Raising the Standard at UGA since 2013.

‘Tax Cuts Benefit the Wealthy’… So What?


A weekly column by Ross Dubberly

“According to a new CBS News poll, almost 60 percent of the American public believes that the current Republican tax plan favors the wealthy.” This was the opening line of a recent piece by New York Times’ columnist Paul Krugman. My thoughts on the fact that tax cuts might disproportionately favor the “wealthy”: So what?

First of all, as most of us usually learn during childhood, just because you believe something doesn’t make that thing true. I know this probably comes as a great shock to many on the Left, who live in the world of George Bernard Shaw’s Back to Methuselah (“I dream things that never were--and I say: Why not?”) and John Lennon’s Imagine (“Imagine there’s no heaven. . . no possessions. . . You may say I’m a dreamer/But I’m not the only one”).

Second of all, and more important, however, is the sophistry at play here. Saying tax cuts overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy is like saying the freedom of speech overwhelmingly benefits the people who practice free speech. That is to say, of course tax cuts are most beneficial to the wealthy because the wealthy pay the most taxes. To act as if tax cuts primarily benefiting the wealthy is some great revelation that should compel the American people to grab their torches and pitchforks and take to the streets is to hold the public’s intelligence in contempt--something I wouldn’t have expected from a “man of the people” like the Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman. (By the way, anyone who has a Nobel Prize can go ahead and throw it away now.)

The top 50 percent of income earners paid 88.73 percent of the income tax load in 2016; and the always hobgoblinized top one percent alone paid more than 1/5 of the entire income tax burden. Therefore, of course most of a tax cut’s concomitant benefits are going to fall to the “rich”, or more specifically, the top 50 percent of income earners. How could it be otherwise? But why is this fact ipso facto regrettable? Maybe we should spend a little less time worrying about the takers and a little more time worrying about those who foot the country’s bills.

In addition, just because tax cuts primarily benefit the wealthy does not mean that they do so exclusively and at the expense of the “ordinary man”. On the contrary, he, too, will benefit. Yes, I know, Leftist, economic illiterates scoff at this notion; but their inability to reason and think clearly notwithstanding, tax cuts mean more capital in the hands of people who will use it in a way that most benefits the economy. As Milton Friedman used to point out, the “wealthy” don’t stuff their money in their mattresses. Once they have consumed as much as they want to consume--e.g., cars, yachts, vacation homes, etc.--they invest that money in factories, mills, plants, businesses, you name it. And these places, in turn, provide jobs--a paycheck--to the “ordinary man”.

But even if this was not the case, i.e., even if tax cuts did in fact hurt the poor and the economy as the Leftist energumens say, it should not--at least on principle--be an argument against tax cuts. Why? Because taxes, whether the Left likes it or not, involves that very precious idea of freedom that the Left so often prefers to shelve, only occasionally taking down, blowing the dust off of, and burning incense over when it suits their argument at any given moment. Whenever the government taxes its citizens for redistributive purposes rather than for the essential purposes of government, that government is stealing liberty from its citizens. Indeed, as even the “father of Medicare,” Wilbur J. Cohen, once put it, “Anything that involves a tax, by definition, involves coercion. So that anytime you use public funds you are taking from someone and giving to someone else.”

Although, I grant, it is undoubtedly contra naturam, even the people who are on the receiving end of this “transaction” ought to be troubled. Because--whether you have 3 mules or 3 million dollars to your name--a government that assumes for itself the power to take the property of its wealthy citizens has the power to take from anyone; it has the power to command and control your life as it sees fit. Therefore, unless one is prepared to asseverate that poor people don’t really need freedom, tax cuts--as a matter of principle--are not something that should concern solely the wealthiest among us. And, I venture to say, it isn’t.

Despite the poll Paul Krugman cites to demonstrate the American people’s contempt for tax cuts, in fact, all the poll did was ask respondents to fill in the blank to the following statement: “Current tax reforms being discussed would. . .”. That 58% answered “[f]avor the wealthy” says absolutely nothing more than that. That is to say, the belief that tax cuts are bad because tax cuts primarily benefit the wealthy is not only a non-sequitur, it was not a part of this poll. The poll says nothing about whether people thought this good or bad. In point of fact, had I been polled, I myself would have answered that it favors the rich.

Marxist materialist class warfare is not in the American DNA. It has, unfortunately, crept into the mindset of many since the late 19th century, but it is not an American phenomenon, it is a European one. Americans historically have been primarily concerned with altruism, their family, their faith, their community, their Constitution, their freedom, and so on; not “why does so-and-so make more than me and how can I take it.” Thus, the American people--for the most part--must be goaded into making the value judgment that because tax cuts benefit the rich they are, eo ipso, bad. But ideological demagogic goaders like Paul Krugman are in great supply these days. And they are more than happy to oblige.

—Ross Dubberly is the Book Editor of The Arch Conservative.
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