Obama’s anti-business Freudian slip is merely a repeat of what Elizabeth Warren tried to argue in her own class envy speech. The rich need to “pay it forward.” They need to give something back to the society that gave them so much.
Do Progressives live in some kind of stone age, Jurassic Era time warp where Google’s online search engine never existed? Does the IRS write in some ancient “lost city of Atlantis” code that Obama and Warren can’t decipher, for whatever reason? If any of these folks bothered to look at the on-the-record statistics, we’d never hear the words “fair share” touch their lips again – unless they’re one of those hysterical textbook serial killers that smile so hard their faces get stuck. Here’s where the Progressives’ argument blows up like a stick of dynamite: The richety-rich already carry a disproportionate share of the tax burden, so asking them to pay more for the sake of “investing” in the so-called social framework (the supposed reason their pockets look like they’re about ready to explode) is even more stupid than taking your two-ton pet boulder with you as you dive off the swimming board. The top 10 percent of wealth earners in this country pay 70 percent of all federal income tax. The bottom 50 percent (which includes myself) pay virtually no income tax – while it is precisely this class of people who are sucking taxpayer udders dry with their food stamps, housing subsidies, WIC payments, and even so called tax “refunds” for taxes they never even paid in the first place. (Oh, I get it now. “Fairness” means all the high-achievers get the honor of … paying for the dinners and crash pads of everyone else. Can you say rip-off?)
The productive go-getters in our society give us top-notch products at prices we can afford. They invest in productivity-boosting, cost-streamlining technologies and create hordes of wealth in the process. And it is these folks who are the reason that Washington has such a mountain-sized stockpile of resources to juice in the first place to finance all of its alphabet-soup bureaucracies, national spying agencies, vote-buying dependency programs, forays into the Middle East, and pork-barrel pet projects. If it wasn’t for these innovative, organizational geniuses who spend every minute of every day planning their operations by the skin of their teeth – expanding into horizons, assembling things in mass, upgrading facilities, making labor more productive, and creating more leisure time for everyone else – Washington would have no fountain of riches to tap into. They’d have no vicious “fatcats” or “corporate sleazebags” to soak.
The Peasants Paid For Your Roads!
You wouldn’t know it from reading the collected works of the great Chris Matthews – everyone’s favorite philosopher-king (pshhh!) – but the hated Montgomery Burns and Sir Topham Hatts of the World, “evil” as they may be, are already “investing” in our roads and highways – moreso than any of the supposedly “downtrodden” cubicle slaves, fairy tale dwarves, or Tiny Tims of the world. Again, not only is their tax bill bigger than the combined cost of the babysitter’s phone calls to the One Direction hotline, but since they’re the number one users of shipping services in this country, they’re the ones scribbling out the checks to Trucker Joe – who uses bits and pieces (more like a big, sloppy serving) of that check to ante up the required mullah for tolls and gasoline taxes. The tolls and gas taxes, of course, are the royalty fee the government charges to raise money for the maintenance and construction of these projects, as well as the salaries of the yellow-helmeted workers and foremen who oversee them. As economist and Mises Institute scholar Bob Murphy points out, someone living in the middle of Manhattan without any means of self-transportation contributes diddly-squat.
Without Us, Your Worker’s Wouldn’t Know How to Dress Themselves!
Yeah, Phil, but Obama and Warren are spot on when they say that the company owners’ nine-to-fivers received an education (a craptastic one at that) paid for by society’s “collective” members, right? Um, sort of. But the factory giants, steel mill bosses, and plant operators still square things up with their highly-trained, highly-educated technicians and engineers, for instance, with sweet-deal salaries and workplace perks that far outstrip anything that someone with only a high-school degree and limited experience in the job market could get.
In the end, your “investment” does pay off if you got a degree in a field – say, science or engineering – where labor services, know-how, and expertise are in high demand. You (and “society,” if we accept the loosely defined Obama-Warren description at face value) are already raking in your just dues for the debt that had to be shouldered from all the loans you gave your word to pay back, the tuition fees, and the untold hours you couldn’t spend, say, flipping Hamburger’s at McDonald’s, milking cows, juggling torches at the circus, allowing drug companies to do heinous experiments on you, or doing any number of side-jobs just to make ends meet. Fringe benefits and high wages are the so-called “payment” the rich should make in exchange for the education and training their desk jockey and fix-it mans have – if it serves a good economic purpose, at least.
Didn’t Have Any Robbers Break Into Your Place of Business and Bust Open All the Cash Registers Yet? Thank Us. And If You Did… Um… Underfunding! Gridlock! Rich People! Fair Share!
What about police protection? Don’t those allegedly “monopolistic” tyrants benefit immeasurably from the indispensable guarding, street patrolling, capturing of thieves, arsonists, and vandals – that these law enforcement agents are charged with? Not any more than me, you, and every other Jim, Joe, and Sally on the planet. In fact, you could probably even argue that the proletariat and the masses benefit more from police protection than folks with million-dollar estates, whale-sized bank vaults, and a gargantuan war-chest of resources to turn to in time of crisis. (Woah, say what?) After all, it is the rich who could most easily afford private security guards, tanks, artillery, planes, and mercenaries to protect their jewels and treasure. It is the so-called “impoverished” masses – and those living in genuine destitution, not just whiny Occupy Wall Street protestors – who would have a harder time building up their own personal army of troops, hired guns, and yard full of mines, booby traps, and things that go “boom” when you step on them.
If we base the taxes one must pay on the proportion of benefits one derives from living in society versus how much they actually contribute (that’s one equation you can’t hammer out on one of those fancy schmancy Texas Instrument math calculators), it is the wealth-generating entrepreneurs, the inventors, the tech-geniuses, the energy providers, Big Pharma CEOs, and the auto conglomerates who should be paying the least amount of taxes and the rest of us that should be paying more. I don’t think the Progressives would be very fond of that. In fact, they probably threw up the all-vegetarian meal they ate at their NPR-Greenpeace-PETA fan club picnic just hearing that. But that is the “benefits” principle taken to its logical extreme.
When You Signed That Invisible Contract with Your Invisible Signature, Using An Invisible Pen…
According to modern-day pinko folk heroes like Obama and Warren, whose deliberate aim is to stir up hatred against the rich and appeal to the politics of class envy to get elected, there is a binding “social contract” that everyone who lives in a civilized society of rules and laws simply by being born here. (Funny, I didn’t think babies could pen their own signature let alone, um, anything besides scribbly lines and crooked-looking ovals.) You contribute to the “collective” good of your countrymen by paying taxes, obeying the decrees and edicts of your masters, and give your life in service of the Nation if called to the task. Sounds like something a fascist emperor would say, but, erm … okay, we’ll run with it. Where is this so-called “social contract?” Until I see it with my own two eyes, how do I know it exists? I signed no forms. I did not give my consent. I did not agree to certain terms in exchange for holding up my end of the bargain. Any “contract,” by definition, must meet these standards.
How come only Obama, Warren, and their semi-socialist comrades get to define what’s in it? How come only they know what the duties and obligations of the party to this “mythical” contract are to the collective masses? And how come the rich, who benefit no more from society or government services than the rest of us, get the short end of the stick? Is it not enough that they provide valuable services in exchange for our dollars? Is it not enough, that, through their philanthropy, they donate millions each year to private charities, soup kitchens, disaster funds, human rights organizations, libraries, academic foundations, orphanages, and all sorts of other noble causes – moreso than the poor and middle-class? Is it not enough that they pay shareholder dividends for old people, parentless children, savers, and other stock investors? Is it not enough that they provide us with a means of living, through wages, health insurance, and pensions?
So In Exchange For All That Stuff We Forced You To Pay For Against Your Will and Left You No Choice But to Use…
The rich have very few options when it comes to privately-built, privately-funded highways, private firefighting services, private police protection, private courts – versus public ones that government violently expropriates us, through taxes, to pay for. The fees are collected through extortion, and the government claims an effective monopoly on the provision of these services. If the State wasn’t raiding our bank accounts and taxing the fruits of our labor for programs and agencies we are compulsorily obliged to finance and can rarely refuse, we all would have more money to spend for our own purposes. Progressives have so little faith in the American people that they can’t imagine a society where people voluntary band together and cooperate to achieve common ends, without central planners and omnipotent bureaucrats coordinating everything. Do they really think that building an interstate highway system would be unprofitable, and therefore impossible for the market to provide, even though its economic functions and value to the public would be immeasurable?
Why, Without Us, the Entire World Would Be Engulfed In Flames. And We’d Turn Into Another Sun! And There’d Be No Internet! And, And…
Back before fire-control was considered a public utility, folks put metal badges on their homes indicating the company or business that was responsible for watering things down when a fire broke out – and the firefighters were paid compensation in exchange for their protection. Volunteer brigades would come out with hoses and buckets for those who could not afford it, and insurance companies would often pay the costs.
And contrary to what Obama says, government did not invent the “Internet” that we use and businesses profit handsomely from today. The networking standard the government pushed was abandoned, and the standard they tried to stamp out is the de facto standard today. Most of what we do online is the brainchild of corporate masterminds, like Amazon and Google. Live streams, online stores, messaging services, user-based media sharing platforms, social networks – these things were absolutely not created by government and would have probably existed even without their wise custodianship.
Obama has zero imagination, zero inkling of what society would look like without the State directing every transaction, every agreement, every allocation of labor, capital, and other scarce resources. Maybe it’s time for him to start reading less from The Communist Manifesto and Paul Krugman’s New York Times column and more from F.A. Hayek and the Mises Institute website.