In Shakespeare’s Hamlet the Prince of Denmark overhears his uncle, King Claudius, pray for forgiveness for the murder of his brother, Hamlet’s father:
O, what form of prayer can serve my turn?
‘Forgive me my foul murder’?
That cannot be;
Since I am still possess’d of those effects for which I did the murder;
My crown, mine own ambition and my queen.
Claudius pauses and then asks the $64,000 question:
May one be pardon’d and retain the offence?
Warren Buffett, Rick Steves, Carl Hiasson and, now, a fellow named Doug Edwards¹ apparently think so.
In Edwards case we have yet another instance of a rich progressive publicly announcing to the world how undertaxed he is while refusing to avail himself of the opportunity to fix the problem (emphasis added):
Following in the footsteps of billionaire investor Warren Buffet, former Google employee Doug Edwards asked President Obama to raise his taxes at a town hall meeting in California Monday.
“Would you please raise my taxes?” Edwards asked, a request that drew applause from the audience. “I would like very much to have the country to continue to invest in things like Pell Grants and infrastructure, and job training programs to make it possible for me to get to where I am. And it chills me to see Congress not supporting the expiration of tax cuts that have been benefiting so many of us for so long.”
Does it chill you enough, Mr. Edwards, to prompt you to voluntarily pay back the unwarranted tax cuts you claim you have received?
I didn’t think so.
Mr. Edwards is another member of the “woe-is-me-I-am-undertaxed” crowd who seems only able to express his desire to pay more taxes if a camera is trained on him. After the camera is turned off and he could easily solve his problem by visiting this Treasury Department site and paying back the amount of his undertaxation, he is stricken with a severe case of taxalysis which renders him incapable of signing a check.²
But these tax martyrs aren’t as existentially astute as Claudius. The “king of shreds and patches” at least knew that to be forgiven for his transgressions he would have to relinquish their fruit. Claudius, in other words, admits that the price of forgiveness is too high and condedes that he doesn’t want to be forgiven that badly.
Conversely, Edwards, Buffet and their ilk expect to be pardoned for accepting tax benefits they say they did not earn³ while still retaining those benefits. In other words, they want to be forgiven while retaining the offense. But, as Shakespeare has shown us, forgiveness isn’t that easily obtained.
My hunch is that if these pro-tax fat cats were to be forced to relinquish all of the benefits they derived from their undertaxation, they would do what Claudius did: Jump from their knees, unclasp their hands and immediately cease repentance.
¹ Mr. Edwards was a major donor to Democrats over the past decade, which has to make you think he might have been an Obama plant. The question he asks is almost a verbatim reiteration of the Buffett Rule.
² Once again, how much more powerful would Edwards claim to be undertaxed be if he were to announce that he was going to donate $500,000 to the federal government via it’s voluntary contributions website and asked all rich people to follow his lead?
³ Remember, undertaxed rich folks don’t have to take advantage of all of the tax cuts Congress allows them. For instance, they could have simply failed to claim the benefits of the Bush Tax cuts when they had their tax returns prepared. In fact, one would have every reason to expect them to have done so if they truly thought they were undeservedly undertaxed.