Yesterday the Dish quoted Gregg Easterbrook:
Wealthy people who say the rich should pay higher taxes — Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have joined Obama in declaring this — are free to tax themselves. If you believe the top rate should rise to 39.6 percent (Obama) or 50 percent (Buffett), then calculate the difference and send a check for that amount to the Treasury. Of course no one individual doing this, even a billionaire, would have much impact on the deficit. But if rich people who say they believe in higher taxes were willing to practice what they preach, this would prove their sincerity, making legislation on the point more likely.
Presumably Obama and Buffett don’t send such checks to the Treasury because they believe they have better things to do with that money. Being a candidate for president can get expensive, after all–and Mr. Buffett probably thinks his vast charitable donations do considerably more worthwhile good than Uncle Sam would, dollar for dollar.
But the double standard is telling: While Obama and Buffett think they’re putting their own money to better use than the US Treasury would, they don’t support other billionaire and multi-millionaires’ right to make their own call. Their support for higher taxes is thus a transparent desire to appropriate other people’s money for government use (which they apparently have greater faith in when it comes to other people’s, but not their own).
This brings me back to something Lev wrote while blogging about Atlas Shrugged:
When you get down to it, Objectivism and Communism are utopias of different forms. One says not to help out anyone, to let them stand on their own two feet. But this ignores the human tendency toward compassion, a strong urge in most people.
I’ve never read Ayn Rand or anything Objectivist, and don’t much care about them or the latest in bad cinema (my guys are Friedman and Hayek). But insofar as libertarianism is thought to parallel Objectivism here, let me address it.
Libertarianism is fine with the human tendency towards compassion. We say you should have ample freedom to be compassionate with your own resources; the giving of your money and time to charitable causes (or if you’re feeling terribly inefficient, to the U.S. Treasury) is perfectly appropriate and laudable. (Although libertarianism per se is amoral, taking no stance on what you do with your money–only that you should have the freedom to choose.)
What libertarians don’t support (indeed, vehemently oppose) is the pernicious idea that taxes should force other people to put their resources towards your (or a democratic majority’s) preferred statist ends. Being a good Samaritan with other people’s time and money is a morally worthless and tragically misguided cause–most especially when it results in absurd implicit marginal tax rates. Europe is, of course, worse. Basically, our human tendency toward compassion should always be charitable–never forced nor an entitlement.
Now, U.S. tax law is far from perfect and in dire need of overhaul. Pretty much everybody agrees on this except the makers of Turbo Tax, H&R Block, and lobbyists for companies benefiting from write-offs (e.g. General Electric, as was recently in the news). So let’s fix those things, and let’s bring revenue and spending on a sustainable path. But all this is independent of the misguided idea of taxation in the name of compassion. We can easily do it with flatter effective tax rates. And from a standpoint of sheer utilitarian economic efficiency, we should.
Tina Nguyen takes aim at left-wingers angry at gay people for voting Republican:
The head of the Human Rights Campaign went apoplectic when 30% of gay voters went Republican in the 2010 election, accusing the apostates of expecting too much from poor Obama. And according to GOProud’s Chris Barron, 95% of the group’s hate mail and criticism comes from leftists shocked that gay people could be more than one-issue voters. It’s no accident that radical anti-gay writers like Ryan Sorba quote radical gay activists favorably – they both agree that under no circumstances should gay people be allowed to have anything resembling political self-determination.
This narrow-mindedness on the part of LGBT activists is not just an affront to the personal freedom championed by Gaga, it’s also a toxic form of oppression. Despite gay and lesbian voters increasingly voting Republican, Democrats insist that the LGBT community is theirs and theirs alone, unwilling to recognize that maybe, just maybe, that 30% of LGBT voters in 2010 decided that the economy was a more pressing issue. With the highly publicized drama over DADT’s repeal and DOMA’s sidelining last year, they likely saw that Democrats don’t mind bluffing with their muffins of promised gay civil rights. Behind the DNC’s poker face is a monster playing a love game with their voters, willing to throw its sexual minority constituencies off a balcony for political purposes. (It took our beloved Gaga three months of lobbying the Senate Dems to get DADT repealed—and that’s after donning the Meat Dress.)
I think there’s truth to a lot of this (though it’s worth noting that the last two years were true watershed on the matter of gay rights). Then again, McCain won 26% of LGBT voters in 2008, so 30% isn’t really a hugely impressive number in a good Republican year. Still, there’s no denying that there are a number of left-of-center people who really get bothered by the fact that about a quarter of gay voters vote Republican, or a tenth of Black voters cast for the GOP. I’ve interacted with a number of them.
But if there’s one thing Nguyen doesn’t grasp here, it’s the why. I’m not sure polling would get at this, and I’m not aware of detailed studies or anything else so I’m just going to go with my gut intuition based on my experience, which is: it’s a factor of frustration and sheer incomprehensibility. I personally don’t get irritated about this kind of stuff (I believe my reaction to gay voters voting Republican would be something along the lines of, “Good luck with that!”), but you have to think about the bigger picture. You have one party that’s broadly supportive of gay rights. You have another that’s broadly not. For a lot of activists, it simply wouldn’t make any sense why any gay voters would ever vote Republican. I’ve heard some variations on this with Black voters, since it’s a part of the Republican rulebook to try to keep Black voters from voting, period, even in blue states and even with moderate candidates. Of course, this is small potatoes compared to the most frequent despairing liberal argument of this type, which is the old chestnut of why do downscale voters ever vote for the GOP? After all, it’s against their economic interests to do so. Which is a good point, though the argument is usually delivered in such a way that downscale voters would probably not be very receptive to it.
The disconnect here is that the left sees its policies on key subjects as superior to those of the Republicans, and find it difficult to understand why Democrats don’t get all of the votes from these groups. The reason for that is because those aren’t the only issues that matter to their respective groups. It doesn’t make sense to me to overlook such big issues, but it’s not my decision. Still, one hardly hears this about every group that votes Democratic. With LGBT in particular, I’d say the fact that Republicans spent much of the last decade trying to demonize them solely to win elections that makes the act of their voting Republican just seem nuts.
This Bernie Sanders video from November 30 has gone viral in the leftosphere:
With this populist furor gathered behind him, last night Sanders took to the Senate podium for an old school nine hour filibuster, standing there and speaking nonstop. The traffic demand caused the Senate’s video servers to temporarily go offline.
But it was all show; Reid will be bringing the tax cut compromise to the floor on Monday.
The White House, meanwhile, defended its deal by circulating this chart among Democrats on the Hill:
The tax deal between the White House and Congressional Republicans, if approved, will put a little extra money in your pocket for the next two years. But you’re going to pay for it eventually. Without sizeable cuts in federal spending, Americans can expect higher taxes down the road to cover the cost of the package.And retort:
Except that you cannot physically enact higher taxes in this day and age, and so more likely you’ll see savage spending cuts.In other words, they expect “starving the beast” will work! Plain and simple. Kevin Drum, one of the more illustrious progressive bloggers, put it this way:
Looking at American politics from a 100,000-foot level, conservatives have won. Programmatic liberalism is essentially dead for a good long time, and small bore stuff is probably the best we can hope for over the next 10-20 years — though social liberalism will continue to make steady advances.Is he right?
Got an hour to spare? Watch the full 60 minutes Obama interview:
It’s more worthwhile than the earlier press conference where everyone asks a “big” question with little follow-up.
The thrust of the interview is Obama defending and taking responsibility for previous “emergency” actions and the necessity of health care reform, while also talking serious about wanting to govern from the center and compromise with Republicans moving forward. I expect it’s sincere and will carry over to practice on his part, though nothing is certain.
The very large unknown is what Republicans will actually do once they finish their victory lap and assume power in January. Based on the right’s rhetoric, plenty of people on the left are pessimistic–apocalyptic, even. Nothing’s going to get done, nuclear winter, end of the world, etc. See these five clips if you need proof (for if you’ve been hiding under a rock or something).
I’ve thought about those and other scenarios (see here for Ross Douthat’s take), and in truth I cannot begin to guess what will happen when Republicans’ extra-super-overheated campaign rhetoric meets the reality of governing. So much is possible, ranging from new kinds of matter-antimatter explosions to lots of productive compromising behind closed doors (while publically posturing and ramming plenty of DOA legislation through the House to keep their base happy, of course).
But no matter what happens–no matter WHAT, come hell or high water–I can offer one prediction: the left is going to become ENRAGED and pissy about Obama’s triangulation. Expect to hear volumes on how he’s aloof, not arguing forcefully or charismatically, betraying progressives, not representing “us” nor using his bully pulpit enough to stand up for the True and Just Liberal Priorities We Elected Him For, etc. etc. To hear them tell it, he’ll be throwing teachers and poor people and puppies under buses left and right.
And we’re going to hear about caving. The leftosphere’s favorite word, caving. Lots and lots of caving. There will be caving with frosting and sprinkles on top.
For all the left’s complaints about the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision—”Corporations aren’t people! Money isn’t speech! Corporations don’t have rights!”, yadda yadda—DIA cites a significant irony:
[..] despite the howls of indignation from the Democrats over private campaign spending, it turns out that the biggest sugar daddy is the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), a public-sector labour union that spends almost all of its cash for the Democrats. A piece from US News and World Report points out that, in total, “Big Labour” is spending more private cash than the Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads (Karl Rove’s outfit) combined.Hah!
I think it should be clear from liber(al/tarian) first principles that any person has a free speech, free association, and free enterprise right to express their political views—and to commission work doing so, such as advertising.
Given that single individuals may do so, it should be no less clear than any two individuals can get together, pool their resources, and exercise the same right. Or three, or more individuals.
It does not matter whether we call the individuals “union members”, “donors”, “activists”, “partners”,—or “shareholders”.
Citizens United made this a practical reality. The ACLU agrees with it.
How about you, dear reader: are you a bona fide liberal?
Or are you one of the legion unprincipled lefty and Democratic hacks who simply demagogue hatred of corporations and the Chamber of Commerce, while disregarding that unions spend even more money under the same political speech rights that were granted to them by Citizens United?
As Wilkinson said back in January:
The anguished cries of left-leaning folk over the ruling seem to me to be emanating from an alternate universe, so bizarre are they. This was a case about whether the state can suppress the distribution of an unflattering documentary about a powerful political candidate produced by a small group of private citizens. The crazy thing to me is that anyone ever thought that such a rule was not in blatant violation of the First Amendment. The extra-crazy thing is that four Supreme Court justices evidently think this kind of state censorship of political speech is hunky dory
Pardon me for zeroing in on the topic that most interests me, but it’s always grating to see yet another public school representative making the disingenuous claim that allowing families the choice of putting their share of public funds towards a private institution would create a more “segregated”, “two-tiered” education system.
Don’t we already have the worst sort of two-tiered system? If they are unsatisfied with the local public education, families with means have the welcome choice of sending their children to a different school.
Families without means, however, are given no choice: for them it’s public school or nothing.
That is, presently we have a regressive two-tiered system based on income. I’m well acquainted with this dilemma, as my family toed the line. For K-12 half my education was private, when we could afford it, and a public school when we could not.
Much as I hated the fucking dress code and required weekly chapel service (which I learned to skip by reading Star Wars novels in the restroom—go me!) I have to say the private schooling was much better, in almost every respect.
The salient point, then, is that—in addition to being a neoliberal and market-based reform—school choice is also progressive in that it will make education less tiered by income. Low income families will get the option of sending their kids to institutions they currently can’t afford. This will bring healthy market forces to bear: with no school having a monopoly on public funds, all schools will be incentivized to perform better.
Now obviously if you are a public education official, it’s in your interest to lobby against any reform that would bring competition to bear. It’s in your interest to keep your monopoly on public funds, and for many families to have sending their kids to your institution be their only option. It’s also in the interest of politicians with the power to shape your institutions—most especially Democratic ones who you vote for in droves so they’ll embrace and extend your funding advantage.
But it’s not in the interest of parents, kids, the country, or anyone else.
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