Friday, May 16, 2014

 On The Right, Yet In The Wrong

In an article published in the Washington Times, Grover Norquist is crying once again about taxes. While it’s fair to say that nobody likes paying taxes, Norquist, at this point in time, should well understand that taxes are a necessity, if for no other reason than to enforce patent laws that make his privileged friends rich.

He claims that, originally, it was promised that only the “really rich” would have to pay taxes, and that “taxes would remain forever low”. Who ‘they’ are or when and in what context the promise of ‘forever low’ taxes was made, he doesn’t say.

Referring to the advent of the Tax Law of 1913, the dumb-ol', forever-incompetent Federal Government understood something that Norquist does not, that taxes should be levied in accordance of not just ability to pay, but in proportion to the benefits received from the government.

(Isn't it amazing? In Washington, people go from working within government, where they are deemed utterly incompetent by many republicans, to lobbying for republicans, where their incredible personal talents are highly sought.)

Some of the benefits received disproportionately to those with large incomes were (and still are): patent law enforcement, infrastructure acquisition (roads, freeways, interstate highways, sewer systems to remove industrial waste, electrical grids to provide the means of powering manufacturing facilities, maintenance of bridges, etc.)

Sure, individuals with lower incomes benefit from those things as well. But not anywhere near the extent that, say, Walmart or Cargill or Georgia-Pacific or Apple benefits from them. The average Joe doesn’t benefit from used-by-all infrastructure to the point where they are able to accumulate enough money through use of it to, say, buy or create their own political party.

Norquist wants government to ‘leave us alone’. Most people would have no severe argument with that concept. Except that most individuals can’t afford to hire their own private army of lawyers to go the owners of big corporations to recoup the cost of all that infrastructure that those same big corporations use more of than all the Jane Six-pack’s of the country do, put together.

That’s one reason why we have government in the first place. 

In a “Message to Congress on Tax Revision” from June 19th, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said:
“On the basis of these studies and of other studies conducted by officials of the Treasury, I am able to make a number of suggestions of important changes in our policy of taxation. These are based on the broad principle that if a government is to be prudent its taxes must produce ample revenues without discouraging enterprise; and if it is to be just it must distribute the burden of taxes equitably. I do not believe that our present system of taxation completely meets this test. Our revenue laws have operated in many ways to the unfair advantage of the few, and they have done little to prevent an unjust concentration of wealth and economic power.” (Emphasis added).
Norquist continues his whine[1], describing how that tax rates have gone up and the highest income amounts for those rates have gone down, over time. What he fails to grasp (intentionally – it’s his job to fail to grasp things like this) is the reason for this is that the original rates and amounts were out of synch with reality.

Reality isn’t Norquist’s strong suit to begin with. This is Grover speaking:

"Americans for Tax Reform is a national taxpayer organization dedicated to opposing any and all tax increases. We work at the national, state and local level for lower taxes, less government spending and limited government."
This is what intellectuals refer to as 'Bullshit'.

He calls what’s happened with the tax code –get this- “Trickle-Down Taxation”. (Grover, take a piece of well-meaning, friendly advice: Don’t use that term while having a beer at your friendly neighborhood watering hole. Just don’t.)

See how funny he is?

Whatever term is used to describe the phenomena, what it actually does is it forces the fat-cats to be responsible citizens. And it is forced – it has to be – the Mammon worshippers won’t do it on their own.

He adds that the Alternative Minimum Tax was “invented to punish 155 Americans who bought municipal bonds”. Wrong again, Grover. This requires correction:

The AMT was created to:
“ensure that the highest-income households could not exploit loopholes, exclusions, and deductions to avoid paying any federal income tax.”[2]
The only people being ‘punished’ were ultra-wealthy tax scofflaws who think that ‘taxes’ are something that ‘commoners’ only should have to pay.

Norquist’s use of the number ‘155’ is meant to convey a small, targeted group of people in order to make his larger point: That the tax now applies to many, many more than originally intended – see how cancerous government is?

He goes on to lament Obama’s tobacco excise tax, and how it disproportionately affects the poor and middle class, which is an argument that’s nearly as old as the Union[3]. More importantly, even though he decries this ‘sin tax’, has joined a similar fight against alcohol[4], but is oddly comfortable with a tax on weed[5]. Consistency is not something this man values.

Norquist wants a future America to resemble the country’s first 137 years – where a man was a man and a woman couldn’t vote and other men were property, where children worked in factories and if they got hurt – too bad. Ahh, the good old days.

But the best part comes when he talks about states with no income tax – and boy, oh boy – does he get things wrong.

He asks you to imagine living in a state that has no income tax, implying that it would be an improvement. And it would – but only if you’re already wealthy. According to the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy:
“virtually every state’s tax system is fundamentally unfair and is made more so by the absence of a progressive personal income tax…”
But Norquist doesn’t care about the plight of the poor, and any talk we hear from Republicans about helping people move up the economic ladder is simply lip service.

In fact, Norquist really doesn’t care about taxes – what he cares about is his employer’s having to pay taxes.

[1] I for one, am getting quite tired of hearing from the very, very, well-off about how hard their lives are because of their wealth and how they use it. See “Charles Koch’s Pity Party”.