Sunday, March 08, 2009

Taxing the Randroids

If the U.S. government vanished overnight, how much wealth would Bill Gates still have?

Steve M. had a great post the other day that correctly identified the nature of today's Republican ideology:

What these people have cooked up -- I don't know whether they actually believe it or not -- is a "one drop" theory of communism, comparable to the "one drop" rule of racial categorization. Any adjustment in the current distribution of wealth, even to tax rates barely different from the Clinton era's in their progressivity, is indistinguishable from Marxism-Leninism.
Steve goes on to suggest that they put their money where their mouths are:
I've always believed it would be perfectly fine to let Randians and Paulbots opt out of having anything to do with the icky government. I'd be happy to exempt them from taxation.

... On the condition, needless to say, that the door must swing both ways. Drive on a road built with tax dollars? Pay. Walk on a government-funded sidewalk? Pay? Get mugged? House burning down? Dying of a heart attack? No cops, no firefighters, no government-funded emergency services unless you pay, pay, pay. All government services: a la carte.
All reasonable...but we can go a lot further than this. Which is where the opening question comes in.

Just about everything these Galt wannabes own--property, stocks, bonds, cash--would have vastly diminished value, or no value at all, in the absence of government. Every dollar they've earned has depended on conditions created or contributed to by government. Conditions like a common currency, for example. Domestic stability. Enforcement of contracts and property ownership. An educated workforce. Transportation and communications infrastructure.

And it goes without saying (but I'll say it) that the more wealth they have, the more they have benefitted from these conditions--the more value they have received from government.

We've always defended progressive taxation on the humane principle that the people should pay the most who can most easily afford it. Rather than arguing the point, Republicans sidestep it by adopting the bogus Randian 'principle' that Redistribution Is Murder. (Or theft. One of those.) Which morphs naturally, inexorably into the One Drop Theory.

But of course the basic assumption behind this (that government is for welfare queens, and the Galt wannabes don't really need it) is ludicrously wrong. It isn't about the ultra-wealthy 'keeping what they earn'; it's about them externalizing the costs of acquiring and maintaining their wealth. Progressive taxation isn't just 'fair' in a humane sense; it's also 'fair' in the sense that the people with the highest rates are also getting the most from government. That's the point we have to start hammering in response to the Republicans' vulgar Randianism.