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March 15, 2009

Stoking Class Warfare by Cherry Picking the Evidence

I have to admit it: this fellow makes a nearly irrefutable argument for doing away with pesky freedoms like the right to keep what you own:

People who become wealthy are certainly very lucky, but they also must have done something which some people consider very useful. Maybe they are good at business, or very smart, or they can hit a baseball very well, or whatever - I doubt anybody really deserves to make $1 million a year, no matter what they do, but obviously the wallets of America disagree with me here. But being born rich is not a useful skill, and anyway, most rich kids are huge douchebags (I speak here as an expert, having seen every Bad News Bears movie multiple times).

I must say that I'm not sure I've ever seen an appeal to authority done better. I don't know about you folks, but I know an argument-ender when I see one. Pancritical rationalists everywhere must be peeing their pants in terror.

But wait! There's more dispassionate and non-partisan analysis where that came from:

Think about the rich kids in public life: George W. Bush, Jonah Goldberg, Bill Kristol, George Steinbrenner, Paris Hilton, etc. Dumb, angry, entitled, douchebags. So, when you think about it, taking away a burdensome inheritance and forcing them to deal with life’s problems like the rest of us is a kindness, and will help our nation’s fortunate sons and daughters be happier, more productive, and more connected to the lives and concerns of their fellow citizens.

Well darn it all, that settles it! Rich people suck and should be forcefully deprived of their ill gotten gains for the good of us all! I say, "Let's extend this heaping helping of common sense to Congress, where fully 70% of the wealthiest members in 2007 Democrats":

Jane Harman (D-Calif)

Darrell Issa (R-Calif)

John Kerry (D-Mass)

Mark Warner (D-Va)

Herb Kohl (D-Wis)

Jared Polis (D-Colo)

Robin Hayes (R-NC)

Vernon Buchanan (R-Fla)

Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass)

Jay Rockefeller (D-WVa)

The exact same proportions have held true for every single year since 2004 (this is as far back as the data goes): 70% of the richest legislators were Democrats. What's even more interesting is how they amassed their fortunes:

Here is how the top ten got to be super-rich:

1. Harman (D) married it.
2. Issa (R) earned it by founding a company.
3. Kerry (D) married it - second wife.
4. Buchanan (R) earned it by co-founding a company.
5. Kohl (D) inherited it and ran the family business.
6. Kennedy (D) inherited it and has little or no experience outside of government.

7. Rockefeller (D) inherited it.
8. Hayes (R) inherited it.
9. Feinstein (D) married it.

10. Lautenberg (D) earned it by found a company.

Admittedly this is a small sample, but of the wealthiest Congressmen/women fully 2/3 of those who actually earned their fortunes happen to be Republicans. And when you broaden out the list of wealthy public servants to include state executives, the same proportions hold: 60% of the wealthiest politicians in America are Democrats. The same is true of a sample that includes both legislators and executive branch appointees.

It's amazing how easy it is to reach silly conclusions when your thought process doesn't include looking at the actual evidence. How Reality Based of you.

But I have to say this is the argument I found most compelling:

The nasty politics, the drug habits, the superior attitude - these are all signs of profound social and spiritual alienation. So while society would be taking away “their” money, they would be receiving something infinitely more valuable in return: LOVE. Because that’s what life is all about.

And also because f**k them.

Posted by Cassandra at March 15, 2009 11:31 AM

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Comments

Hmm....interesting. Now, can you extrapolate from that data how they voted with regard to bidness?

Namely, did the Democrats who earned their fortunes vote against regulation and more for the free market? Those who inherited/married into money...did they vote for regulation and against the free market?

I am just thinking here (I know, Repugs aren't supposed to think. We need to feel more, because it is about love and biting the hand that regulates us) that those to whom it came easily might have their estates structured in the form of trusts...which means, uhh..aren't taxes supposed to be levied on THEMSELVES?

Just asking here.

Posted by: Cricket at March 15, 2009 12:55 PM

cricket: You miss that they don't care about taxes because they don't intend on paying them.

Posted by: Eric Blair at March 15, 2009 01:25 PM

More like they intend to *continue* not paying them.

Unless they're nominated to a discipleship, of course, in which case they'll be zipping to the nearest IRS outpost faster than Chuckie Schumer bolting toward a camera lens.

Posted by: BillT at March 15, 2009 01:59 PM

I believe Eric is right.

There is a growing belief that the politically connected and very wealthy are not going to pay much or anything when income taxes or any other taxes rise.

Whether that belief is correct is far less important than whether it is seen as true.

The middle and upper middle classes (which I regard as roughly $70K to $5M) who receive their income from employers, IRAs, or their own small businesses will have to pay the increases. Most of them cannot hide or shelter income.

The other great surge today is toward much higher fees and hidden taxes. Both are regressive.

To actually impose high taxes on the very wealthy to eliminate the family trusts and foundations that really benefit those who run them. And to clamp down on perks and make all such income be taken in dollars.

Then the wealthiest would have to pay or actually evade. Today they have many ways to avoid.

I am not an advocate of higher taxation for any group. But I won't pretend that the present tax codes are evenly enforced. Nor are the codes designed to actually tax the wealthiest.

Posted by: K at March 15, 2009 02:15 PM

How could I have missed it? I asked the rhetorical question simply because of how the fortunes/wealth is structured with regard to marrying into or inheriting wealth. Why are they so hell-bent on levying taxes on the rich (which group they belong to by definition) but allow tax cheats?

Doublespeak?

Noam Chomsky has his wealth in a trust that is supposedly doing Good Things for Gaia, but the tax-free income clause from such trusts has been eliminated, so he is grandfathered, since his trust was structured before the laws changed.

See what I mean?

Posted by: Cricket at March 15, 2009 03:19 PM

I won't pretend that the present tax codes are evenly enforced. Nor are the codes designed to actually tax the wealthiest.

I don't think you can address inequities of enforcement in a particular tax bracket by raising the tax rate for everyone in that tax bracket.

That amounts to (essentially) punitive profiling: ie., you're well off and a higher % of the well to do evade taxes, therefore absent evidence of wrongdoing, we're going to make you pay more.

Substitute "black" and "default/pay late on home loans" into that sentence and you have a recipe for injustice.

It's one thing to punish an individual for what he has done, but another to punish him for who he is.

Posted by: Cass at March 15, 2009 03:24 PM

That said, I raalize a lot of the wealthiest don't pay all the taxes they owe and get off scot free.

Just look at Obama's cabinet :p

Posted by: Cass at March 15, 2009 03:25 PM

Might there be a reason it is called an income tax and not a wealth tax?

At a svelte 70,000 pages it is the epitome of equity for all income earners.

YIKES! *dodges lightening bolt out of the blue!*
*Looks skyward and yells,* WHAT?! Was it the epitome of equity part that brought on that temper tantrum?
Or did they figure a way to tax you too?

Well, let me tell you how it will be... and don't hold your breath expecting a Zacchaeus to appear.

Posted by: J. Edgar Hubris at March 15, 2009 04:17 PM

...and don't hold your breath expecting a Zacchaeus to appear.

Rats. Now I need another lantern.

Posted by: Diogenes of Sinope at March 15, 2009 05:54 PM

Forget the lantern... The hoosegow, the Hill, the White House, the Congress and K Street are full of the people you seek.

Bwaaaahahahahahahahahahaha!

Posted by: J. Edgar Hubris at March 15, 2009 06:20 PM

Actually when I look at your data, Cassandra, I'm inclined to agree with the person you quote: we *should* set the inheritance tax at 100%. It looks like the only hope we have of keeping "rich kids in public life" from becoming Democrats. (I assume that's what the poster meant when he decried their "nasty politics".)

Posted by: Elise at March 15, 2009 08:50 PM

Just because somebody has money, and you want it, doesn't mean you have the right to take it.

Thieves.

Posted by: Lily at March 15, 2009 09:41 PM

The great equalizer between the rich and poor is the entitlement industry. The entitled have been taught to believe that if they want it they should have it. The EI agrees saying if you want it you should have it.

The burden of paying for flat screen televisions for the poor then falls squarely on the middle class through a variety of taxes. Hoping we are too busy to take the time to consider the true definition of "revenue enhancement" as a tax, the middle class goes blithely on it's way as their income is steadily eroded in a death of a thousand cuts.

There used to be a stigma placed on those who made a living out of being poor. The truly poor had various organizations that assisted them as they attempted to move up from stigmatized situational poverty. Churches run soup kitches that feed all comers. I remember the poor families living in railroad boxcars until their name came up for assisted living. That experience taught them the motivational lesson that it is better to be warm with a full stomach that cold and hungry.

Take away the motivation and you end up with what we have now; entitlement mentality capitalized upon for vote getting. Conservatives core belief is individual responsibility and initiative as compared to liberals who encourage dependency and entitlement. Until we deal with that disparity as conservatives, the burden of supporting the sparrows in the nest, with their beaks perpetually open for the worm, the middle class will carry the burden of provision.

Time to redefine the American Dream.

Posted by: vet66 at March 16, 2009 09:38 AM

There is a growing belief that the politically connected and very wealthy are not going to pay much or anything when income taxes or any other taxes rise.

Whether that belief is correct is far less important than whether it is seen as true.

I had to smile when I read this. It's not that I disagree - I agree most strongly. The perception that taxation is transparent and equally enforced is the most important factor in avoiding a widespread conviction that cheating on your taxes is not just acceptable but admirable. If we're losing that then we're in big trouble.

The reason I smiled was that I'd been writing up a tax plan where everyone pays taxes, no one gets deductions, and all income is treated the same. It's harder for even the wealthy to cheat - or err - if the rules are few and simple. And it's harder for the non-wealthy to tell themselves the wealthy are gaming the system, too.

This is the 3rd, 4th, 5th, whateverith time that something said on this blog tied in with something I was writing - and not the first time it's pushed me to finish writing. Synchronicity or just something in the drinking water around here?

Posted by: Elise at March 16, 2009 02:25 PM

Elise: It is always nice when someone agrees.

The key to avoiding the income tax is to prevent the financial benefits you receive from being defined as "income."

So the key to collecting the income tax is to define "income."

We have an example with Senator Dodd. (Neglect for a moment any moral aspects of this activity.)

He seems to have received a special low rate mortgage from Countrywide. Strictly speaking they didn't give him one cent. And yet who would say he didn't benefit financially?

So was that low rate a gift? Was it a payoff? What was it? About all we can say is that Dodd didn't pay income taxes for it. And technically it may not have been "income".

IMO code revisions should be about defining income as financial benefit rather than money. That will be difficult but otherwise many people of means and influence are not going to be paying the top rates.

Still, I repeat my basic position which some try to artfully ignore. "I am not an advocate of higher taxation for any group."

I just prefer "income" to reflect value received.

Posted by: K at March 17, 2009 02:19 PM

We have an example with Senator Dodd. (Neglect for a moment any moral aspects of this activity.)

That's always a good idea with Senator Dodd :p

Posted by: Men in Tights at March 17, 2009 02:22 PM

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