
They throw their constituents a welfare bone, but we need to show the public how tax cuts are a juicy steak served straight into in their bowl and not just table scraps that come trickling down.
It is money in their pockets now, that they can spend however they want now, rather than money later.
They don’t like that though, because it places the responsibility on them and gives them no one else to blame if they spend it foolishly and don’t end up with the life that they want.
Blaming the rich is easy and comfortable – and it’s that very aversion to discomfort that is the reason why so many in this country are still poor. It requires honest introspection, so is it any wonder why people would choose to be dishonest if they can get away with it?
But we’re not gonna let them get away with it anymore. They won’t get to be ignorant or dishonest because we’re gonna lay it all out for them in a way that they can not only understand, but which appeals to their sense of fairness as well.
We’ll even use brightly-colored, childproof shiny objects if we have to.
You have to tax everyone equally no matter how much they make; the Right sees not doing that as actually less fair than the progressive plan.
The push-back the Left relies on is, again, to reframe the situation in terms of perceived fairness. It’s a frame that favors their position, i.e. “the rich aren’t paying their fair share,” which just means they believe the rich are cheating, using some unfair advantage that isn’t available to the rest of us, or simply the rich should pay more because they don’t like the rich and are prejudiced. This ignores the reality that they already do pay far more and would still pay more, even under a flat tax, because 18% of $0 is $0 whereas 18% of a hundred million is $18 million, which is astronomically higher than zero.
The counter to that is that the rich escape this by various deductions and so forth to effectively pay a lot less, which of course is not fair; but the truth is these rules apply equally to everyone, you just don’t know what the rules are – no one does – because the tax code is so god-damned complicated it takes a team of lawyers to parse them, who the hell can afford that?
So the effect is that only the uber rich benefit, because they are the only ones willing and able to expend resources to make it work for them. That doesn’t mean it’s unfair in principle, though, only in practical practice; which I think we can all agree is a serious problem.
A useful contrast to this is the bureaucratic welfare state. A complex web of paperwork that many find wasteful and unfair. A lot of poor people simply aren’t aware of just how many options they have available to them already with existing programs and so they continuously cry for more handouts, compounding the problem instead of learning the rules and “gaming the system” for their class the way the rich do for their class.
In both cases, the problem is made worse by greater and greater complexity, which leads to a decrease in transparency, making it harder to see what’s actually going on, so this serves to heighten the perception of unfairness.
The result is a vicious dog-eat-dog world of classism and in-fighting.
Most people on the Right don’t like the bureaucratic tax code or the welfare state. I think you’d find many would prefer the simplicity of UBI, even if it’s not an ideal end goal. In the same way, most people don’t like the complex tax code and would instead prefer the simplicity of something like Rand Paul’s 3×5 tax return, where all that’s considered is the absolute number of how much you made, no loopholes, no exemptions, no deductions for anyone, rich or poor all being treated as equal.
The Left will then respond that all these things are necessary because of income inequality and the Gini coefficient, showing its correlation with crime. While we can certainly agree on the fact of this and agree that rising crime is bad and inequality must be dealt with, it’s how we deal with it that is different across both philosophies.
The Left will apply welfare and taxation, whereas the Right believes this is immoral based on other values such as property rights, non-aggression, and so forth that make those particular solutions grossly unappealing, instead preferring industriousness, removing bureaucratic barriers to success, education, and voluntary charity.
Returning to Paris Hilton, we don’t have to like her or the choices she makes, but we do have to respect her rights the same as anyone else. The fact of the matter is there are only four ways that anyone acquires wealth:
- They work to build something from scratch.
- They exchange something they have for it.
- They are given it as a gift.
- They steal it from someone else.
The first three of these are all moral and voluntary – what is commonly called capitalism – the last one is not.
The last one involves violence, force, and fraud, and to the extent such things are the proximate cause of the first three, it has the effect of corrupting them as well. Because you can’t give something you don’t have, for instance.
So unless Paris Hilton or any other rich person got their wealth through option four – by way of force, fraud, and coercion – then you have no right to touch their property without their consent, because then you’d be the one stealing from them, and that’s immoral, no matter what useful or benevolent cause you’d be applying it to. The only thing you can do is appeal to their sense of charity and convince them to give it up through the artful use of persuasion, to be applied to starting businesses, healing the sick, or whatever.
This brings us to another point, which is that while you and I might not see value in Paris Hilton’s dog houses, or in the derivatives trade, our opinion doesn’t matter because it’s not our money, our time, our property at stake to care about. It’s theirs, so while we might not see value in it, someone else did, enough to enter a voluntary exchange over it. Said exchange is what we term a job. Someone had a problem and someone else came along and offered to solve it for them. That’s all a job is.
“Arf, arf! Oppression! Patriarchy! Captialism!”
The people who made all the furniture for those dog houses, all the chandeliers, who installed the heaters and so forth … all those people got paid to do it.
That’s real economic growth. Now, if that sounds like a Keynesian argument, it’s because it partly is, but only to the extent that we think such resources could have been better applied elsewhere.
The reason we feel disgust for the Paris Hiltons of the world is because we have different values, different priorities. They’re not the things we would spend the money on, but again it’s not ours to spend so it’s a moot point.
About the best you can do is educate them to your point of view in the hopes they make better choices, but you have no right to force them to it.
You can lead an airhead to water, but you can’t make them think.
* Marushia Dark writes fantasy novels and is also the founder of The Freeman State and an admin of the Facebook page Just Statist Things. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Minds.
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