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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Attention Democrats: There is a Difference Between Asking and Forcing

With all the recent talk about the "fiscal cliff" and tax revenues, I've noticed a political "framing" that is central to the left's attempt to sell tax increases on the wealthy. It comes down to one simple notion:

Just ask.

It shouldn't be news to anyone that Obama, even well before his reelection victory, has been touting a consistent tax policy of "tax the rich." As any reader of this blog knows, I'm vehemently opposed to this and any progressive tax rate system with respect to economics, fairness, and democracy grounds. Of course, I've summarized the fairness issue in this article from April, 2012. Regardless, as I said, team Obama and the left like to frame this "tax the rich" issue as if it's a simple request. He has said, time and time again, that part of his tax policy approach is to "ask the rich to pay a little more."

How convenient. It sounds nice. It sounds warm and fuzzy. The word "ask" sounds as if we're all drinking buddies, and we're simply requesting a favor: "I don't mean to impose, but I'm low on cash today, can you please pay for my beer?" On top of that, if were truly a measure of asking, if the rich were to squirm or rebel or protest, well, it gives the non-rich citizens of this country, who comprise the vast majority, another reason to loathe them.

Touché President Obama... touché.

But let's get through this slimy, semantic dance. All fairness and economic and revenue generating issues aside, here is no asking here at all. Taxation does not exist because the government simply asks people to pay taxes. People are forced to pay taxes. Get it straight. When Obama says his plan, "asks the rich to pay more," it would be far more accurate for him to say, "my plan forces the rich to pay more." Telling America that he is "asking" for more tax revenue from the rich puts him in a position of inferiority. For the president, it's intentional, and it's a good thing. It's well-calculated, two-sided language proposition. First, asking hides his power. Simply, Obama claims it's asking when really it's forcing. "Asking" comes off as an inferior move whereas "forcing" comes off as an aggressive, powerful move. Secondly, by saying he is asking the rich to pay more, he is implying that the rich are the possessors of power. As mentioned briefly, this is an attempt to create further negative feelings about the rich. If he said he was going to force the rich to pay more in taxes, this would create the notion that the rich weren't as powerful as commonly thought, but by asking them, it virtually ordains them as a powerful entity from which we must request things (which leads to further socio-economic angst... ahem... the concept of the "1%"). It's quite easy to paint a picture of the rich as these nasty, evil, tax-skirting, stingy, greedy, power-hungry beings if we have to ask things of them.

Each time I hear someone, including the President, claim that we are just "asking" the rich to pay more, I cringe. I cringe almost as badly as when I hear this completely false claim that the rich "don't pay their fair share." If you hear someone quote Obama and repeating his "request," please correct them. We can have a philosophical debate about the economics of taxation all day, but don't let a semantic shell game smooth over what is really happening when it comes to raising taxes in this country.

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  1. I agree with your assessment 100%, but I also think that manipulative semantics in politics, while maybe more carefully constructed these days, but is certainly nothing new. Pick any politician in Washington and analyze their choice of words when describing a plan/proposal and I think you'll see there are only a few genuinely honest men and women in washington. it's all carefully constructed and only vaguely representative of the truth. both romney and obama lied through their teeth all throughout the campaign, along with basically every other member of both parties. to me it's a shame that Obama comes in to office promising "change" and what we get is the same hollow political games played by everyone else

    1. I agree with you, but out of curiosity, where did Romney lie? Other than the "lies" the media said he did and tried to get us to believe, where did this happen?

  2. Hello there LME, I think we fall on different sides of the issue today. :) We were on a roll!

    I don't believe that this is anything particularly unique to one party/instance, and is more a symptom of politics as usual as opposed to one party attempting to pull a fast one of sorts. Both parties attempt to portray and campaign on their agendas or plans in a favorable light, and it would be a bit past disingenuous to only hold one of them to that standard.

    It is incredibly uncommon to see political figures, whether on the Democrat or Republican side, run around saying “I want to pass X legislation to *FORCE* people to do Y!” That may as well be political suicide; and is not the type of language you would want to use in most situations. The GOP didn’t go around campaigning on wanting to “force” people to keep their babies on the abortion issue, or “force” people to jump through hoops for voter registration, or “force” people to pay more for college. All of those issues were/are painted in a different light; “protecting life”, “reducing voter fraud”, or “reduce waste/college costs.” But all can be simplified to the fact that enacting legislation forces people to abide by it, which of course is implied but understandably that fact isn’t going to be what you try to highlight.

    Additionally, I don’t like that the discussion of this issue is being blown-up as much as it has been (and this post is kind of contributing to it). The Buffet Rule has all but been abandoned as part of the central push of the Democratic Party in these negotiations, and instead a far more reasonable ‘compromise’ with the GOP has been simply allowing the Bush era Tax Cuts to expire on the wealthy. This amounts to a measly 3% increase in a 250-390k tax bracket, and a 4.6% increase on the 390k+ bracket.

    I’ve seen GOP figureheads blow this up as if the Democrats are asking for an overwhelming, ridiculous, unheard-of increase… making comparisons to how ineffective taxing the rich at 100% would be, or other forms of reductio ad absurdum. Both sides are certainly guilty of that in various amounts, but this particular instance seems to be the biggest obstacle, on what ultimately is one of the smallest issues, that is making it more and more unlikely we avoid the fiscal cliff.

    1. RKen – Good afternoon, I hope you had an awesome Thanksgiving!

      Yah, we were on such a roll… but unfortunately, we couldn’t be further apart on this one. :) I will try to address each issue you presented.

      You said “I don’t believe…” – This is one I’m passionate about. I don’t care how engrained it is, or how “that’s just politics” it is… truth, left our right, should be stood up for. This is a great example of this. It is not “asking” for more taxes… it’s forcing. It’s not even close to asking. To claim that it is is nothing more than dishonesty. I stand up for the truth, and I don’t care who it comes from. An example of this on the right is the ridiculous notion that Obamacare will require Americans to get microchipped. I’ve gotten into some pretty neat Facebook debates with people who are trying to pass this along. Regardless of if it is “politics as usual,” the fact still remains that claiming it’s “asking” for more in taxes is not true. I can’t get around that.

      You said “additionally, I don’t like…” – The Buffett Rule is absolutely still in play. It’s now being pushed as an “alternative minimum tax” or a “minimum tax” or a “wealth tax.” No matter what it’s called, it’s still the same generic notion by a different name. To me, the issue of raising taxes isn’t reasonable at all. I’ve said it a million times over… why do we need to keep raising taxes? When does it stop? If we do it now, we will keep doing it more and more and more. Of course, I’ve written about this many times… about how now we want to turn to our rich neighbors and say “YOU pay more… not me… I want the benefits of American society but I want YOU to pay for it.” It is absolutely absurd, to me, to want to keep raising taxes especially when soooooooo many don’t contribute. It needs to stop, and I find it embarrassing that we, as Americans, have one main solution: corner a very small part of the population and force them to pay more. I am always flabbergasted at how our society, one that prides itself on equal treatment, so quickly and happily singles out a group for exploitation. Like I’ve said, economics aside, it is not fair at all.

      That’s my opinion, so far :)

  3. Hi LME - I agree wholeheartedly! Cut spending FIRST and THEN we can talk about taxes! That said - historically, the Republican ALWAYS fold, the taxes jump and the cuts NEVER COME. Note: It's also a HISTORICAL FACT that higher taxes = LOWER revenue to the govt. Those 'evil rich' didn't get that way by being STUPID.

    It's way past time to STOP the insanity.

    @RKen - So, you agree with the concept that increasing taxes 'a measly' 3% - 4.6% on CERTAIN segments of Americans is 'fair'? And if 'they' do get it on, WHAT do you suppose 'they'll' do with that money? Do you think for one minute they'll use ANY of it to pay down the massive debt that we've effectively enslaved ALL future generations of Americans with? Or will Obama - in his infinite 'wisdom' 'invest' in MORE of his FAILED 'experiments' AND further empower his union buddies? While government 'teachers' indoctrinate our youth and fill their young minds with HIS socialist, anti-colonial, one-world-order garbage; distort and REWRITE our OWN HISTORY 'nearer to HIS hearts desire'? (see: Fabian Socialism)

    News Flash: There's not enough money ON THE PLANET to sustain our out of control spending and entitlements indefinitely... If we DO NOT scale back our massive government - We. Are. Toast.

    “Nip the shoots of arbitrary power in the bud, is the only maxim which can ever preserve the liberties of any people. When the people give way, their deceivers, betrayers, and destroyers press upon them so fast, that there is no resisting afterwards. The nature of the encroachment upon the American constitution is such, as to grow every day more and more encroaching. Like a cancer, it eats faster and faster every hour.

    The revenue creates pensioners, and the pensioners urge for more revenue. The people grow less steady, spirited, and virtuous, the seekers more numerous and more corrupt, and every day increases the circles of their dependents and expectants, until virtue, integrity, public spirit, simplicity, and frugality, become the objects of ridicule and scorn, and vanity, luxury, foppery, selfishness, meanness, and downright venality swallow up the whole society.” —John Adams (1735-1826), 2nd President of the United States

    “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” George Washington

    1. Hi Dara,

      I’m not sure what you mean by “historically, the Republican ALWAYS fold, the taxes jump and the cuts NEVER COME”? Taxes have decreased rather consistently over the past ~50 years, with only a small handful of ‘jumps’. I do agree that spending cuts almost always end up falling short, or as a sort of mirage.

      The higher taxes = lower revenue argument also isn’t so simple; there are many, many factors that come in to play to determine our revenue (or more specifically, our economic output). Revenues boomed even during the Clinton years, despite the tax increases that preceded them.

      As far as whether the 3-4.6% increase is fair, I frankly don’t even really have interest in that debate right now. And the debate isn’t my point; my point is that the discussion of whether it is far or not isn’t worth going hitting the fiscal cliff over, and that’s the important thing to take away here.

      If Democrats instead tried to push for a 0.01% increase on taxes for the rich in their compromise, would you still feel just in backing the GOP in refusing to budge on the issue? Do you feel that principle is more important to maintain, than the fiscal condition of the country? Where do you draw the line?

      I, personally, draw my line on this issue much higher than 0.01%. I can’t reasonably agree with stonewalling the opposition completely over such a small increase on only one aspect of the discussion (regardless of the principle). I don’t know exactly where my line would be, but <5% is certainly below mine… where as the GOP seem to think anything >0% is above theirs, which is simply not practical.

      Likewise, I would feel exactly the same if the GOP proposed to reduce an entitlement benefit by a tiny % as part of their reform proposal, and Democrats were absolutely stonewalling them.

      We need to be far better in prioritizing the issues here.

    2. "Revenues boomed even during the Clinton years, despite the tax increases that preceded them."

      This is a common fallacy commonly pushed by the left. Revenues did not boom when clinton raised rates. If you look at his tenure, revenues boomed after the GOP took the house and clinton was pushed to the middle. He then cut taxes, specifically on investment income (cap gains) and then revenues boomed. This "the country did well under clinton when he raised taxes" is the biggest joke of a lie being told right now.

    3. Thanks Texas Tea : ) Clinton's economy was also propped up by the bubble - and as always happens, sooner or later - ALL bubbles burst. Clinton was LUCKY in that it happened AFTER he left office.

      Q: IF the 'Clinton era' was sooooo wonderful... why does no one suggest we go back to his ENTIRE (first term) tax plan?

      A: No, we prefer to make 'the rich' into the 'monster under the bed.'

      Q: But... back then - didn't EVERYONE have some 'skin in the game'?

      A: Well, yes, but THAT's beside the point... now - we (Democrats) have to be 'fair.'

      'Fair' in Democrat NewSpeak is 'punishing' ONLY the 'evil rich' (who ALREADY feed the BULK of the revenue into the belly of the ravenous beast of bloated, out-of-control government residing in the 'hallowed halls' of D.C. - while reaping ZERO of the benefits of the programs they support with said revenues.)

      And @RKen the Democrats are already stonewalling entitlement reform - looks like they're content with 'waiting'... after all they'll most likely be OUT of OFFICE long before SS/Medicare begin to SWALLOW every dime of our GDP... and then some.

      Or... maybe not - As Pravda so crudely, but quite accurately (IMO) put it:

      “Recently, Obama has been re-elected for a 2nd term by an illiterate society and he is ready to continue his lies of less taxes while he raises them... The question is how long will the once “Land of the Free” remain the United Socialist States of America? Their suffering has only begun. Bye bye Miss American Pie!”

      From the mouths of ... the Russians???

    4. Oh and @RKen...

      I WAS QUITE clear in my priorities... Cut the (wasteful, out of control) spending FIRST and THEN we can talk about TAX REFORM.

      Increasing taxes RATES on ANYONE BEFORE addressing our INSANE spending is simply throwing MORE money down a never-ending BLACK HOLE.

    5. Seems pretty clear to me that revenues (particularly federal income revenues) increased in all years of Clinton’s presidency:

      There is no exact correlation between revenues and the overall average tax rates.

      And if you support the argument that Clinton’s revenues were supported by the internet bubble, then you also have to support the same assertion that Bush’s revenues were ‘propped up by the (substantially larger) housing bubble.’

      As far as entitlement reform, I’m doubtful that the Democrats would absolutely refuse to even discuss a plan that included their ideas of tax reform along with entitlement reform. That’s the difference here; Democrats have long since said that they’re open to reasonable entitlement reforms so long as taxes are on the table, where as the GOP refuses to take part in any plan that has any revenue components.

      That said, I’m not disillusioned and I’m doubtful Democrats would accept a major entitlement over-hall, but the tax rate increase they’re proposing isn’t a ‘major overhaul either.’ So of course a proper compromise wouldn’t be an over-hall in the first place.

    6. RKen, good evening. I hope you (well, and everyone) had a great Thanksgiving.

      Just curious, how did Bush benefit from the housing bubble in terms of revenue? The first $500,000 of capital gains from real estate are EXEMPT from capital gains tax. There are a few exceptions like:

      1. It had to be your primary residence for at least 2 years of the past 5 years.
      2. $500,000 for married couples, $250,000 for single persons.
      3. There is even an unforeseen circumstance clause (I think) where you can be exempted if you have to move prior to 2 years.

      Granted, the people that "flip" houses would pay capital gains taxes but are they the vast majority of home sales?

      For the record, I am not saying Clinton's revenues were helped by the dot commers and Bush's weren't. I am neither agreeing or disagreeing with that claim (how PC of me, huh?).

    7. Good evening to you too slim, hope you also had a good Thanksgiving!

      By my (admittedly limited) knowledge on the subject, the housing bubble injected a lot of additional money into the economy through the drastic increases in home ownership. This contributes in a few different ways:

      - More people were investing money that otherwise may have not been touched in home purchases.
      - Banks were lending money more freely and in larger amounts than normal, to keep up with and profit from the demand.
      - The processes of building, selling, and financing home purchases involve a rather large sector of the economy that benefits well (employment, pay, expansion, etc) from increased home purchases.

      All of which helped contribute to a sort of artificial stimulus of & boost in cash trading hands, which does assist in propping up the economy.

      These reasons (and others I'd have to research more) are why the Fed chooses to stimulate the economy through large purchases of mortgage-backed securities. It tends to be very effective.

      In all fairness, I would actually agree the bubble did certainly help in some way with Clinton's revenues as well (for different reasons), but just isn't the only factor at play. I likely wouldn't even say it was the biggest. Not even sure I would say for Bush; at least not with certainty.

    8. RKen, thanks for your gracious reply. I have to admit, I was only thinking of increased "revenue" from capital gains taxes, hence the stupid question. Thanks for helping me through my "Duh" moment.

      I will administer one Leroy Jethro Gibbs (from the show NCIS) slap to the back of head, to myself.

    9. More than happy to explain, and no worries; it wasn't a stupid question at all.