Posted on | August 4, 2011 | 24 Comments
“Tax cuts do not . . . create jobs . . . When we do not ask the super rich and the corporations who make billions of dollars of profits off of the American economy [for more taxes], we will not have the funds to keep that engine running . . . to make sure that we can meet our nation’s obligations to our seniors, our children and our poor.”
– Rep. Barbara Lee, California Democrat
This morning I did two things I seldom do anymore — eat breakfast and read a newspaper. The complimentary breakfast here at the motel in Des Moines was excellent, and they provided the Wall Street Journal, which included a column by David Wessel that quoted Barbara Lee’s words.
Should it really be necessary to explain what’s wrong with Lee’s rhetoric? She depicts the “super rich” as villains. And they are evil because they prevent “we” — by which she means, government — from getting “the funds to keep that engine running,” as if tax revenues were the fuel of economic growth.
The entire purpose of economic activity, so far as Lee is concerned, is to meet “obligations” to old folks, kids and poor people.
(Questions: How is it that, merely by siring offspring, I have created “obligations” for my fellow citizens? Aren’t we parents responsible for the care and maintenance of our own children? How did it happen that, in the mind of Barbara Lee, this responsibility was transferred to that amorphous “we” by which she means the federal government? Why should people in Iowa or Texas be taxed for the support of children in California or Florida? Shouldn’t taxpayers at least get visitation rights to the children they’re supporting?)
Missing altogether from Lee’s discourse is any sense of the “super rich” as investors and entrepreneurs, whose capital — whether provided by the purchase of stocks or through loans — is the sine qua non of economic growth. Whatever our “obligations” may be, we cannot improve our economy by siphoning wealth from the investor class and transferring it, via government welfare programs, to people not engaged in productive economic activity.
The fact that recipients of government aid are old or young or poor (the sole qualifications for worthiness, in Lee’s estimation) obscures the fact that such aid, if funded by punitive taxes on “the super rich,” amounts to nothing less than the coercive transfer of money from the productive to the non-productive.
Even a nation as rich as ours can only do so much of that stuff before it begins to suffer from the diminution of competitive capacity.