Friday, July 9, 2010

Progressivism, Taxation, and Tyranny

Obama recently offered the threat to “start presenting some very difficult choices to the country.” He hoped that “some of these folks who are hollering about deficits and debt” would “step-up” because he planned on “calling their bluff.” Undoubtedly, he is raising a trial balloon to increase taxes on everyone, violating yet another campaign promise. The only other alternative would be to cut spending, which Obama will never do (other than on Defense).

In that context, the following quotes from individuals with considerably more wisdom may be of interest.

The debate on Progressive taxation didn't begin two years ago, or even 100 years ago just prior to the passage of the 16th Amendment. Writing in 1845, the English writer Ramsay McCulloch said:
“The moment you abandon... the cardinal principle of exacting from all individuals the same proportion of their income or their property, you are at sea without rudder or compass and there is no amount of injustice or folly you may not commit.”
The history of the past century has proven him right with a vengeance.

A hundred years ago, only the very wealthy paid any income tax at all. In 1913, the top tax rate was 7% on incomes above $500,000 (roughly $10 million 2007 dollars), according to Wikipedia. (Individuals earning over $3,000 — equivalent to $60,000 today — paid 1%.) Today, the top 1% pay 40% of all federal income taxes. The bottom 50% pay only 3%.

Some believe that is only fair. They clearly do not share the Founders view, when they were paying 2%, that 3-4% would constitute tyranny. They're also, no doubt, indifferent to Montesquieu's belief that "when the savages of Louisiana wish to have fruit, they cut the tree at the bottom and gather the fruit. That is exactly a despotic government."

That puts me in mind of another tree, the one Jefferson mentioned as needing refreshing from time to time. Fortunately, at present, all this can be reversed by shedding tyrant's blood only metaphorically. The signs for that happening this November are promising. According to a recent Rasmussen poll, only
22% would pay higher taxes to prevent cuts in entitlement programs for low-income Americans. Sixty-three percent (63%) say they would not pay more to keep these programs afloat. Another 15% are undecided.
When the American people begin to reject Federally-funded altruism, it's a sign the tyrants' power is waning. For, as Hugo said, "not all the united armies can stand against an idea whose time has come."

1 comment:

Ken said...


In fact, I'll go one better. I promise you I would cheerfully, and without a backward look, forfeit every penny I've ever paid into Social Security (and I've been paying into it for mumbledyleven years, though I'm not close to any typically recognized "retirement age") in return for being permanently let off the hook for it.