Skip to main content

View Diary: Taxing the rich: it's not about "fairness" (182 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  It really IS about changing the conversation (59+ / 0-)

    I posted on Modern Monetary Theory today and that is the same basic principle. As progressives we need to directly address the language and our understanding of the underpinnings of our beliefs. If we aren't rigorous and thoughtful about words like "fair" and willing to dive down past them for the real core of the issues than we will turn in to that which we so despise - a party of people who can't spell their own protest signs. I jest, but seriously, when we talk about the so-called fiscal cliff and are weighing austerity measures against one another or we speak of "fairness" in the tax system, we are not clear on the foundational theory. This diary is excellent and it should be required reading. Thank you so much for taking your time to post it.

    "When in doubt, do the brave thing." - Jan Smuts

    by bunnygirl60 on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 12:42:25 PM PST

    •  Agree completely, excellent diary (35+ / 0-)

      So little of our current economic discussion covers externalities such as pollution, carbon emissions, loss of natural beauty or wildlife. It's time to push the discussion toward the ideas that there is more to these decisions than how much everything costs in money, and further into the harm that income inequality exacts on our entire economic system and way of life.

      It drives me nuts how bizarre the current conservative arguments are, ignoring all these completely obvious (to me) points.  Not everything is about how much money is spent or saved.  Not everything is about whether something is fair.  Don't you want to make the pie higher? ;)

      Thank you, Rob, for this diary.  Tipped and Recced.  I'll Facebook it too.

      •  What about thing like fracking? (8+ / 0-)

        That is about the most destructive process (other than burning coal to generate electricity) that I know of. Why aren't we as a society taxing fracking until it is no longer economic?

      •  This shouldn't be an impossibly hard sell (5+ / 0-)
        So little of our current economic discussion covers externalities such as pollution, carbon emissions, loss of natural beauty or wildlife. It's time to push the discussion toward the ideas that there is more to these decisions than how much everything costs in money...
        And, it  can be tied to money if need be for the time being. Wealthy people DO care about pollution, carbon emissions, loss of natural beauty and wildlife. If that were not true, they wouldn't choose for themselves homes in the most naturally beautiful, unpolluted spots like Hyannis Port, Kennebunkport, and La Jolla.  

        “Social Security has nothing to do with balancing a budget or erasing or lowering the deficit.” -- Ronald Reagan, 1984 debate with Walter Mondale

        by RJDixon74135 on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 07:25:40 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  You can augment fairness without tossing it out (14+ / 0-)

      The diary's recommended lines of argument are all excellent. But the critique of the "fairness" argument, I think, fails.

      While it's true that twenty people will have twenty different perceptions of where the "fairness" line falls, and many of the wealthy will be convinced that it's unfair for taxes on them to be as high as (whatever the current level happens to be, no matter how low) - most of the populace will and does perceive the current levels of inequality as unfair, and the polls bear that out.  So it's a political winner, even if not logically compelling.

      So? Talk fairness and also the diarist's externalities. Progressives should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

      One common theme of several of the externalities the diary highlights can be framed in a simpler way. A way that incorporates an appealing rhetorical ju-jitsu.

      Tax policies which allow the perpetual allocation of higher and higher proportions of wealth to a small elite are not conservative. To be genuinely conservative is to strive for stability. The redistribution of the last thirty years has changed the economic makeup of the polity, and the change will only accelerate and grow more drastic without policy changes favoring less inequality.

      A genuine conservative could argue about what the ideal distribution of wealth, and the ideal level of inequality, might be. But he cannot be genuinely conservative and claim that it's just fine for the distribution to grow ever more top-heavy from decade to decade.

      Further, to be consistent he must acknowledge that the ideal level of inequality is smaller than the current level - since the current level allows the economic elite to purchase legislation that exacerbates the instability.

      •  the essense is that the fairness issue isn't just (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LilithGardener, OhioNatureMom, zett, wbr

        about the fairness of taxes. It's about the fairness of the whole distribution of burdens and rewards in our society.

        The wealth of our society is not produced solely by the rich people who risk their money in investments as conservatives seem to imply. It is produced by the collective work of those who labor. That the rich should be able to capture the majority of that wealth that is produced largely through the work of others -- even if their work is directed by the rich -- is simply not fair and taxation is one means of mitigating that unfairness.

        This is, of course, the same point the diary author is making in his first bullet point. His point is only missing the obvious idea that the thing that is wrong with workers not sharing in the fruits of their labor is that it's unfair.

        •  The diarist makes a case that it is in the state's (8+ / 0-)

          interest to remove extreme inequality, whether fair or not.  There are many, many reasons a nation would want to limit inequality:  economic and political stability, better outcomes in the next generation of citizens, lower social services costs, broader tax base, etc...

          These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert to fleece the people, and now that they have got into a quarrel with themselves, we are called upon to appropriate the people's money to settle the quarrel. Abraham Lincoln

          by Nailbanger on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 08:44:43 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Not to mention the preservation of democracy (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            wbr, Nailbanger

            Which is the very foundation of this country, and SHOULD be the number one test of all public policy and laws enacted in the US.  

            We got rid of the existing English aristocracy with our original revolution, but aristocracies (wealth bubbles) always re-form eventually.

            The worst "externality" of unchecked wealth accumulation is the "pollution" of democracy.  And our society needs to be protected from extreme wealth/power divergences, because it is un-American.

            If we are dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, then we need to make sure our laws and public policy support individual equality (at least politically).

            Wealth divergences in this country are the result of laws and state activity (the state prints money, writes tax law, protects "capital" and "banking," and aggressively enforces the abstract concept of "private property," for instance).  

            None of these abstract entities, OR the super rich which inevitably flow from those policies, could exist without a government fostering and supporting them.  

            If we want to live in a genuine democracy, we need the state to foster and enforce democracy at least as much as it does the other modern social abstractions.  

            Like private property or capital, Democracy simply does not exist without broad social, and ultimately, government enforcement.  

      •  Gotta agree with you... (7+ / 0-)
        The diary's recommended lines of argument are all excellent. But the critique of the "fairness" argument, I think, fails.
        I also am baffled by the author's perceived need to walk away from the fairness argument.

        It may not be the only argument for Progressive Taxation and is perhaps not even the best one to use on Capitol Hill types, but it is an argument that resonates with certain individuals who don't have the educational background to grasp more sophisticated arguments.

        Different audiences need to hear different arguments.  Often, the policy position that carries the day is the one that is supported by a number of different arguments that are used to persuade a variety of targeted audiences.

        If his ultimate point is that Dems should not restrict themselves to only the fairness argument, then I am in agreement.

        I personally think that the best argument is to use on Capitol Hill is to explain why steeply progressive income taxes do not actually impose any real sacrifice on the Top Two Percent of income earners if they are all facing the same drop in disposable dollars.

        No matter how sad it makes the finance industry, the ultimate truth is that progressive taxation (without loopholes) ensures that rich people will still be able to buy everything they used to buy with larger disposable incomes (due to lower tax rates), because the prices of all those expensive things they consume will be lowered to a level that they will find affordable.

        Remember...after the Great Depression hit in the 1930's, none of the mansions or yachts or beachfront property disappeared after the richest of the rich lost an incredible amount of paper wealth; they were simply obtainable at lower prices that [the now poorer] rich people could afford.

        •  You are right that different audiences need to (0+ / 0-)

          be provided different arguments and, IMHO, the same opinions in several different ways. How's this, you work on the cartoon version of progressive taxes and I'll work on the cartoon version of modern monetary theory? ...because THAT's the society in which we live. If it can't be communicated in a soundbite only a small portion of the electorate will follow it and, of course, none of the legislators.

          "When in doubt, do the brave thing." - Jan Smuts

          by bunnygirl60 on Fri Nov 30, 2012 at 02:23:07 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Not really. You have to distinguish between (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sychotic1, zett

      think tanks and such, where one clearly should strive for deeper understanding and exact language. However, in the realm of politics it does not help at all to be very precise. It hinders negotiation, and as long as the Republicans have the House, the Dems have to negotiate. And if they manage to get the House, the progressive Dems still have to negotiate with the conservadems.

      He who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.

      by Sophie Amrain on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 04:03:04 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  NO!! Precision and deep understanding among (0+ / 0-)

        ourselves is essential and not at all the same as how we shape the narrative. In order to best project a narrative onto which large amounts of people can easily grab and access, we have to truly, deeply, absolutely master the concepts ourselves. The word "fairness" is too malleable and over-used. We could use more pointed words. Think about what traction the anti-choice movement gained by changing to the term "pro-life." It's a lie, and they know it, but the narrative is great and easy to sell. We need to be developing the same types of terms and narrative on our side. We have always been good at facts and terrible at narrative. If we could figure out great (short, punchy, emotive) narrative for the thinking behind this diary than the narrative would give the Dems firepower and headroom in negotiations. We won't do that in time but we should.

        "When in doubt, do the brave thing." - Jan Smuts

        by bunnygirl60 on Fri Nov 30, 2012 at 02:31:11 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site