Friday, September 23, 2011

A Little Class Warfare For Breakfast

Before I get started on a mini-rant, let me say something about the subject of this rant.

Elizabeth Warren was my bankruptcy professor in law school.  She was a terrific teacher -- unlike most of my professors, I didn't have a problem attending her class... and it wasn't just because she had an attendance policy.  And she's a nice person, she really is.  I enjoyed our discussions during office hours.  And she will have absolutely no reason to remember me, and is a hell of a lot more accomplished (then again, that last part is not saying much).

With that said, she's completely wrong here. Let's start with the video.

Okay, allow me to retort, Professor...

1. Last I checked, the factory owner in your hypothetical does pay taxes.  We're apparently arguing about whether he or she needs to pay a greater share of their income to pay for all of those wonderful services that government provides pursuant to the social contract you're referencing.  Guess what?  The factory owner who's making more income already pays more in taxes than the non-factory owners who make less income do, both in terms of total income and as a percentage of the income.  I know, Warren Buffett's secretary and all that crap might have convinced you otherwise, but go see the AP factcheck on that point.

2.  She's also missing an extremely important point here regarding what the factory owner contributes to society.  To wit, he or she is now producing goods that are a benefit to society.  He or she is purchasing good and services from suppliers and vendors.  He or she is employing people who now have jobs and are not a burden on the social safety net.  Those employees earn paychecks and spend money that in turn helps stimulate the economy.  The factory owner and the employees pay taxes -- employment taxes, income taxes, sales taxes on things they purchase... and those taxes help pay for government.

Get it?  Because of the factory owner's work and business, the factory owner is already providing additional benefits to society -- they are paying it forward in a far more important way than they do via additional taxes. 

Do they get credit for these benefits that they provide to society?  Perhaps the answer is that these benefits also come with costs in the form of an increased need for regulations, and that the increased activity leads to greater usage of public resources (by other people who are also presumably paying into the system).  But none of this is addressed in the silly analysis we see on the video.

3.  Why is it that every time we hear a liberal story about the services government provides, it's focused on the essential services that conservatives will happily concede as duties of government (fire service, policemen, roads), but not on all the insane services government now provides (and largely does a crappy job providing) that people find far more questionable?  And does government have a responsibility to spend our taxpayer dollars with care and account for it?  If they don't do so, doesn't the factory owner have an even greater reason to take offense to claims that he or she is not paying their fair share, if government seems to be wasting the money that the factory owner otherwise might have used in a productive manner?

4.  I'll let Jonah Goldberg handle the next point...
Of course conservatives believe in a social contract, albeit a more bare bones version than the one liberals believe in. Insinuations otherwise are a red herring. But you can believe in a social contract and also believe the Left is pursuing class warfare. The suggestion that one contradicts the other is entirely bogus.

Going from this video, Ms. Warren thinks the deficit Bush created is terrible because it put our kids in greater debt but the deficit Obama has created is fine, even though it does the same thing. And something called “the social contract” requires us to look the other way as we pile up ever more debt on policies that haven’t worked until now. Again, I’m sure that sounds great to people who want to hear liberals “fight back.” But I think she’ll have to try harder if she wants to persuade people who don’t already agree with her.
That last part is key.  Warren's articulating a form of class warfare that is poisonous to the social contract she's allegedly trying to defend.  There's an argument to be made that the factory owner should want to give back to society, sort of a moral obligation one may feel they should fulfill (think about when people return to their hometowns to "give back" through charitable endeavors).

But Warren is arguing that the factory owner owes that obligation to everyone else.  To begin with, it's not always true.  Maybe this factory owner doesn't owe it to society -- maybe his factory (now using masculine pronouns because I'm sick of using he or she) is actually a home office where he created some fabulous new app that allows us to determine just how many jobs President Obama will destroy every month.  And maybe he was home-schooled in the Alaskan wilderness and lives in a small privately-policed community located on an offshore island that's still a U.S. territory.  I suppose he should be thankful for protection from marauding bands of pirates or something.  However, he's already paying into the system, as noted above.  You're saying that he owes more simply because he's been successful -- you're punishing that success by obligating him to do something.  That's an affront to personal liberty.

5.  When you tax something, you tend to get less of it.  Do we want less successful people?  Fewer factory owners?  Fewer rich people?  Fewer people getting jobs?

Sorry, I just lapsed into a general description of the Obama Presidency.  Unrelated, I'm sure.

6.  Last point, which is unrelated to the substance:  I'll let Allahpundit take the floor...
The reason this is a viral hit on the left, of course, is because they think most of their political problems boil down to “messaging.” Their platform is foolproof — genius top to bottom — but the sheer ingenious complexity of the scheme means they have trouble explaining it to the common voting yokel.
I think the world of Elizabeth Warren as a law professor.  But she's not convincing anyone near the right-hand side of the political ledger to support more income redistribution with shoddy arguments like this.  She might win her race against Scott Brown (it is Massachusetts, after all), but she won't sell this policy around the country, and the problem isn't messaging.  After all, three years ago, I remember hearing how the liberals had a fabulous law school professor who could explain anything to anyone and get them to buy all of the brilliant liberal programs they had lined up.  And if he couldn't convince people to embrace bigger government, maybe the messaging wasn't the problem.

Wonder what happened to that guy?

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