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Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Taxes, Bailouts and Socialism"

Is it socialism?

Taxes, Bailouts and Socialism, by James Edward Maule: ...When Senator Barack Obama replied to the question ... about his tax plan by noting that "I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody," he opened the floodgates of accusations that his tax proposals would amount to socialism. ...

Obama's tax plan is to increase taxes for individuals with incomes exceeding $250,000. Most Americans do not fall into that category, and 95 percent are unaffected by this particular proposal. Americans in that category are paying taxes at lower rates than they were paying a decade ago. The theory was that reducing rates on the rich would generate benefits not only for the rich, but also for everyone else. This "trickle down" theory turned out to be a failed experiment. All that trickled down was the economic pain inflicted on America by the casino capitalist gamblers. Technically, Obama proposes revocation of tax cuts for the wealthy. They had their chance. It failed, other than to make the wealthy wealthier, the middle class smaller, and the gap between the haves and have-nots wider. ...

Will Obama's tax plan redistribute wealth? Hardly. The additional revenue generated by the revocation of tax cuts for the wealthy very well may end up paying the interest on the national debt that was incurred because taxes were cut and kept too low during wartime. One could consider those tax cuts to have been a loan to the wealthy, and the events of the past month have demonstrated what they did with it.

But perhaps there's some wealth redistribution involved. One reasonably can argue that the revenue raised by revoking the tax cuts for the wealthy will be used to fund government programs that help only the poor or only the middle class or only the poor and middle class. Does that make it socialism? More important, does that make it bad policy? ...

Colin Powell has suggested that "Taxes are always a redistribution of money. Most of the taxes that are redistributed go back to those who pay them -- in roads and airports and hospitals and schools. And taxes are necessary for the common good, and there's nothing wrong with examining what our tax structure is or who should be paying more, who should be paying less. For us to say that makes you a socialist, I think, is an unfortunate characterization that isn't accurate." Hooray for Colin Powell. I might disagree that taxes always are a redistribution, because to the extent that they pay for services being rendered to the paying taxpayer, they do not transfer wealth. They simply represent an exchange of cash for services or property. But that articulation technicality aside, there are, and have been for decades, valid arguments for imposing higher taxes on those on whom America has bestowed better opportunities and greater fortune. Undoing the mistaken tax cuts, and fixing the problems caused by trying to fight a war without raising taxes, isn't socialism. It's an attempt to undo the problems caused by welfare for the wealthy. ...

A total ban on wealth redistribution would mean tens of millions of people in need would not get assistance, and in many instances would die. Social Security is wealth redistribution. So, too, is Medicare. So, too, are food stamps. So, too, is the program that provides breakfasts and lunches to school children who would otherwise go unfed. So, too, are all sorts of other programs. If these programs are socialism, and if support for these programs make someone a socialist, then here's some news: by that definition, America has been a socialist nation for decades, and most of its Presidents and legislators have been socialists. So what would it mean to purge "socialism" from public policy? What then would life in America be?

    Posted by on Thursday, October 23, 2008 at 03:06 AM in Economics, Income Distribution, Social Insurance, Taxes | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (153)


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