Talking Points Memo:
You can almost always count on Republican presidential candidates to be united in their opposition to more taxes for the rich. But this time around, the 2012 field is standing lockstep behind a less traditional idea: the middle class pays too little in taxes.
Thanks to a strange convergence of conservative ideological trends since President Obama’s election, Republicans now are expected to protest the entire bottom half of taxpayers’ contributions as too stingy even while they proclaim Americans are “Taxed Enough Already.” And they’ve yet to figure out a policy that will satisfy both complaints at once.
In recent months, nearly every major Republican candidate has name-checked a popular statistic that 47% of Americans who file taxes paid no income tax in 2009. Given the GOP’s anti-tax zeal you’d think they’d be celebrating. Nope!
Keep in mind, this is the same side of the aisle that argues that taxation is theft. So, by their own reasoning, they're now arguing that government needs to steal from more people than it already does.
Republicans often argue that liberals are too governed by emotions. We saw it during the invasion of Iraq, when compassion and mercy were dismissed in favor of cold, hard facts -- which turned out not to be facts at all. We saw in it in fights over Supreme Court nominations, where "empathy" became a dirty word. But this new tax argument is based entirely on emotion. The arguments aren't based on economics, which would dictate the less money a person has, the more they should be allowed to keep and spend as a consumer. The arguments are based on a misplaced sense of "fairness," where even those incapable of shouldering the burden should be asked to help shoulder the burden.
But it's a petty "fairness" -- like demanding the wounded help row the lifeboats. After all, here millionaires are rowing like chumps and all the wounded are doing is bleeding, which doesn't help anyone.
Of course, this is the entire logic of the We are the 53% blog. Look at all these wounded people we've talked into rowing (of course, a large percentage of them aren't actually rowing, but never mind that), now quit complaining and grab an oar. It's also an argument that the status quo is the way things should be, that people should have to work three jobs and lose their homes and deal with cancer treatments they can't pay for. This argument in defense of capitalism as they see it is the worst possible argument they could come up with, but "shut up and suffer quietly like everyone else!" is an appeal to emotion, not logic.
Things shouldn't get better, things should get worse, until everyone is just as crushed as they feel (or, more likely, as they pretend to feel). That's only fair.
But the argument is also BS. Erick Erickson, the founder of the 53-percenter blog -- who claims he has to work three jobs just to get by -- is not struggling, by any means. Nor are any of the Republican candidates complaining that the middle class doesn't pull its own weight. These people -- every, single one of them -- live a life of relative ease that the rest of us will likely never know.
Another argument based on this phony fairness is that the wealthy did more to earn their money than anyone else -- "I'm rich because I've worked harder. I deserve to keep it, not help pay for someone who didn't work as hard as I did." If Erick Erickson has ever worked harder than a guy who blew out his back on a loading dock and now collects disability, I'll eat my hat. But I'm sure it's a terrible chore to sit up nights thinking of idiotic things to say on CNN. You bricklayers out there have it easy.
I guess what I'm getting at is that the real driving emotion here is greed. Fairness is just a beard. They want you to pay more, not so that all things are more equal and egalitarian, but so that they can pay less. There are people out there making choices between food, medicine, and rent and these clowns are arguing that we throw taxes in there, too.
Not because they want to hold onto their money, mind you. But because it's only fair.
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