But did you see E.J. Dione, Jr., in the Washington Post commenting on ITEP’s just-released annual findings?
How Government Helps the 1 Percent
You may think that government takes a lot of money from the wealthy and gives it to poor people. You might also assume that the rich pay a lot to support government while the poor pay a pittance.
There is nothing wrong with you if you believe this. Our public discourse is dominated by these ideas, and you’d probably feel foolish challenging them. After Mitt Romney’s comments on the 47 percent blew up on him, conservatives have largely given up talking publicly about their “makers vs. takers” distinction. But much of the right’s rhetoric and many of its policies are still based on such notions.It is thus a public service that the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) has issued a report showing that, at the state and local level, government is indeed engaged in redistribution — but it’s redistribution from the poor and the middle class to the wealthy.
This gets to something else we don’t discuss much: Public policies in most other well-to-do countries push much harder against inequality than ours do. According to the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS), the United States ranks 10th in income inequality before taxes and government transfers. By this measure, Ireland and Britain, and even Sweden and Norway, are more unequal than we are. But after government transfers are taken into account, the good old USA soars to first in inequality. Norway drops to sixth place and Sweden to 13th.
On its face, the property tax would seem progressive, because big houses are taxed more. But the study finds that on average, “poor homeowners and renters pay more of their incomes in property taxes than do any other income group — and the wealthiest taxpayers pay the least.” [Renters pay the taxes indirectly, though their rent. – A.T.]
. . . We need to stop claiming that we have a massively redistributive government. We need to stop pretending that poor people are “takers” when they in fact kick in a lot to the common pot. [And do some backbreaking, mind-numbing, often-unpleasant work for us, by the way. – A.T.] And we need to replace arguments about “big” and “small” government with a debate over what governments at all levels are doing to make our society more just — or less.
Marco Rubio has been out on the talk show circuit engagingly making his case — always beginning with the fact that his mom and dad were a maid and a bartender, respectively, yet managed to live decently and pout all four kids through college. Not possible today, he correctly notes. So maybe he should switch parties and vote for hiking the minimum wage? (I doubt bartender or maid jobs could be shipped off-shored as a result; or that a machine could easily be found to make beds, scrub toilets, or attract bar patrons with its personality or sex appeal.) Maybe switch parties and vote for the infrastructure revitalization that would create so many good jobs? Vote for increased Pell grants and the ability of refinance federal student loans at today’s low rates? Encourage labor unions . . . not to swing the pendulum all the way back to the featherbedding Fifties, but to restore some balance that values work and workers?
Bart: “Re your ‘idiot’ post . . . . You are on to something. Please do not back off. I am at total loss why our President, the party of D’s, and you, obtain zero traction with the message of the many good things that have been accomplished during President Obama’s term. Those worthy accomplishments cannot fit on a bumper sticker. Perhaps that is our problem. Producing pithy bumper sticker slogans are something the R’s seem to win at with every topic and campaign. And of course there is the constant repetition of lies that then appear to become greater than the truths. . . . ‘Idiots’ seem to run strong in my personal circle of friends and family. What is peculiar is that nearly every one earns a living or directly receives easy-to-identify benefits from federal, state or local government largess, programs or laws. When I attempt to link this to their out out of step ideology, their personal cases become re-interpreted as ‘exceptions.’ Why people vote against their best personal interest remains a total mystery to me.”
Theo: “Steven’s not an idiot. What Steven is, however, is selfish, scared, confused, typical, short-sighted, narrow-minded, tunnel-visioned, passionately and blindly attached to his position, unwilling to change his opinion with the facts, and most likely a bigot. He may even be stupid (the determined and careless combination of ignorance plus pride).”
☞ Now, hang on, Theo — you’re talking about my pen pal! I agree he’s confused (per E.J. Dione, above, he’s hardly alone in having been fed misinformation), and, well, yes, blindly attached to his position (as he would insist we are blindly attached to ours); but not at all sure he’s selfish, let alone a bigot. One day, you and he and I are all gonna have a beer and find lots of common ground.
RATIONALISM v. EMPIRICISM
Mike Myler: “Wow: Mike Martin seems to be pretty smart, though I wish you’d condensed his essay that to the point where I could memorize it and recite it to my FOX-viewing friends. But spot on. (One of my Republican friends who was silent when I used your climate-change argument — ‘if 97 doctors said your son had cancer and if treated now could survive but 3 doctors said NO he doesn’t have cancer, would you not treat your son?’ — a week later came up with ‘the 97 scientists are cooking the data so they can get more funding.’ It’s hopeless.)”
Pamela: “Sorry — Mike Martin is tl;dr. I watched this instead (and you should too).”
☞ Spectacular! But you could have listened to it while you read Mike’s piece! Political philosophy set to Beethoven — how cool is that? (Does everyone know that tl;dr = “too long; didn’t read”? Now they do.)
Have a great weekend!
Quote of the Day
No other human occupation opens so wide a field for the profitable and agreeable combination of labor with cultivated thought, as agriculture.~Abraham Lincoln
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