Impertinent Questions: Who Owns Our Money?

Talk of tax cuts fills the air, which means the Left is getting fidgety.  They’ve been forced to change from delirious big spenders who see a billion dollars as a rounding error, into flinty-eyed deficit hawks who insist raising taxes to reduce our massive budget deficit is the only responsible course of action.  The speed of this transformation has left them dizzy.  Consider these quotes from President Obama’s town hall meeting last Monday:

What the Republicans are proposing is that we, in addition to that, provide tax relief to primarily millionaires and billionaires. It would cost us $700 billion to do it. On average, millionaires would get a check of $100,000.

[…] Here’s what I can’t do as President. I think I’ve worked pretty hard and I have a pretty big grasp of the challenges that we’re facing. (Applause.) But here’s what I can’t do. I can’t give tax cuts to the top 2 percent of Americans, 86 percent of that money going to people making a million dollars or more, and lower the deficit at the same time. I don’t have the math.

[…] So what I’ve said is very simple. Let’s go ahead and move forward on what we agree to, which is tax relief for 95 — 97 percent of Americans. In fact, actually everybody would get tax relief, but just up to $250,000 a year more. And let’s get the economy moving faster, let’s get it growing faster. At some point in the future, if we want to have discussions about further lowering tax rates, let’s do so at a time when we can actually afford it.

[…] What you can’t do — which is what I’ve been hearing a lot from the other side — is say we’re going to control government spending, we’re going to propose $4 trillion of additional tax cuts, and that magically somehow things are going to work.

[…] From 2001 to the time I took office, your average wages went down 5 percent. We took a record surplus under Bill Clinton and took it to record deficits. We had two tax cuts that weren’t paid for, two wars that weren’t paid for, that were hugely expensive. We put off solving health care costs that were skyrocketing. We didn’t solve college tuition costs that were skyrocketing. We didn’t have an energy policy. We were seeing jobs being shipped overseas because of the way our tax structure gave them incentives. Now, that was the agenda. We have tried what they’re offering.

Here is a remarkably pure expression of the collectivist mindset, coming from a President who found himself forced into a defensive crouch before an audience he assumed would be friendly.  We can’t “afford” tax cuts.  We can’t spent $700 billion to hand out hundred thousand dollar checks to millionaires.  Perhaps someday we might be able to afford further lowering the tax rates.  Previous tax cuts have not been paid for.  We squandered the Clinton surplus by giving that money back to the people who earned it.

The litany of complaints from Obama’s last quote is especially insulting to our intelligence.  Obama’s policies are causing health care costs to skyrocket.  Heavy-handed government intervention in the student loan market has produced a college tuition bubble that could burst with Fannie Mae force at any moment.  The cap-and-trade energy policy favored by Obama and his Party would be an unmitigated disaster, reducing the supply of energy and dramatically increasing its cost, with peripheral effects that would most likely include… another housing bubble.  When it comes to shipping jobs overseas, Obama leads the league – he told an entire industry to set sail for more hospitable waters, after the Gulf oil spill.

The repeated insistence we can’t “afford” tax cuts is likely to produce a fiery response in the average conservative or libertarian reader: it ain’t your money, Mr. President. Allowing people to keep more of their own earnings is not “cutting them a check.”  The logical implication of “unaffordable” tax cuts is a State that enjoys first, and infinite, claim on all private income.  The notion of asking the State to make do with a penny less is ludicrous, so tax cuts automatically equal rising deficits.

The debate over who “owns” our money is a serious one, with profound philosophical implications.  The collectivist mindset, evolved over the past two centuries, holds that every citizen is obliged to finance the expression of society’s “general will.”  We share common resources, and we’re all affected by social problems, so the State has first claim on our time and money.  Once the general will has been satisfied, citizens are allowed to keep whatever is left over.

Since individual citizens are presumably greedy and short-sighted, the collectivist finds it absurd to give them final say in how much of their income is seized by the State.  Only the highly educated, selfless wardens of the State can make that determination.  Of course millionaires don’t want to hand over their fortunes to fund welfare programs, industrial subsidies, and armies of bureaucrats… but those things must be funded, so the money is justly taken by force.

What Tea Party types view as tyranny, the collectivist sees as the virtuous expression of that infallible general will.  The real tyranny would be depriving needy people of vital government services, to give rich people money that is the rightful property of the benevolent State.  You’ll hear a great deal of rage, accompanied with promises of righteous violence, when the Republican Congress works with the next President to begin cutting our obscenely bloated government down to size.  Every penny of those spending cuts will be portrayed as the rightful property of the needy, seized and administered on their behalf by the wise and benevolent political class… whose moral and intellectual superiority entitles them to rich benefits and luxuries.  The liberal does not believe any person of good conscience could oppose the general will.  The only possible explanation is a species of greed that approaches treason.

This is why a socialist like Obama speaks so easily of tax cuts as money “given” to the evil rich, a government subsidy for their extravagant lifestyles.  The money doesn’t belong to those millionaires, any more than your gross paycheck belongs to you.  In fact, the socialist would rather prevent you from thinking about the concept of gross income at all.  The State takes its cut of your pay instantly and silently, before you ever see a nickel.

This is the mindset we must overcome, on the road to rescuing America from a crushing death as Barack Obama’s belief system collapses into rubble.  Either the State owns us, or we own the State.

Cross-posted at Death By 1000 Papercuts

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