Readers, in a comments exchange at TOC (my home blog) today, I responded to Reader of Excellence “jgets,” and realized that the exchange would make a useful stand-alone post. Rather than spending time tweaking this further, I will simply post it to get it out there for discussion.
Reader jgets posited the following:
[Apropos this link, suggesting a higher tax rate on the top 1%.]
More ideas like the above from the 1%, a steady reduction in government expenditures and entitlements, a smarter tax policy for the upper middle class, a modest tax contribution from the now untaxed middle class, a token contribution from the working poor, and maybe we’ll get out of this financial mess.
Can the Republicans make a compelling message outta that moving towards 2016?
No. The middle class will hear exactly one thing out of that summary: “a modest tax contribution from the now untaxed middle class.”
The middle class is already taxed. People making $75-250K are the middle class. They’re the ones who make the economy go. They are taxed, in every way (not just sales tax, excise taxes, and fees), and they’ve been taking big economic hits over the last 5 years.
People making $40-74K a year may not, depending on their life circumstances (e.g., lots of kids), pay net federal income tax in a given year. But they do pay other kinds of taxes, and many of them are aware of it.
Moreover, these are the folks most likely to have formerly made $40-74K a year. These are the people who’ve been losing their jobs right and left since 2008, or seeing their small businesses fail. Even if they haven’t, they’ve been losing their health insurance.
Obamacare has now come along and made it too expensive to pay for individual private coverage — if they’re lucky enough to have gotten a wage job at Wal-Mart since losing the job with insurance benefits (or maybe the wife has gotten a good reputation as a substitute teacher, and can work a good 15 days each month so there’s at least some discretionary income). Now you want to tell them they haven’t absorbed enough economic blows, and they need to pony up “a modest tax contribution” on top of that?
We can’t get out of our current mess by tweaking the tax code. We have to deregulate. Build that Keystone pipeline. Drill off our coasts. Retool old refineries and build new ones. Drill and frack where we’re not doing it now. Stop killing coal and the trucking industry with psychotic emission limits.
Stop trying to de-incentivize new single-family residential building, by driving up the price of it with draconian land-use limitations and tying it to high-density residential and light-rail hubs. Unload the whole Agenda 21 template and let people drive the cars they want to drive and live in single-family homes in the suburbs where the schools are better and the kids can be safe at the parks.
Stop forcing long-term reorganization and shrinkage on American agriculture — killing off the family farm and the whole economy that centers on it — by artificially withholding water from farmers and regulating their “dust.” (Stop with the federal subsidies to agriculture too, of course.)
Stop driving ranchers one by one off the land with lawsuits against grazing — grazing that no one but a few clinically demented eco-activists thinks damages the planet.
Stop requiring, with federal and state law, that it cost employers so much to employ the American worker — but that the money it costs go to the state, or the state’s designated recipients (e.g., insurance companies), rather than into the worker’s pocket!
Stop burdening American businesses with the whole array of preemptive regulations they have to spend so much of their revenues to comply with. No one, businesses or individuals, would have to borrow as much as everyone routinely does now, for any purpose, if government stopped taking such a big slice out of current-year revenues. Rampant borrowing gets us in a lot of trouble — creating a titanic and ever-present moral hazard for regulators as well as creditors and debtors — and everyone, literally everyone, would do a lot less of it if government didn’t cost us so much in so many ways.
The most effective way to reduce that cost today is to deregulate. But deregulation would also open up colossal revenue streams we don’t tap today, from energy, transportation, construction, manufacturing, and even agriculture and husbandry. We’ve been slowly killing off our economy for the last 100 years; it’s mind-boggling how many more people would be better off today if we hadn’t been, and how much smaller our government debt would be at all levels.
People can understand that message, if it’s put clearly. Don’t go out and tell the people they have to contribute more to a fatal enterprise. Tell them there’s a way for all of us to have more options and get more from our labors.