He calls it a "tax revolt," but Cal Thomas stresses in his latest column that he's calling for fiscal conservatives to "creatively, but legally, withhold from the government some of the money they earn" in order to compel Congress and the President to cut spending. On the premise that "The tax system in this country is based on willful compliance," Thomas suggests that "the so-called 'rich,'" as opposed to the truly rich who often have no problem with higher taxes, limit their taxable income by shifting enough into legal tax shelters to keep them out of the highest bracket. Thomas's tax strikers are urged to do this "until we see real spending reform and policies that result in economic growth, which by itself would produce more tax revenue." This is supply-side dogma, indifferent to whether the country can wait for its prayers to the private sector to be answered with growth before getting the revenue it needs. It's also behind the times. Thomas invokes Howard Jarvis of Proposition 13 fame as the model for a tax revolt or tax strike, but Jarvis's state of California has just revolted against his legacy by voting for higher taxes by referendum. Of course, any Californian inspired by Thomas could go on a tax strike on the state level as well. Maybe some could be convinced to walk a symbolic picket line and let the people know where they stand, too.
The amazing thing about Thomas's screed is his claim that, by not cutting entitlements as drastically as he might like, Congress is "failing to put the people first." Any Democrat will argue that he or she is putting the people first precisely by demanding more revenue and resisting cuts to programs that assist the poor. As always, it comes down to how you define "the people." Republicans take a collective view of the people despite their individualist rhetoric. They often sneer at "no x left behind" rhetoric, even or especially when it comes from their own party. As long as the people in general endure, those individuals who can't hack it in the modern economy can fall by the wayside, whether or not charity has a net in place. Just as you can't have a war without casualties, you can't have a free economy without losers, or without defeat having consequences that educate the survivors. In short, for Republicans "the people" does not mean "everyone." Thomas clarifies things further. The object of his proposed tax revolt is "to keep government from constantly pilfering the assets of the
productive so politicians can subsidize the unproductive, buy their
votes and addict them to entitlements." For Thomas, "the productive" are "the people," or at least the people whom Congress must put first. The "unproductive," all of whom, one might infer, Thomas presumes to be so willingly, are at most a lesser category of the people, if they count at all for him. They only become "productive," one might infer further, when the "productive" rather than the government employs them. They are kept idle until the "productive" decide it might be profitable to employ them rather than foreigners, and all the while they are blamed for being unproductive and "addicted" to government, as if some change in the attitude of the "unproductive" will at once make them not only employable, but employed. Such are the premises that justify Thomas's call for a tax strike. His proposals may indeed be legal. If so, they make him a "legal" enemy of the people, for what that's worth. If he denies the charge, let him defend himself to those people, and not just his own "red" amen corner. Thomas often writes about successful people reaching out to mentor the poor, to teach them skills and good work habits. He should practice what he preaches politically and show some courage by telling the people he thinks are wrong why they're wrong, why they ought to make do with less, why the poorest have to tighten their belts, and why they should have more faith in the "productive" than in God. Cal Thomas is still thought of as a representative of the Christian Right, but I'm challenging him to go into "blue" America and preach his true religion.