29 July 2010

The Rich Calling Out the Rich; Pot, Meet Kettle

Hardly a week goes by without some elected (or appointed) government official claiming that the rich are getting over in America, that the rich need to pay “their fair share” (according to Mrs. Clinton), that the rich are to blame for the economic woes of America (and, indeed, the world). But there is something which must be kept in mind when this flavor of demonization comes to pass: many, most, if not all of those who make such claims about the “rich” are indeed “rich” themselves.

Take Mrs. Clinton for example. Her and her husband earned more than $100 million in the period between 2000 and 2006, with after-tax earnings of about $57 million, according to an old Chicago Sun-Times article. Would Mrs. Clinton say that paying nearly half of her family’s income in taxes is not enough? Would she willingly and without provocation pay more? If her conviction is that the “rich” should pay more, surely an upstanding woman such as herself should lead by example.

Speaker Pelosi and her husband are also quite wealthy, according to the Washington Times. Between land and stocks, their wealth reaches into the tens of millions of dollars. And yet Mrs. Pelosi has repeatedly worked and called for tax increases on the “rich.” What there should be no doubt about is the fact that she and her husband are members of the very club that she – as Mrs. Clinton – claim must do “their fair share.”

The same Washington Post article lists Senator Reid’s wealth at about one million dollars – a relative lightweight among the tax-raising crowd. And yet he too would fall into the “rich” category under the squishy definition which the Obama administration employs.

One must ask, therefore, what are these politicians attempting to do? A few things to consider seem fairly straight-forward to me:

1)  Tax-and-spend politicians of any political stripe feel free to raise taxes in part because the personal benefit outstrips whatever personal cost – in this case, loss of capital – might come about. Thus, at least as much would come into their pocket as they would have to pay out due to higher tax rates.

2)  Politicians of any political stripe who point the “they’re rich” finger at someone else are confident that they themselves will not be judged as “rich” by the electorate. The politician merely directs the eye of the electorate at those to be demonized (e.g. auto executive, investment bankers, oil company chiefs, etc.) thereby diverting attention from themselves. Any corollary action taken by the politician can then be categorized as “protecting” the electorate from the “rich”; the politician can therefore proceed as in the previous point.

3)  There is power in money and there is money in power; politicians of any political stripe who are keen to enlarge their command of both realms are dangerous. And here, I don’t mean conspiracy-theory control – I mean real control. When Congress spews out 2,000+ page laws regulating this or that major economic activity, it gains for the federal government both power and money, power being the more precious of the two. The federal government can (and does) print more money.

So the next time you hear a politician – again, of any party affiliation – bleat on and on about the rich, the greedy, the ambitious, remember to consider just how rich, greedy, and ambitious the source is. Because while the kettle may indeed be black (it is not my purpose here to discuss that), there is no virtue or validity in the pot calling it such. Indeed, there’s something in the pot which – at that point in time – surely demands examination.

No comments: