Monday, March 2, 2009

It's a Canard

Don't fall for it. E.J. Dionne is attempting to frame the debate over Obama's budget:
But his overall approach to taxes is frankly redistributionist: even as much of the middle class gets a tax cut or no increase, the well-off will pay more. And before the howling on the right gets too loud, consider that we have just gone through a long era involving a far less frank form of redistribution -- upward.

'Over the past two or three decades, the top 1 percent of Americans have experienced a dramatic increase from 10 percent to more than 20 percent in the share of national income that's accruing to them,' said Peter Orszag, Obama's budget director. Now, he said, was their time 'to pitch in a bit more.'
There is a lot that can be said to dispute the claim made about the top 1% of Americans, but I'll set that debate aside. I want you to instead focus on what Dionne is claiming.

He is comparing the increase in wealth experienced by wealthy Americans, calling it "redistribution upward" with Obama's plan to seize their money and hand it out to some portion of the rest of the country. This is, pure and simple, theft. It is the taking, by force, of something that does not belong to the government.

Now Dionne wants to frame this for you as making the country "moderately more equal." And again, he may or may not have a valid argument there. There's also an argument to be made that executing petty criminals would reduce the overall crime rate—but it would still be wrong to do so. Theft is wrong, and taking money from people because they have been successful under competitive circumstances is nothing but theft.

Sure, sure, people will pull at your heart strings and give some Robin Hood story about taking from the undeserving rich to give to the poor. And it's a nice story. But remember what's at the root of that fairy tale: Robin Hood was trying to help an overtaxed people who were being bled dry by the Sheriff of Nottingham's overbearing taxes. Now maybe the Sheriff wasn't redistributing those taxes the way President Obama wants to.

But is the failure to redistribute the problem? Or is it the taking by force that is wrong, under any circumstances.

I say it's the latter.

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