The Dog and Pony Show That is Our Government

When your entire political system is based on finding “language” that disguises your actual intentions this is what you get.

While arguing why the Senate’s proposed “0.5 increase in the Medicare payroll tax on upper-income people: individuals earning more than $200,000, families earning more than $250,000” is unlikely to pass, Frum explains a basic political truth:

As payroll taxes become more “progressive,” the programs they support become more blatantly redistributionist. And smart Democrats from FDR onward have always understood that the secret of popularity for a government program is to appear non-redistributive: everybody pays, everybody gets. Then you can say: It’s insurance, not welfare. With this measure, Medicare becomes more welfare-like and therefore more politically vulnerable.

Which is a start.

A .05% increase in the medicare tax to those earning more than $200,000 (or families earning above $250,000) is not redistribution, it is more like a needle in a haystack. Or a nickel in a pile of hundreds. By the barometer used by the supposed fiscal conservative set, any increase in taxes is tantamount to socialism and therefore leads down a slippery slope at the bottom which can be found Chairman Mao, Castro and Stalin sharpening their cutlery.

But that is not what makes me so ill about this post. What makes me sick is Sullivan’s “basic truth.” The fact is that if you are a Democrat, in order to fund any legislative program conventional wisdom dictates – read the wisdom doled out by the Republicans – that you find a way to hide that your are paying for it. If you can not, which is of course the case, then you are bound to fail unlike the “smart Democrats from FDR onward.”

What a load of bull. The secret of creating a popular government program is not scamming up a way to make the top 1% of the economic strata happy. It is making a program that works for the majority of Americans.

11 Responses to “The Dog and Pony Show That is Our Government”

  1. tas says:

    The lack of logic on the “wealth distribution” talking point always astounds me. You’re correct in pointing out that a .05% increase in taxes for the rich is hardly “distribution”, but on the other hand, when Bush drastically decreased taxes on the rich at the expense of the middle class and poor, why wasn’t that called “wealth redistribution” by the usual chattering nimrods? It’s the same logic.

    As far as welfare, social programs, and “wealth redistribution” go, if giving every citizen health care qualifies as wealth redistribution, then giving all children basic education is also wealth redistribution. Let’s get rid of the school system, too. Oh, wait…

  2. While it may only be .05% these nickles as you say add up. The top 50% of wage earners pay 95% of the taxes in this country … taxes composed of just one nickel at a time. All Democrats talk about is taxing the rich … when is enough enough?? After Fed, State, Local taxes .. my aunt who works nearly 80hrs a week as a Pharmacist making about 160k pays almost 60% of her income in taxes … is that fair Micheal/tas ?? F*** no it ain’t …

    tas: revenue went up after the Bush tax cuts, everyone who paid taxes had their Fed. taxes reduced by 3ish% … where do you get your information? How was this at the expense of anyone since both revenue AND spending went up?

    Out in California the State Legislature is lying to us. They recently passed a bill which confiscates another 10% worth of State income taxes from all those employed … to fill their budget gap. Supposedly its just a ‘loan’ … California is run by crazy Democrats who refuse to make serious cuts while at the same time raising our taxes AGAIN to fill in the hole THEY made.

    Health Care: Obamba, Reid, Pelosi and the GAO have said this 10year health care bill will save 100 billion dollars. What they conveniently leave out is how they will begin collecting taxes in 2010 while outlays begin in 2013!! They are collecting 10yrs worth of taxes yet paying out only 7 years !! How stupid are we to accept this line of sh*t?? Obviously the program can’t cover itself, democrats use lies and manipulation to hide the red ink. Quit lying.

  3. This is not a lack of logic, it is based on an intentional lack trap. The goal is to drag the debate away from the fact at hand and into some “other” indefensible situation. What is sad is that people don’t understand what is happening and therefore they see this a valid form of argument.

    I found this great debating entry on Wikipedia about fallacies. Everyone who participates in political discussion should internalize it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies

    My favorite is of course the Straw Man. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

  4. gcotharn says:

    since I’m commenting today, a small note, very respectful:

    It is proper to use .05, or it is proper to use 5%.

    However, .05% = .0005

    Also, Frum’s “0.5 increase”, which was then requoted by Sullivan, equals a 50% increase, which I hope is not happening.

  5. Thanks for not addressing any of my points Mikey, that’s another technique in your list of fallacies … On one issue we agree … Democrats/Government always HIDE the cost and true intention of their legislation. Why not be straight forward with the American People huh? Quit the lies and deception …

    Why not address the ‘Straw Man’ as you say Mikey?? If it is so easy to burn … well … strike a match and give it a shot. If .05% will hardly be noticeable .. won’t the money raised hardly be noticed? … I’m afraid I’m kicking your a$$ here and expect another response from the list of fallacies …

    Nobody I know on the Conservative side thinks one single .05% tax increase equals Socialism …. what you fail to recognize is that combined, all the Federal, State, Local tax increases recently passed, in-work, or proposed do indeed amount to more redistribution and put America more towards a European Style Socialized System. Government run Health Care … taking over 1/6th of the economy is indeed Socialism!! Do you deny this? At least admit its Socialism even if you want it. Most people do not want that and are starting to realize how Liberal Obama and Congress is now … heck they won’t even tell us what’s in the bill … to afraid we’ll read it … While the USA was growing and expanding, Europe has suffered with 10%+ Unemployment for decades and high taxes due to their more Socialized Economy. Even China gets is now …

    Bottom line is that Progressive Economic Policies hurt the people they are meant to help. They stifle the economy and the producers with high taxes and confiscatory Government policies … thus the folks at the bottom can’t even step onto the bottom rung … rather they are left at the bottom of the ladder feeding off whatever Government Program offers their feeble existence and low sense of self.

  6. Rather than argue with “YOU LIE,” I think I will put some numbers to everyone.

    First look at individual income distribution from the 2006 Census:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_income_in_the_United_States#Income_distribution

    What you will see is that any discussion about who pays the most in taxes and what is “fair” is overshadowed by the fact that nearly 50% of the population earns under $25k annually. Double that to $50K and you can add another 25% of the population. Move up to $75K and you now have 88% of the population. You see where I am going? We are still not talking about the group of people affected by this proposed tax increase.

    Now compare that income distribution to the taxation distribution and you can see that while the percentage of taxes paid by higher wage earners is indeed greater is it not as out of whack as BlueDog would have you believe.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxation_in_the_United_States#Progressive_nature

  7. Congratulations on using the ‘Red Herring’ or ‘Correlative based fallacy’ above Mikey … well done. Still my ‘rich’ aunt pays nearly 60% in taxes out of her 80hr work week … but I suppose that’s ‘fair’ huh? Sometimes real world examples .. real people … real circumstances can be used to illustrate a point. Do you think her situation is fair?

    Michael, if this were the only tax increase on the table now or for the past couple of years at a Federal, State, or Local level I wouldn’t care. But unfortunately our Federal Government is already soaking up over 30% of all income via taxes or fees on almost everything. Its disgraceful and wasteful.

    According to your own link (the second one) the top 50% of wage earners pay 102% of Federal Income taxes with the bottom 20% getting 2.3% back in redistribution ie: a net GAIN!! … so the bottom 20% doesn’t pay ANY Federal Income tax at all…. Is that not progressive enough for you? Isn’t that unfair or out of whack?? In addition the top 50% even pay 93.8% of all Social Security taxes which are redistributed across the board to everyone else … those who pay the most never see this money back.

    “Fair” is indeed a matter of perception. Based on the numbers provided by you I think the amount of taxes paid by the upper 50% is not fair … we are overtaxed and the Government spends way too much. These numbers don’t even include State/Local taxes which again are all covered by the upper 50%.

    Rather than attack these 50% people or tax us more, how about a Thank You for paying the F’ing Bills Michael?? Income is not ‘distributed’ as you say above … for the most part it is earned.

    I agree there should be a safety net for everyone, even the laziest sloth like creature or drunk should be afforded the very basics (food, clothes, housing) by our Government .. and they are provided for, mostly, certainly there is plenty of money … but there are way too many programs, way too many bureaucrats and social workers soaking up $$ meant for the poor. Maybe on this point we can agree.

    Anyway, you assume the bottom 25% of people are all permanently poor when in reality most people fluctuate between the different groups. My first 3 years working as an Engineer at a Fortune 100 Company I fell into this ‘poor’ category or bottom 25% … but I didn’t feel poor, I just lived within my means. I eventually made it up to about the 90th percentile last year but am now down to the 20th percentile due to this recession. Still I don’t feel ‘poor’ nor do I have my hand out, I just live within my means and had to make some changes.

  8. BlueDog – either A) your aunt is lying to you or B) you are lying to us. Either way your argument is bunk. There is no way that your aunt is earning $160,000 and paying 60% or $96,000 in taxes. Just for the sake of a sanity check I ran a $160K salary with NO deductions and no federal taxes paid through the IRS tax calculator and it came back with an estimate of $35,902 in taxes. That would be 22% of your “rich” aunt’s income and I would say that if she is paying that much she is seriously in need of an accountant.

    http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=96196,00.html

    Even if she was a sole proprietor of a pharmacy and you counted the taxes she paid on the goods she sold as well as the payroll she paid her employees she would still not pay that much and it would also mean that you were being dishonest about your argument.

  9. No I’m not being dishonest, but I did leave a few things out. They can no longer declare their kids who are older now plus they own a lot of land which they use to ride horses, hunt, etc. My Uncle works but is working to a net loss the past couple of years. While I don’t have her tax return in front of me in breaks down kinda like this:

    160000 income @ 80hrs per week
    -33,932 Federal Income Tax
    – 12,240 Social Security Tax
    -10960 NYS State Income Tax
    -32000 Local Property tax .. they own 2 houses, 1000 acres of land, an empty store in town
    -1560 =20000 spending*NYS sales tax

    Total taxes is roughly $91,092.50 or 57% of the 160000 …

    What say you now Michael? Is this fair and Progressive?

  10. opit says:

    I noticed your reference to the Wikipedia entry on Logical Fallacies. Political Systems is another hummer. One of my favourite article titles was a Pandagon piece : Well-paid assholes with opinions versus poorly-paid assholes with opinions. All are part of a cluster of loosely related ( kinda-sorta) essays,etc. filed under http://opitslinkfest.blogspot.com/2009/07/perception-alteration.html

  11. opit says:

    BTW ‘Con’ arguments focus on ‘fairness’. How about practicality ?
    Let’s compare lineups of successful sales programs that concentrate their efforts on those without money to pay vs. those that do.
    If it won’t work for business…it won’t work for government. The court system uses the principle of taking money from where it can be found…not where it can’t.

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