Here's a recent quote from Senator Obama on Social Security:
"We will not privatize Social Security, we will not raise the retirement age, and we will save Social Security for future generations by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share."Emphasis added. Where have we heard that before?
Well, that's why we have the Google. Remember John Edwards? Nice hair, ran for President? Here's what he said last August in Hanover, NH:
The tax code provides breaks for hedge fund managers — amazingly, even Democrats backed down from asking them to pay their fair share when Wall Street lobbyists put the pressure on.A press release from someone named "Hillary", not quite down the memory hole yet:
As President, Hillary will restore fairness to our tax code by lowering taxes for middle-class families while asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share.Rahm Emanuel and Bruce Reed in this excerpt from their 2006 book The Plan: Big Ideas for America:
Yet when Democrats set out to restore progressivity and close those loopholes, Republicans block any action by pretending that asking the wealthy to pay their share is a tax increase on the middle class.And here's President Bill Clinton, over 15 years ago:
But unlike the 1980's, when the rich paid less and the middle class paid more, we're asking the wealthy to pay their fair share to give the middle class a fair shake.It's not just at the national level. Here's Minnesota ex-Senator Mark Dayton, in a Minneapolis Star-Tribune op-ed from March, opposing the Republican Governor's tax proposal:
Here's a novel alternative. For the first time in decades, let's ask the richest people in Minnesota to pay their fair share of taxes.As Elvis said: I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused. But when I hear this phraseology, I go right back to "disgusted" again. Finding each one of these instances kicked my blood pressure up a couple of mmHg, and I don't have as much headroom in that area as I used to. It's as if there's a Democrat-brand computer keyboard that comes with that standard boilerplate bound to a hotkey, no extra charge. It must have once played very well to a focus group.
While it's short, it contains an unusual amount of rhetorical mendacity. First, there's:
Rich and/or wealthy — Singling them out is pure demagogic
populism, of course. Hey, this is a democracy! Why shouldn't
90% of us vote to raise taxes on the other 10%? Or 80-20? Or 51-49?
The idea is that when most people hear
"wealthy", they are supposed to unconciously
add the subtext "not me." And hear the free-lunch implication:
more goodies for me from the government that someone else will be forced to
Fair share — spoken as if some unholy hybrid being,
able to derive a precise
mathematical formula determining, for anyone's
given situation, what a "fair" amount of taxation would be.
Harvard Econ prof Greg Mankiw had the definitive
take on this notion in the New York Times last year. After
looking at the actual tax burden at various income levels, he debunked
any effort to paint things as "fair":
Fairness is not an economic concept. If you want to talk fairness, you have to leave the department of economics and head over to philosophy.The whole notion of "progressive" taxation turns any objective measure of fairness into a lame joke. This is not a new and original insight. In The Constitution of Liberty, Friedrich Hayek quoted J. R. McCullough from 1833:
The moment you abandon the cardinal principle of exacting from all individuals the same proportion of their income or of their property, you are at sea without rudder or compass, and there is no amount of folly or injustice you may not commit.Hayek himself makes a similar point a few pages later:
Progression provides no criterion whatever of what is and what is not to be regarded as just. It indicates no halting point for its application, and the "good judgment" of the people on which its defenders are usually driven to rely as the only safeguard is nothing more than the current state of opinion shaped by past policy.
Ask — No. No. No. The government does not "ask" you to pay
taxes, any more than it "asks" you to not hold up convenience stores.
They'll put you in jail if you don't do what they "ask". To euphemize
otherwise is weasel-worded dishonesty.
But I bet that won't happen soon. I'll contact my physician about upping my blood pressure meds.