Monday, December 06, 2010

Compromise Makes Liberal Jesus Cry

There's nothing inherently liberal about taxation.  Nor is taxing the rich a liberal position.  Liberals believe that the government can solve certain problems, and unfortunately, it costs money for us to do that and the only way we can raise that money is through taxation.  But thus said, if we could somehow solve all our problems with salt water and daydreams, we would.  Taxation is part of the solution; it's not the goal.

Yet, to hear progressives tell it, Obama's compromise which will extend the Bush tax rates for the rich for another two years is an utter sell-out move that shows what a spineless conservative he really is.  Here are a few comments showing what I mean:
"Is Barak Obama ever going to grow a spine?"

"The WH is trying to to put lipstick on this turd, but it's not going to work. Every which way they try it, the stench is too big to cover.  I hope Obama is impeached."

"I expected Obama not to compromise and keep his campaign promise on this one…Sorry you lost me on this one…I’m taking my Obama bumper sticker off."

"Centrist Dem LOL! This guy is going hard right as fast as he can."

"So very depressing. This is Obama's, "no more taxes". I truly believe he just lost his re election."
To hear these and other commenters tell it, we were just sold out.  Yet...what exactly is so liberal about taxing the rich?  Yes, this sucks because it'll just make the deficit worse. what?  Deficits aren't the end of the world and we clearly got some good out of this.  You'd think Obama just ended Social Security or something, to hear these people rant against him.

The Dread Compromise

And the good news is that if this compromise works, we'll be extending unemployment benefits, reducing taxes for working Americans, and making payroll cheaper for businesses.  And for as much as some commenters went so far as to suggest that these were also Republican ideas, the reality is that this is what compromise is all about.  You get something you want, you give something you didn't want to give.  That's how it works. 

And now Obama has a tiny feather in his cap to show that he's not the Evil One, and even better, he'll be decoupling the Bush taxcuts of the rich from the one for the non-rich.  And so once these are set to expire in two years, Republicans will actually have to openly defend another taxcut for the rich.  And instead of news articles consistently mangling the story by writing that "Republicans want taxcuts for all Americans," as they've been doing, the stories will have to show that they only want taxcuts for the rich.  And they'll be stuck with a Republican presidential nominee trying to explain why the rich should continue getting richer.  Basically, they're losing their leverage on this issue.

And the big irony is the reason why Obama is in this position: Because these same progressives have spent the last two years hounding Obama at every turn, rather than hounding Republicans as they had been during the Bush Years.  And so we got pounded in the election because the strongest rhetorical weapon we have pointed itself right in our face and blasted Obama and the Democratic Party as heretics.  And rather than fight Republicans and Blue Dogs to make sure we got a Public Option and other liberal policies, they insisted that Obama had to do it single-handedly and attacked him relentlessly for not being Superman.

Weakening Obama

And unfortunately, they're still doing that now.  Obama's busy battling rightwing politicians who are hounded by their base if they compromise in any way with him, while also battling his leftwing base for compromising in any way with the right.  And in this case, "compromising" with Republicans means not insulting them at every turn.  Perhaps if these outraged liberals would finally start directing their outrage at Republicans instead of Democrats, we might actually be able to get somewhere.

And as I've said before, the most annoying part about these progressives attacking Obama is that they don't really care about ideology at all.  It's all about attacking Republicans.  That's why Obama's compromise is a sell-out to them.  Because taxes on the rich isn't a liberal position.  But to progressives, attacking Republicans is.  And that means giving Republicans want they want is inherently anti-liberal, even if it has nothing to do with liberalism at all.

Are deficits for the rich a good idea?  No.  Is it a destruction of liberalism?  Not even a little bit.


Anonymous said...

You make some very good points. Especially about the need to go after Republicans instead of Obama.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Just wanted to make a possible correction there, as I'm now reading it as if the tax cuts were NOT decoupled rich v. non-rich; meaning we didn't necessarily defuse this timebomb. If that's the case, then that would be another disappointment.

But still, I stand by my original point: Taxing the rich ISN'T a liberal position.

mahakal said...

You are wrong. Decreasing income inequality is a liberal position. But I suggest you aren't much of a liberal, so you probably don't care about it.

matt said...

progressivity in the tax system is a liberal position.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Mike - As soon as you get around to making an argument, I'll get around to explaining why I disagree. I mean, I've detailed my case quite extensively as to why I think most progressives prefer politics over policy, yet you toss little grenades at me without the slighest hint at defending it. Perhaps the reason you don't explain your position is because you can't.

But I will say this: I completely agree that income equality is a goal of liberalism. But I do not agree that we should be using taxation as the direct means to attain that goal. Robbing from the rich to give to the poor is still robbery. I see nothing wrong with taxing rich people more, as they benefit more from an improved society; but I object to the idea of taxation as polite theft.

If being a liberal means I want to make rich people less rich, then no, I'm not a liberal. But I'm a big believer in the win-win, and would prefer to see everyone do better, rather than dragging down some to benefit others. To me, liberalism is about giving other people the same opportunities I got. But I've got nothing against those who succeed more than myself. Envy isn't an ideology; it's a character flaw.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Matt - Yes, liberals believe in progressive taxation. And we still have progressive taxation even while extending the Bush tax cuts. I fail to see how this is a betrayal of liberalism.

mahakal said...

If you see taxation as robbery, then I'm afraid you really are more of a Republican in Democratic clothing than anything else. I guess that's common in Texas, lots of folks still haven't officially changed their party registration...

Really it isn't even worth having an argument about it, this is a matter of basic principle you are confused about, you think the rich are entitled to be rich, and the poor, well, they are entitled to be poor.

Making taxes more regressive is a defeat for liberalism.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Honestly, could your reading comprehension really be this poor? Or are you so desperate to make a point that you're forced to ignore what you read?

As I made abundantly clear, I support taxation...if the purpose is to provide needed services by the government. But...if the purpose of the taxation is simply to take money from the rich to give to the poor in order to achieve income equality, that is robbery. They didn't call Robin Hood the "Prince of Thieves" for nothing. To repeat: I support taxation if the purpose is to help people improve their lives. But if it's just about taking money from the rich because they're too rich, I want no part of that.

And seriously, I whole-heartedly support government programs like Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, and a whole host of other government programs that help people who need it. I also support business regulation and regulatory agencies like the SEC and FDA and am glad that Obama is putting teeth back into them, and wish he could do more. I also support Obama's healthcare plan which made much needed fixes to healthcare...fixes that we wouldn't have gotten had Obama listened to people like you.

So, where in the hell do you get the idea that I'm a conservative? You've been reading my blog for years and I've made my support for liberalism quite apparent in almost everything I write. And as I keep pointing out, Obama has done more for liberalism in two years than you have your entire life. Obama ended recission and got affordable health insurance to kids with birth defects. What did you do that was so great?

mahakal said...

What have I done? Obviously you don't know me, so you have no place making a personal attack on my alleged lack of accomplishment. You argue entirely from ignorance, and yes, I have been reading here for awhile, because you are an interesting writer, but a moderate conservative one.

If you want to engage with the issues that I have been involved in, then perhaps you should visit my blog sites or Facebook page, rather than expecting me to bring them here.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Once again, you fail to even ATTEMPT to defend your position, and instead insist that I need to capitulate my point and go study under your tutor until I can begin to grasp the intricacies of your argument by osmosis. And only then will I see all the great things you’ve done for liberalism, which are more important than ending rescission, getting health insurance to children born with birth defects, and insuring 30 million people who didn’t have insurance. The fact that you’d even THINK this might happen is sheer delusion.

And look, I know the political spectrum is relative, but it’s obvious that you’re on the far-far left end of the spectrum; probably in the left 1%. And that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s what you believe in. But imagining that you’re on anything but the fringe is also delusional.

I mean, you want the government to confiscate all real estate property and rent it out to the people who spent their hard-earned money buying it. And you think the government should guarantee a comfortable existence to able-bodied people who choose not to work. And again, that’s fine, if that’s what you believe. But that is beyond radical. And if you pitched these policies in the most liberal congressional district in the country, you’d be lucky to pull in 30% of the vote in a Democratic primary.

I, on the other hand, am to the left of FDR; who is the benchmark for liberalism. I fully support our current government programs and would like to see them greatly expanded. I also support tax increases for the rich, to pay for all this. But, because I don’t support taxation as a form of punishment for the rich, and think that it’s wrong to confiscate their property, you call me a conservative.

Now, perhaps you’d like to finally get around to defending your position. But as I keep suspecting, you won’t because you can’t. Once your position is challenged, you’re entirely unable to explain it. Or hell, I’d like it if you even explained all the great things you did that were greater than ending rescission. But I’m quite confident that that will not happen. Instead, you’ll once again demand that I bask in your glory and wait until it finally makes sense to me.

mahakal said...

Dude, you're clueless. Ending cannabis prohibition is a way bigger deal than you realize, and I live in San Francisco where I am certainly not far left of the center. You live in Texas, where you presumably ARE, but if you came to my town you would be considered a Republican. Seriously.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Oh, wow. I guess I hadn't heard about you ending cannabis prohibition. My bad.

No, wait. You DIDN'T end it. Meanwhile, Obama has ended rescission, forced insurers to accept children born with birth defects, gotten insurance for millions, and many other great provisions. Are you really stacking your efforts against his? Really? Not trying to disparage what you're doing, as you're certainly doing more than myself, but come on. Your efforts can't possibly compare with what Obama got for us.

BTW, I happen to live in the most liberal neighborhood of a very liberal city. I'm not sure what impression you have of Austin, but I assure you, it's a liberal town and I fit right in. Is it San Fran liberal? Probably not. But I am quite positive that I'd be a liberal anywhere I go, because that's what I am. I mean, seriously. I support progressive taxation of the rich in order to benefit society. I simply disagree that the purpose of doing so should be about punishing the rich, as you do. How does that make me a conservative? When did liberalism mean we want to punish the rich?

And really, you're telling me that people would elect you to office in San Francisco if you promised to steal everyone's property and guarantee that the city will give able-bodied people free rent even if they refuse to work? I find that extremely unlikely. In Austin, San Francisco, and just about everywhere else, they'd treat you as a kook and vote for someone a little more realistic.

mahakal said...

I support reform of Prop 13. Are you such a wingnut you would call that stealing from the rich? Or punishing them? Who ever said anything about punishment? Do you actually have a clue? No.

Doctor Biobrain said...

And again, reading compension seems to be failing you. I support taxing the rich to pay for services. I have always thought Prop 13 was a ridiculous idea and still can't believe California allowed it in the first place. How many times do I need to keep writing that I support taxing the rich more?

Our difference is that you want to tax the rich as a specific means to fix income inequality by taking money from the rich in order to make them less rich. That's what I called theft. I support taxation as an unfortunate means of paying for services we need. You, on the other hand, see it as part of the answer because you think the rich are too rich. That's where we disagree.

For me, people can be as rich as they want to be and if we didn't need their money to finance a good society, I wouldn't tax them at all. I do want to fix income inequality so that everyone can live a good life. But beyond that, i have no problem with the rich getting richer. But first, we need to improve life for everyone and that requires taxation. How you imagine that makes me a wingnut is beyond me.

Doctor Biobrain said...

I should add that I DEFINITELY would like to see the inheritance tax increase. There's nothing wrong with leaving your kids a nice nest egg to get them comfortable, but I not only view large inheritances as being unnecessary, but feel it's bad for the heir. There are many rich people who work hard for their money and I don't begrudge them that. But wealth shouldn't simply be handed to people.

I think it's a moral good that people find use for their lives and think a good work ethic is important for a healthy soul. Too many heirs are utterly worthless because they lack the moral decency they would have learned had they earned what it is they're squandering.

mahakal said...

Keep arguing with things I never said, and you'll always win in your own mind. You are in a very conflicted state with your own feelings about property and theft, not recognizing that wealth in land is theft at the first instance. Inasmuch as we issue government titles to land we are entitled to raise revenue thereby, or else there is no right to the title. What tax rate shall be set is a matter of discussion, and to what purposes the revenues be put another, but it is certainly not theft to collect the taxes owed.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Excellent. So you finally understand that I never suggested that all taxation is theft. I only wrote that in almost every comment here as well as in my original post. It was only in your mind that I ever suggested such a thing.

My point has always been in regards to your suggestion that we should tax the rich as a direct way to fight inequality, as if taxing the rich is a specific liberal goal. And I was saying that if it is our goal simply to take their money in order for them to have less, then this is theft.

At that point, you had two options: You could say that you DIDN'T want to take their money and then agree with me that taking their money wasn't a direct goal, or you could explain why that IS a liberal goal, if that's what you think. But instead, you chose a third option of smearing me as a conservative and not reading what I wrote. And now you're blaming me because you failed to understand a point a made repeatedly, as well as failing to defend what you wrote.

Now, if you don't think taking money from the rich is a direct goal of taxation, then you should explain how it's a betrayal to income inequality if we allow them to keep more of their money. I fully agree that we SHOULD be taxing them more, but only in terms of reducing the deficit and not as a direct means of making them poorer. And as such, I don't see this compromise as a betrayal of liberalism, as liberalism does not require that we tax the rich. And that's what I've been saying the entire time.

mahakal said...

It is impossible to continue since you contradict yourself at every turn: taxation is theft unless you have a good reason and then it is okay? No. Taxation is not theft, even if we take the revenues and burn them. It may be imprudent policy, but not theft.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Sigh. Do I really need to keep making this same basic point? Really? Can't you make any attempt at understanding this? I haven't contradicted anything, as I continue to make the same damn point, which I also made in my original post.

My point is that you suggested that we need to tax the rich more in order to fix income equality problems, by taking their money because they're too rich. And even if we didn't require the money for tax purposes, we should still take their money because we think they have too much. And in this regard, we're using taxation as legalized theft, in order to take their money because you think they have too much.

Was this your point? If not, what was your point about income inequality being the reason we need to tax the rich more? I actually assumed you DIDN'T mean that, yet you never explained what you meant and it seemed to be the implication of what you wrote. Instead, you keep insulting me instead of telling me why I'm wrong.

Seriously, my original point was meant to launch into a different area of debate, once you rejected the idea of taxation as income equalizer (assuming you don't agree with that). But, you can't seem to get passed the basic premise and continue to insult me because you fail to grasp even the beginning of this debate. Now, perhaps I'm wrong about this and you can school me as to why income equality requires us to tax the rich, but I'd never know it, because you've never bothered explaining yourself.

BTW, you believe that taxation is wrong if it's for the wrong reason. For example, you believe that it's wrong to tax people to make unjust wars. You would also think it's theft if we taxed people in order to enrich the wealthy. Just because a tax is in the taxcode doesn't make it right. Does that mean that you're contradicting yourself because you support some taxes and not others, based upon what they're used for?

Not that this had anything to do with my original point. I just found it odd that you'd attack me for something that you agree with.

mahakal said...

Keep arguing with your imaginary opponent if you like, no need for me to express my beliefs since you feel free to invent them for me. Done.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Dude, I would LOVE if you finally explained what you're talking about. Because yeah, I admit, I'm debating with an imaginary opponent. But that's just because you never show up to the debate. Instead, you leave little cryptic remarks that I don't understand because they come with no explanation, and then insult me because I don't already agree with you.

In this case, I explained why I don't see taxing the rich as a direct liberal goal. You said it was due to income inequality and then insulted me without provocation. I then continued to attempt to get you to explain youself, and you never did, and then keep insulting me. And now you're acting like you're done explaining things, though you've never made an attempt to explain anything in the first place, and keep insulting me.

What the hell kind of bullshit is this? Sorry, but I'm left with the conclusion that you don't know what you're talking about or else you'd finally explain what you mean.