20 December 2010

The Rich are to blame...for what?

Since Kathleen Parker spends so much time bashing Sarah Palin and appearing on the "moderate" CNN, she may have felt that she needed to remind readers of her column that she remains, in some sense, a conservative. Her chance came while writing a column that starts off bashing fellow Republicans for their efforts to censor the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission report in an attempt to minimize Wall Street's responsibility for the 2008 meltdown. On this issue Parker is scathing, warning that the GOP's "selective wordplay" blazes a "dark path for citizens to follow." Then she decided that her column needed balance, that she had to find something to criticize Democrats about that would appear equivalent to the Republicans' orwellian antics. She settled on the argument made against extending Bushite tax rates that, in her words, "giving tax breaks to the rich will add to the deficit." She gets in trouble almost immediately by appearing to confuse the deficit with the debt, but her argument would appear to be the same in either case.

[W]e have become quite accustomed through the repetition of this idea that the rich are somehow hurting the poor and disrupting the proper functioning of an engorged and profligate government.Permit me to reword the issue just a tad. Let’s say Joe is $100 in the hole and yet continues to spend money like a drunken fool. Mary has five bucks, which she declines to share because she has to buy food. Joe is insistent. His debt will get worse if Mary doesn’t help out. This may be true, but Mary isn’t convinced that helping Joe pay down his debt will do any good as long as he continues to spend. She’s betting that Joe will just dig a deeper hole, and she will have less security of her own.You see the problem. It isn’t the money. It’s the dishonesty of the argument. Allowing wealthier Americans to keep the amount of money they are now getting isn’t adding to the debt. Yet, the effect of this oft-repeated trope has been to demonize “the wealthy,” as if they somehow have wronged their fellow citizens by working hard and achieving what everyone else wants.

The analogy doesn't read right at all, unless Parker presumes that the "rich" are living on as tight a budget as Mary is. Her real point would be made more clearly if she would decide whether she's writing about the deficit or the debt. If we stick with the deficit, she would have a point if she meant to say that the only way the deficit grows is if we keep spending beyond our means. But if the subject is debt -- presumably the national debt -- then we can't cut the amount we owe already to creditors by spending less money. More money needs to come in before that debt can be paid off. Parker or someone else might argue that it's unfair to make the rich shoulder more of that burden if they, not being needy, never compelled the government to spend more than it took in, but the national debt remains a national responsibility, and the responsibility for paying it off ought to be distributed according to Americans' ability to pay without sacrificing a minimal standard of living. This is not a matter of "punishing success," as Parker implies -- no more than drafting Americans into the military in wartime would be "punishing life."

In any event, how much more dubious is the proposition that tax breaks expand our debt than the counter-notion, beloved of faith-based supply-siders, that cutting taxes always results in increased revenue and thus reduces both the deficit and the debt? We should at least be grateful, I suppose, that Parker doesn't make that claim, but her theme probably required a tone of intellectual modesty. I also suppose I should appreciate her efforts to be evenhanded, but sometimes two sides just aren't equally wrong. Twisting arguments to make them appear so, for the sake of appearing nonpartisan oneself, is just another symptom of Bipolarchy pathology.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another hole in her argument is the idea that all wealthy people have gained their wealth through their own hard work and all poor people are poor simply through their own lack of self control.

Case in point - does she count wealthy drug dealers as having "earned their wealth"? How does she feel about Enron or insider trading? Does that count as "working hard and earning their wealth"?

How about those people who were middle class, but through no fault of their own, lost their jobs due to outsourcing? Should they be blamed for assuming their livelihood wouldn't simply disappear?

No, it seems as usual, the right-wing wants to simplify everything into two classes - winners and loser, and that one is either based on their own strengths or weaknesses, without any outside forces having any influence. That is patently ridiculous, but completely typical of the right-wing. Further evidence that they are simply too unable to understand complex issues, multi-layered problems and therefore, unable to come up with any workable solutions.

This is why they keep attempting the same "one size fits all" idea which can be summed up as "the rich get richer, the poor get poorer." The fact that the working class still haven't caught on is proof of just how stupid Americans truly have become.