The people of the U.S. owe their independence and their liberty, to the wisdom of descrying in the minute tax of 3 pence on tea, the magnitude of the evil comprized in the precedent. Let them exert the same wisdom, in watching against every evil lurking under plausible disguises, and growing up from small beginnings.—James Madison
The Obama regime has a perverse view of the relationship between government and Americans. This country was founded on the principle of consent of the governed. The people are the boss, not the government. Yet this administration acts and speaks as if we are here to service the government. They believe they have a divine right to harvest whatever they deem necessary to feed their rapaciousness machine.
Most of the time, they are duplicitous, but sometimes they let the mask slip, as when Timothy Geithner said that the “most fortunate Americans” should pay more in taxes for the “privilege of being an American.” There are so many things wrong with this statement.
First, it reflects the Obama administration’s attitude that those who have built some degree of wealth are merely lucky. Most fortunate Americans worked hard to get to where they are in life. Being a fortunate American does not come easy. Otherwise, we would all be rich. A love of sports and innate talent are not enough to pull down a seven figure salary by playing on a professional team. Good looks are not enough for an actor to get a starring role in a major film. Many in corporate America aspire to be a Fortune 500 CEO, but neither hope nor seniority ever got anyone the job. America is blessed with an abundant number of entrepreneurs, but those who have built a major business did more than daydream about what they were going to do. Even most of those who inherited wealth work hard to preserve and grow their estate.
There are many ways to make money in America; almost all of them require hard work, perseverance, and wits. Granted, there are a few who won the lottery or stole from others, but policy should not be based on this small minority.
Do Geithner and his ilk understand all of this? They probably believe that they and their buddies worked hard, but think everyone else was just lucky. If you’re going to confiscate someone’s property, it’s easier on the conscience to pretend they never deserved it in the first place.
But it is the second part of this statement that reveals a belief system that runs counter to our heritage. It is a privilege to be American, but the government has nothing to do with it because Americans delegate power to government, not the reverse. The comment displays an attitude of omnipotence, and one contrary to the Founders and almost every president throughout history.
In progressive dogma, the government provides the wherewithal for the rich to build their wealth, and thus any money they have is due to the auspices of government. This is backwards. The rich do not exist due to government largess, the government exists because Americans, both rich and non-rich alike, work like the dickens to provide for themselves and their families and possibly save a little for the future. Making a living is hard enough, but when the government demands a bigger and bigger rake-off, it becomes even more challenging. Geithner is reflecting a pervasive beltway belief that wealth flows from government, so the government can decide how much you are allowed to retain as an allowance.
How much do they want? Whatever is necessary to fund their spending. Only a few years ago, that was 20% of the nation’s production, but the Obama administration has ratcheted that up to nearly 25% (plus state and local spending). So should everyone fork over 25% of what they earn? That would incite a tax rebellion. Better to use the emotion of envy to camouflage your real intent. Shout at the top of your lungs that you will only tax the rich. Never mind that the top five percent already pay 59% of all income tax. Never mind that if you confiscated not just all the earnings, but the entire wealth of the rich, it wouldn’t eliminate the deficit. Never mind that since the top tax rate was reduced from 70%, the share of income taxes paid by the rich has risen 64%. The goal of this raucous class warfare isn’t to fix the deficit or level the playing field; the goal is to start the process of increasing everyone’s taxes. Why? Because that’s where the money is.
People in Washington have odd beliefs. They are really not beliefs, but rationalizations. If you believe wealth is only made possible from government actions, then it is easy to justify crony capitalism. If you believe the government is a positive force on the economy, then a larger government makes sense. If fairness is a government responsibility, then it has an obligation to insure that wealth is more evenly distributed. If you believe it’s a government granted privilege to be an American, then government has a right to dictate social justice. Rather than acting on principle, these are principles invented to defend actions.
And one last word about taxes: Timothy Geithner and his crowd don’t worry about taxes. They know how to cheat and get away with it.
James D. Best is the author of the Steve Dancy Tales and Tempest at Dawn, a novel about the 1787 Constitutional Convention. Look for his new book, Principled Action, Lessons from the Origins of the American Republic.