Spreading the Misery

January 8, 2007

One of the first actions the new Democratic congressional majority took was to change legislative rules, implemented by the 1994 Republican-controlled Congress, that made it difficult to raise taxes. I suppose the Democrats’ apparent plan to increase taxes on “the rich” won’t count as a broken campaign promise not to raise taxes since “the rich” aren’t entitled to any rights, only to scorn, jealousy and resentment.

The Contract with America provision required a supermajority or 60 percent to increase taxes, but the Democrats’ rule change will now permit a tax hike on a simple majority vote. It will also give the Democrats an advantage in preventing Republicans from extending the Bush tax cuts, which are set to expire in a few years. Democrats removed any doubt that this was an accidental development when they rejected a motion by Minority Leader John Boehner to bar the rule change.

It would be one thing if Democrats were solely motivated here by fiscal concerns: balancing the budget, eliminating the deficit and reducing the national debt. But we know better than that because they understand that the president’s tax cuts, like President Kennedy’s and President Reagan’s, increased federal revenues.

Moreover, they can’t help but realize that President Bush’s tax-cut-driven economic boom has now caused dramatic reductions in the deficits. But to admit such things would be to forfeit class warfare as a demagogic weapon, one of their best remaining tools to bludgeon heartless Republicans.

The very idea that upper income producers are undertaxed is ludicrous on its face. Democrats can’t possibly believe that the rich don’t pay their fair share of the revenues when the top one percent of income producers — according to 2004 tax data cited by economist Larry Kudlow — pays some 37 percent of federal income taxes and the lowest 40 percent pays virtually no taxes and is even subsidized.

But it’s not the inequitable distribution of the tax burden that really bothers liberals. If so, they’d be carping at the lower-income earners for not paying their fair share.

What bugs them is the “inequitable” distribution of wealth. But if they were candid in confessing this, they would be hard-pressed to explain their supposed affinity for economic freedom.

Liberals insist they believe as strongly in the American dream as the rest of us, but routinely demonize those who succeed in attaining it. They loudly profess their allegiance to capitalism, but resent the inequitable monetary results it produces. Isn’t that what John Edwards’ two-America’s theme is all about?

Even robust economic growth resulting in across-the-board increases in income doesn’t satisfy the glass-half-empty liberal mindset. It doesn’t matter how prosperous we are, it doesn’t matter that how much better people are doing across the board. As long as significant disparities exist among income producers, the system, according to liberals, is failing. To them, you see, the system is not supposed to guarantee freedom or equal opportunity, but equal outcomes.

They say they believe in equality of opportunity — I heard no less a liberal lion than Ted Kennedy claim recently that “opportunity” was a hallmark of liberalism — but strongly object when that opportunity yields unequal outcomes.

The unvarnished truth is that you don’t really believe in equality of opportunity if you feel compelled to empower Big Brother to alter the results, after the fact, that equal opportunity makes possible. You are not a free-market enthusiast if you believe the tax code is a vehicle for redistributing wealth.

Besides, hasn’t history repeatedly demonstrated that governmentally enforced schemes to equalize outcomes result in suppressing both freedom and prosperity? Didn’t some of the earliest English settlers in America learn, the hard way, that socialism destroys the incentive to produce, dampens the human spirit and results, ultimately, in less for everyone?

One is entitled to wonder when enough is enough or if there exists a point beyond which Democrats would not go, if they could get away with it, to equalize the distribution of wealth in this country. In a similar vein, one might reasonably wonder whether any amount of failed results would cause liberals to reevaluate the wisdom — and even fairness — of their proposals.

The answer is “no.” Just look at education and the war on poverty. For liberals, supposedly good intentions always trump results.