Monday, September 19, 2011

Taxing the Rich

Once again President Obama is engaging in standard class warfare tactics by proposing new taxes on the rich in general -- as defined by him -- and on millionaires in particular, pretending that the people who already provide the vast majority of U.S. tax money are somehow not paying their fair share. It's such a transparent political ploy that you might think such demagoguery wouldn't get any traction at all. Yet it does. Why?

Demonizing the rich and proposing to forcibly extract more money from them appeals to at least two powerful human motivators: envy and self-interest. And it has the virtue of simplicity. Many people are envious of those who make more money than them, even though the relative difference doesn't affect their lives in the least. They are reflexively suspicious of rich people, and tend to see them as cheating somehow, people who are gaming the system to get more than their fair share. Class warfare naturally appeals to those with that attitude. It's a lot easier to believe bad things about the rich than to accept that in most cases they are just smarter and harder-working. Envy helps explain how it is possible to believe that people who pay more in taxes than you'll earn in your lifetime are in some way not paying enough.

Even those less envious and hostile to the rich can be taken in by class warfare schemes out of self-interest. Here you have those who think that if the government raises taxes on the rich, they won't need to tax ordinary people any more. Why should those of us who aren't rich care about people with tons of money? They've got more money than they'll ever spend, why not get more tax money from them? Just leave us alone. In my experience this is a common attitude among those who don't really follow politics closely, and know little about economics. Raising taxes on the rich sounds like a nice simple solution. It's clear and easy to understand.

Envy, self-interest, and simplicity to the point of simple mindedness, those things are the underlie the appeal of raising taxes on the rich. This latest attempt by Obama is no different. Fortunately the GOP controls the House. Thanks to all those who voted Republican in 2010 and have helped prevent Obama from inflicting even more damage on the U.S. economy.


  1. Yes, "I promise to spend on you and tax the other guy" has worked out well for many politicians.