Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Common Resources

I admit it. My fascination with the socialist language that the Left invokes when writing about the estate tax now qualifies as an obsession. And, truth be told, it's much less fun of an obsession than was my adolescent fixation on Elisabeth Shue.

But, Mother Jones has made it extremely hard to kick the habit, as their own obsession with the estate tax has fed my addiction. What fascinates me about the Left's arguments is how clearly they illustrate a fundamental disagreement between my world view and the view of the Progressive Left. I believe in private property. If these articles are any indication, Progressives do not. Rather, they believe that everything belongs to the Government -- expect, of course, for those things which the Government happens to "give" to private individuals.

The latest rant against the successful comes from Paul Rogat Loeb. Loeb devotes the first two paragraphs of his argument to describing in detail the extravagant features of the yachts belonging to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen (e.g. spa, private movie theater, etc.). Then, this:
We know Allen is unimaginably rich, so maybe his yacht collection comes as no surprise. But the Republicans are talking about permanently ending the estate tax in the new Congressional session. Our leaders are already lavishing more and more gifts on those who already have more than they can ever use, even in the midst of crises from the Iraq War to the New Orleans disaster, to the shifts in global warming that, by warming the ocean, may have turned a routine hurricane into a cataclysmic one. Allen's yachts remind me of our choices about what we value.
Just as John S. Irons and Robert Gordon equate cutting the estate tax with Government "spending" on the wealthy, Loeb equates tax-cuts with "lavishing more and more gifts on those who already have more than they can ever use." In Loeb's world, to allow a taxpayer to keep his money is to lavish a gift upon that taxpayer.


[I]n the richest country in human history, we make it a point, at every turn, to help those of vast wealth accumulate more and more. Recently I saw a $3 million Brentwood house being torn down so someone could build one on the same lot worth twenty million. I've seen comparable extravagance throughout the country, combined with massive cuts in practically every program that serves the needs of ordinary citizens. The super-rich get infinite breaks with nothing asked in return, while more and more Americans struggle just to survive, even in the absence of unexpected cataclysm.
To Loeb, the super-rich get "infinite breaks with nothing asked in return." "Nothing" may be stretching it a bit. After all, in 2002, the top one percent of the nation's earners paid 33.7 percent of the nation's income taxes. The top five percent paid 53.8 percent. But, one man's "nothing" is another man's 53.8% of the nation's tax burden. Loeb says tomayto, I say tomahto.

Loeb continues:

The top 5 percent of Americans now get $110 billion a year from Bush's tax cuts, with most going to the top 1 percent, during a reign that's cut child abuse prevention, community policing, AmeriCorps, low-income childcare, health care, housing, and even support for military families.
Here, I will heed my mother's advice that if I don't have anything nice to say, I shouldn't say anything at all.
We should debate where our government should spend the revenue it takes in. But we also need to discuss where it gets this revenue, and how to share the burden equitably.

Here, here!

As Bill Gates Senior wrote, in opposing the estate tax repeal, "Our society has facilitated wealth-building by creating order, protecting freedom, creating laws to govern property relations and our marketplace, and investing in an educated work force. What's wrong with the most successful people putting one-quarter of their wealth back into the place that made their wealth and success possible?"

Bill Gates asks: What's wrong with successful people giving away money? I say: Nothing! That's why I would oppose a law forbidding the wealthy from giving their money away. Is there anyone who would support such a law?
The other argument is the concept of enough, where we question whether our most important social priority really is to do everything possible to enable a tiny few to buy as many yachts and $20 million houses as they please.
Again, Loeb equates policies allowing people to keep their money with doing "everything possible to enable a tiny few to buy as many yachts and $20 million houses as they please."
Do we really need to help Allen be able to fly 500 of his closest personal friends wherever and whenever he chooses on his two 757s? We might remember that there are more important goals to support with common resources, and more important things to live for.
There you have it. If Loeb's word choice hadn't already made clear his position on private property, in the last sentence of his article, he removes any doubt. Paul Allen's millions are "common resources." Woo-hoo! Barring any objection, I say we spend it all on Celebration.


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