William McGurn has a piece at the online Wall Street Journal asking exactly why Republicans have a hard time providing moral argumentation for tax reductions affecting billionaires. The other side, he points out, have their contentions well in place.
In [Senator Bernie Sandners, Vermont] nearly nine-hour remarks, excerpts of which are now going viral on the Internet, he framed the lack of a tax hike for the rich as a surrender to greed. In so doing, he inadvertently raised another question: How come Republicans have such a hard time speaking just as forthrightly about the moral underpinnings of their side of this argument?
What? Moral underpinnings? Well, McGurn appears to believe they exist, but he thinks Republicans are stuck on function. The tax rates against the rich rarely do what they are supposed to do.
. . . Republicans tend to answer these class-warfare screeds with purely functional arguments. How, for example, higher tax rates aimed at “millionaires and billionaires” have a habit of hitting quite a few others (the Alternative Minimum Tax anyone?). How such taxes seldom produce the promised revenue bounty. Or how our real problem is not tax revenues but government spending.
He would frame matters differently. Greed, he notes, is an “insatiable” desire for more and more wealth. So McGurn suggests instead, when taxpayers who want to keep as much of their own money as possible are compared to the governing class that continually seeks to take it, “whose appetite better warrants the word insatiable?”
The advantage the Democrats have is the word “fair.” Fair is fair and everyone should pay their fair share. Okay, says McGurn, define “fair.” Is it 35 percent of income? 50 percent? 75 percent?” It is never marked out.
I tend to agree with him, just me talking here. It is “fair,” Sanders and others say, to the rest of us that billionaires should pay more taxes. Me being a sort of flat-tax guy, I don’t understand how that’s especially fair. Where is my incentive—greed if you insist—for gaining more wealth than at present only to end up being “fair” to the rest of you? If I had enough wealth that someone else believed I should be taxed more than I already am, I’m pretty certain I would not consider their opinion fair. Fortunately, I don’t. But if I did it would be in real estate, because I resonate to the refrain of a folk song:
Pity the downtrodden landlord
His back all burdened and bent.
Respect his gray hairs.
Don’t ask for repairs.
And don’t fall behind in the rent.