An ever-shrinking number of Americans finance an ever-growing proportion of the government’s budget. The tax code is becoming steadily more progressive, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who understands power politics. It’s always easier to force sacrifice on an unpopular minority than it is to ask the majority to pony up.
Why is this bad? Leave aside the question of whether a tax system this lopsided is fair — and by the way, it’s not — and consider a more practical question: Does it work?
Not for long. Like everyone else, rich people respond to incentives. Ask the thousands of high earners who’ve fled California in recent years for Scottsdale and Jackson Hole. Betting the budget on a small, highly mobile group of people doesn’t constitute responsible economic planning.
But that’s not the biggest problem. The scariest effect of a tax code that passes over the bottom half of the population is what happens to that 50 percent. People tend to cherish and take care of the things they pay for and therefore own, countries included. The opposite it also true. When was the last time you changed the oil in a rental car?
There will always be some who for whatever reason find themselves dependent on the charity of others [and, before the inevitable decrying begins, I'll say that we have a responsibility to the genuinely needy- a responsibility that the Church long ago abdicated, to its shame]. But when half the population is along for the ride, the system becomes dangerously out of balance. Things fall apart.
This isn’t right-wing theorizing. Decent neighborhoods collapse this way. So do whole societies.
…Many Americans sense this, and not just conservatives but independents and hard-working Democrats and anyone else who understands the degrading and destabilizing effects of dependency.
September 19, 2012
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