A Bit of Advice to Liberals in Regards to Raising Taxes on the Wealthy

Stop referring to it as having the wealthiest American’s pay “their fair share.”  Seriously, just stop it, because I really don’t think you’re doing yourselves any favors with that little bit of rhetoric. 

Look, I am actually in general agreement with you in that I think a lot of people who are grossing sums in the millions and billions annually, probably could afford to pay a bit more in taxes each year.  I think, that mathematically, if you are worth a cool $30 million and get taxed at say, a 35% rate, that you are still going to be better off than that person who is only making $30 thousand annually and is being asked to pay a 32% tax rate.  You’ll still have your millions. 

But the problem is liberals, when you start using the concept of “fairness” in your rhetoric you are just wading into a whole slew of personal subjective ideas of what actually constitutes said “fairness.”  Within reason, I am sure there are a good number of people, who feel  that “no taxes,” however unrealistic the prospects of such are, is totally “fair.”  Likewise, there are probably some folks who’d argue that taxing everybody at 60% rate is perfectly “fair” too.  And then, you have the people who can reasonably argue that everybody, regardless of their personal earnings, paying that same percentage tax rate is an actual “fair share” for people (and honestly, this one makes a pretty good case in a lot of ways).

See, the what is or isn’t “fair” is not something that is universally agreed on.  And while a majority of American’s may feel that millionaires and billionaires are probably going to be okay if they’re taxed a bit more than people who are not millionaires or billionaires, that does not settle whether or not the matter is actually “fair.”

I think, that to appeal, you need to revamp the case in terms that are not so easily and subjectively debated.  You need to point out, that if there is a real serious desire to lower the national deficit then increased revenues are going to have to occur.  Further, point out that trickle-down economics has been pretty thoroughly debunked at this point, and that requiring millionaires and billionaires to pay a bit more in taxes is not going to negatively affect job creation or economic growth. You should also point out, that people worth millions and billions benefit from living in a stable social system in which more people are provided means of comfortable living and opportunity through reasonable government assistance, and that, in asking for these millionaires and billionaires to pay a little more in taxes, it is actually to aid in the overall health of a consuming middle class which directly invest in the businesses that create said millionaires and billionaires.  You can point out that keeping tax rates low on lower class citizens has a much more realistic positive affect on their cost of living than marginally raising it on millionaires and billionaires has a negative affect.  Anyways, these and other points, can make a case for increasing taxes on the richest Americans better than an appeal to “fairness.”

 Look, I actually understand that it is easy to think that the little rhetorical device of using “fairness” in an emotional appeal seems like the right way to go about this.  But here is the thing, you’re opposition, the conservatives, tend to be a lot better at the whole emotional appeal rhetoric, and it accounts for a whole lot of their success.  It isn’t to say you can’t use emotion when making your cases, it is just, that you need to realize, that if you so blatantly hope that appeals to “fairness” is the winning hand, I think you are going to be disappointed.  Stick to the numbers. Stick to the reality, that whether they like it or not, the richest Americans can afford (in the thoroughly objective reality that not being able to buy a second house is not an end of the world scenario when there are actual Americans who have NO houses) to pay out a bit more in their taxes.  Do this, and I think you not only make a better case, but a more honest one to boot.

Note: As I’ve said in other posts, I do not normally like to post political topics here.  I am, in actuality, a very politically interested individual and I have a lot of thoughts and opinions on political matters.  However, politics is not really what I am looking for in regards to the theme of this blog, so for the most part I avoid writing about it.  However, from time to time, I still do so, and thus . . . the above.

That being said, for those who are curious, I self identify as a liberal-progressive.  I tend to vote for Democrats in elections, but this is not really because I identify with the Democrats as a whole, but because, at the present, they are the only national party that is, in relative terms, supporting legislation that I support.  If an alternative party or candidates arose that better represented my political worldviews, I’d happily support them (especially considering that I have my fair number of critiques of the Dems as a party).

As for the tax debate, my stance is actually to let all the Bush era tax cuts expire.  I know a lot of people are saying that this would be devastating.  And honestly, it isn’t that I personally like the idea of paying more taxes, however, I think it is the only realistic option for actually addressing the deficit without entirely dismantling the social safety net.  While I think a lot of government agencies could do with some degrees of spending cuts, more so, I believe that the emphasis should be less on cuts, and more on more efficient use of funding that they have.  Just because an aspect of government is not functioning ideally does not mean it needs be scrapped in entirety, but instead that, with careful evaluation, it should be modified and fixed to work better.

Anyway, feel free to comment, I like hearing what people think.  But knowing that people have pretty polarizing and strong opinions on politics, please realize that I will not be very tolerant for disrespectful comments, regardless of their political leaning.

~ by Nathaniel on November 14, 2012.

6 Responses to “A Bit of Advice to Liberals in Regards to Raising Taxes on the Wealthy”

  1. In general, I like what you have to say. My biggest disagreement is with your discussion about the word “fairness”. While I agree with your analysis of its varying connotations, I would suggest that the word is being promoted by the administration, not necessarily the people. I don’t like the “fairness” word either, but I can’t really do much about the way Democratic leadership has chosen to “brand” their policy stance. I think your argument would be stronger, if directed specifically at the President and/or the rank and file of Democrat leadership. As a fiscal and social moderate, I agree with their argument, but disagree with the word that’s leading the charge.

    • I actually think that we’re in the exact agreement, and that I just didn’t clarify it well enough. However, I think because the leadership has been pushing this rhetoric, it is what a lot of the people have adopted for their own personal usage. So, my general critique is geared in essence toward the top, but with the awareness that the people following this kind of political thinking, are also opting to utilize it. You’re right, probably directing the argument would to a direct individual would make a bit more sense, but in that, rhetoric becomes common parlance, I think that arguing in favor of everyone, whether the leadership and/or the rank and file, avoid the usage, is also beneficial.

  2. You could also point out that there’s a popular misconception that lowering taxes always improves revenues (the ghost of trickle-down). The Laffer curve suggests that there’s a point at which higher taxation reduces incentives and thus striving / ambition. And that seems intuitively correct–who wants to work if all your profits disappear? However, people mistakenly thought that the opposite side of the curve must yield positive results–keeping everything would lead to broad prosperity! Unfortunately, recent adventures with that idea have debunked the notion pretty thoroughly. I think most serious people (on either side of the political spectrum) would agree that there’s a sweet spot, and it’s a matter of finding it and balancing on it.

    • Oh man, awesome pulling in the Laffer curve, I’d forgotten about that. Yeah, finding that “sweet spot’ taxation rate would be the ideal I think. Of course, regardless of how economically sound it might prove to be, I am certain you’d get the people who argue about its “fairness.” Therein lies the problem with subjective concepts of fairness, regardless of what an empirical finding can say about what will function the best for the whole, there will always be people who still argue about the unfairness of the whole thing.

  3. Interesting, but I think that you can just as easily appeal to reason (numbers) and emotion (fairness) at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive, and some who might space out when confronted by rational economic arguments will have a gut understanding of what’s “fair.” I find it unlikely that anyone who would be turned off by the “fairness” argument would be predisposed to accept very much of what the president says in the first place. And I think there’s some merit to the political strategy of “creating a dominant media narrative.”

    • That is a good point, I think that the appeal can be made to both reason and emotion and I do agree that there is some merit in creating a “dominant media narrative.” However, that being said, I think think that in our media culture, these things have fallen out of balance in a lot of places and ways. I think that appeals to emotions overwhelmingly out weight appeals to reason and logic. While ther eis nothing wrong with having an emotional response to the way in which we are governed, if that appeal to emotion becomes to predominant that people are being left ill-informed about measureable and factual realities, we end up having problems. As such, in regards to say raising taxes, I think there should be a first priority of making sure that people are well informed about how this will affect them and the nation as a whole. Then the emotional aspects can be developed. I fear, sometime, that our mass media culture force feeds a lot of us our emotional responses instead of allowing us, as – hopefully – intelligent and consciencious people, to develop our own emotional response to things.

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