One of the first rules of debate is that you should endeavor to understand your opponent’s argument – both the strong and weak points – better than he does. The pro-tax left is, apparently, unaware of this rule.
Count left-leaning economist Robert H. Frank among those who simply do not understand why many conservative Americans, the rich and the not-so-rich, alike, oppose increased taxes on the rich (emphasis is mine):
Surveys indicate that most voters now favor higher taxes on the rich. But many wealthy people are determined to hang on to their tax cuts, and because recent changes in campaign finance law have greatly increased their political leverage, they may prevail. If so, however, it could prove a hollow victory.
Beyond some point, there seems to be little gain in satisfaction from bolstering your private spending. When mansions grow to 15,000 square feet from 10,000, for instance, the primary effect is merely to raise the bar that defines an adequate home among the superwealthy.
It would be one thing if lobbying against taxes and regulation brought wealthy Americans a world more to their liking. But if their goal is to buy a home with a more spectacular view, for example, they will be disappointed. There are only so many such homes to go around, and they’ll be bought by the very same people as before, since everyone will be bidding more.
So when the anti-tax wealthy make campaign contributions, they are buying only the deeper potholes and dirtier air that inevitably result when tax revenue is low.
Frank suffers from the same myopia that plagues other progressives. He thinks the worst about conservatives and assumes, consistent with stereotype, that the only reason anti-tax conservatives oppose tax increases is because they want to buy more yachts and mansions. This is not only offensive, but astonishingly close-minded.¹
I, and most conservatives I know, oppose tax increases for the following reasons:
- Government is wasteful and inefficient;
- The bigger the federal bureaucracy gets, the more control it has over our lives;
- The bigger the federal bureaucracy gets, the harder it is to shrink (temporary spending programs almost always become permanent entitlement programs);
- Government never gets smaller, only larger;
- Free markets, although imperfect, are better and fairer distributors of wealth than any possible cabal of government elites; and
- The tenth amendment says that those powers that are not specifically given to the federal government are reserved by the States.
Conservative opposition to high taxes has nothing whatsoever to do with yachts and mansions, greed and gluttony, no matter how well that defamatory propaganda plays in Peoria. It’s a sad state of affairs indeed when highly-esteemed economists like Mr. Frank and respected tax law professors like James Maule and Linda Beale have swallowed, hook, line and sinker, this simplistic and utterly inaccurate nonsense.²
¹ I have no way of knowing whether this is true or not, but Frank’s utter cluelessness about what motivates small government conservatives makes me wonder whether he actually knows any. If he does know them, he can’t be truly listening to them.
² How do you have an intelligent conversation with people who think your sole motivation is to buy a bigger yacht? Simple answer: You don’t.