| April 15, 2011

The politics of envy

Many of us remember a parent who warned us against envying another child’s Christmas or birthday gifts. We were taught not to let envy destroy us because of some athletic or academic achievement of others that we did not experience.

Unfortunately, many policymakers, taxpayers, tax users, and voters have forgotten these warnings against envy. President Barack Obama, following in the footsteps of his Progressive forebears Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt, has determined that “the rich” (those earning more than $250,000) need to participate in more shared sacrifice.

In order to perpetuate the record-high spending levels of Oklahoma government, some of our friends on the Left seem to think that people who make more than $100,000 should participate in more shared sacrifice. Some of their ideas:

Prohibit the 1/4 percent income tax cut set to begin January 1, 2012
Eliminate itemized deductions, including charitable deductions
Eliminate college-savings deductions
Restrict corporate flexibility by increasing corporate income subject to taxation
The Left’s proposals, in Oklahoma and nationally, often involve increasing taxes. But data show that, even at the federal level, ungodly tax levels don’t come close to paying for all the spending. The desire for more tax revenue ignores the real problem: growth in government spending.

If someone pays little or no taxes, and tax rates are lowered, they don’t “benefit” as much. This is not “favoring the rich”—it is math. Everything takes up a larger share of the poor’s income. The cost of a toothbrush takes up a greater share of a person’s income who makes $20,000 than of a person’s income who makes more than $100,000. Should we increase the price of toothbrushes and all purchases on those who make over $100,000? What about driver’s licenses, fishing licenses, vehicle tags, waste tire fees, beverage taxes, and so on? Should those be increased for those who make more than S100,000?

If policies of envy work, we should take a portion of the grades from “A” students and give them to failing students. If policies of envy work, the Oklahoma City Thunder needs to reduce its number of wins and give them to teams that didn’t make the playoffs.

All of us, and especially policymakers, need to ask a fundamental question: “What portion of a person’s income—his property—should we take from him?” And before answering that question it might be wise to take a lesson from God himself, who somehow thought it was reasonable to take only 10 percent.

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