Sunday, October 2, 2011

What Would You Cut

So it happened again just the other day. I was watching some talk show or other and there were these two well to do lawyer types trying to make the argument for raising taxes on the “rich”. They were both solidly in favor of themselves and their ilk having to pay higher taxes. When confronted with the fact that they (the top 10% of tax filers) already pay 40% of all federal income taxes paid the bald one made a move like Quai Chang Caine deflecting an arrow in mid flight and made instead a comment about historical tax rates being much higher.

They also both claimed to have calculated the tax that they “should have” paid and then made charitable contributions in that amount which they presumably claimed as deductions in their original tax calculations. When asked why they didn’t just write a check to the federal treasury (as is quite possible) they claimed that this wouldn’t have the same effect, because everyone wouldn’t be forced to do it. So it was an issue of fairness. But it makes no sense to me. If doing something is the right thing, is it any less the right thing if everyone isn’t compelled to do it? In fact, isn’t doing the right thing even more important in the absence of a universal mandate? Somehow they were trying to make the case that charitable giving was less important than paying more in federal taxes, claiming, as it were, that the federal government could do a better job of distributing those funds even after taking out the 30 or so percent out of every dollar that it takes just to operate the federal redistribution machine. It was all very confusing.

At some point during the conversation the subject turned to the federal budget and I heard the question: “all right, so what are you going to cut?”. My ears perked up because this is the same question that I’ve heard Chris (tingle) Matthews ask over and over. The very question implies that EVERYTHING that the federal government spends money on is absolutely essential to life in these United States, which of course it is not. The answer from the blow hard host was that a 10% cut “across the board” would be appropriate. This was met by the predictable incredulity of two grown men brought near to tears at the thought of children starving, young students going without their multiplication tables (which apparently they’re doing without anyway), college students being deprived of the right to a liberal arts degree (to nowhere), and families being denied mortgages that they can’t afford to make payment on. The horror. The horror.

For me, the upshot of this talk show segment was: has the big government model of tax and redistribute been a success or failure? As indicators let’s look at poverty and education. Since 1970 poverty percentages are virtually unchanged. Hundreds of billions of dollars spent on the War on Poverty for ……. wait for it……. no change. In education we fare no better. Compared to the 70s we spend three times the “adjusted” dollars, and the national test scores of our students are flat. Late night comedians routinely expose our educational system as a laughing stock. Would that it were, and that we actually could put the responsible parties in the stock.

Perhaps it isn’t term limits that we should be supporting, but community stocks for failed politicians.

But that’s just what an average guy thinks.