Thursday, July 15, 2010

Taxation and the Meaning of Wealth

Someone pointed out recently that while Republicans generally claim to want to cut spending and taxes, the truth is that they increase spending while cutting taxes.

And they never want to cut defense spending, which could take relatively minor cuts (say, $100-200 billion) and we'd be swimming in cash.  The fact is that they don't like certain kinds of government spending.  Well, crikey, none of us do!  But liberals don't complain about government "stealing" our money, or out-of-control spending.  We simply demand tax increases to pay for what feel we need.

Those taxes fall disproportionately on the rich.  So, now we're back to the philosophical divide and resentment: if you believe you've "earned" your taxes, you should get to decide where to spend them.  And conservatives like guns.  So if you're a conservative, your values line up with those who are disproportionately paying for government.

The degree to which conservatives only support government spending they approve of, they feel it is their right to do so, as there is a progressive tax system and the rich should have more of a say.  That they decry non-approved spending as "stealing" or "corruption", it seems to go back to a sense of injustice over progressive tax structures.  Even though poorer conservatives pay no more than anyone else, and thus have no right to claim this injustice, because their spending preferences line up with rich conservatives, they "support the cause" so-to-speak.

What liberals need to do is forcefully make the case for progressive taxation.  This removes the injustice argument, and opens up the field for a case for the social spending we prefer.  Social spending which, coincidentally, is based upon the same assumptions as is progressive taxation - that is, egalitarianism and an economic philosophy that views wealth as relative to social structure and dynamics.  To the extent that the rich were able to profit off a social structure that allowed them to do so, their wealth cannot be claimed as entirely their own.

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