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The Tax Debate That Should Have Taken Place Before the Election
I'm not one of those conservatives who feels inclined to blame Mitt Romney for President Obama's re-election victory. Sure, he wasn't my first pick to represent the Republican Party, and there were times when I found myself annoyed with the decisions made by his campaign, but I think he was a strong and competent leader who promoted himself and his vision well. He was a good candidate, and was certainly qualified to sit in the Oval Office.
What did bug me about Romney, however, was something that has bothered me about the Republican party as a whole in recent years: A reluctance to challenge President Obama's premise of tax fairness, thus allowing him to promote taxation as a moral issue.
A lot of people forget this, but until President Obama began incessantly talking about the rich paying their "fair share" about two years ago, the concept of tax fairness wasn't even on the public's radar. No one was calling their elected representatives and complaining that the rich weren't meeting some moral or patriotic obligation to fork over more of their money to the government. When national polls asked voters which political issue was most important to them, tax fairness wasn't even on the list. Why not? The answer is simple: It wasn't on anyone's mind. People were worried about the effects of a stalled economy...Not tax rates.
Of course, the Democrats have long tried to make the case for higher taxes, but they've traditionally done so by tying increased revenue to government programs or other spending initiatives. Tax fairness - the idea that middle and lower income people are somehow bearing a disproportionate tax burden compared to the rich - is something new. It was concocted by the Obama administration to play off of people's frustrations during a tough economic time. Obama needed a villain to deflect the results of his failed economic policies onto, and rich people were a convenient scapegoat. The class warfare strategy not only worked for the president politically, but it perverted the public's understanding of what taxation is supposed to be about.
One of the byproducts of this societal shift was the vile Occupy Wall Street movement, which the mainstream media and even prominent Democrats initially embraced but later distanced themselves from.
The Republicans would have served themselves well if they had aggressively called out the president on his sanctimony and reminded Americans what taxation is really about.
The debate finally did come, but not until after the election. It took place not between politicians, but between political commentators Bill O'Reilly and Charles Krauthammer last week on The O'Reilly Factor. I don't believe the segment was quite designed to turn into the philosophical debate that it became, but viewers were treated to the most honest, mature discussion on taxes I've heard in years.
O'Reilly opened the segment by stating that the bottom-line tax rates for wealthier Americans (taking into account deductions and creative accounting) seemed a little low to him, in the interest of fairness.
Krauthammer rejected the premise of tax fairness on its face, and opened with this profound statement: "Taxation is not a moral issue. It's an issue of necessity."
It was a very simple and accurate point - one I believe we have lost total perspective of in our society.
Krauthammer argued against the idea that we should decide what people should pay based on what someone thinks is a fair amount to be taken from them. He stated that in a pure, ideal world, a fair share of taxation is zero. He explained that the founding fathers instituted our republic with zero income tax, and instead taxed transactions. They did so to pay for protectionism and our military without any concept of fairness in mind.
"Tithing to the church is a fairness issue," said Krauthammer, citing it as an example of people giving willingly to demonstrate their moral conviction. He described taxation, on the other hand, as merely a question of how much the government is spending and how they're going to pay for that spending.
Krauthammer described the modern day liberal view of taxation as the government having a moral claim on people's earnings to dispense with it as it wants. He explained that if you apply the concept of a "fair share" to taxation, you're giving the government, by right, a share of your earnings to do whatever they please with it.
The mindset he described is how I believe the majority of the country currently views taxation, and they're dead wrong. It's that new consensus that is allowing President Obama to promote what I'll refer to as an envy-tax, that he is using as a punitive measure against wealthy people. It has nothing to do with any semblance of fairness despite what the president says. It also has nothing to do with paying down our national debt, but that's a topic for another column.
President Obama's view of personal income is whatever amount of earnings the government decides to leave you with after it has taken its share. That is completely backwards.
Conservatives, and anyone who believes in a free America, can't afford to play on Obama's field any longer. They need to explain to whoever will listen that taxation is NOT a moral obligation, but simply a mechanism used to fund our government's spending. It wasn't all that long ago that most people understood this, at least in broad terms. But to really drive the point home, the case needs to be laid out boldly and without reservation.
If tax fairness can effectively be exposed for the gimmick that it is, people will come to realize that the only truly moral issue related to how our government manages taxpayers' money is that of how it spends it. The government - not taxpaying Americans - will accurately be identified as the problem, and we can start having serious national debates on our country's fiscal state again.
For those of you who see importance in the topic I've drawn attention to here, I would suggest that you share the cited O'Reilly Factor segment with others, whether it be through email, social media, or word of mouth. Both sides of the argument are well laid out, and I think listening to the discussion would be in everybody's best interest.
Here's the link: http://www.billoreilly.com/video?chartID=610&vid=-424505150525693319