Friday, October 10, 2008

Taxes and Patriotism

I'm not usually a fan of Tom Friedman. In fact, Matt Taibbi's skewering of The World is Flat is perhaps my favorite book review of all time, and Ed Leamer's review in the Journal of Economic Literature is one of the funniest things ever published in that august journal. But Friedman is spot-on in this column:

Criticizing Sarah Palin is truly shooting fish in a barrel. But given the huge attention she is getting, you can’t just ignore what she has to say. And there was one thing she said in the debate with Joe Biden that really sticks in my craw. It was when she turned to Biden and declared: “You said recently that higher taxes or asking for higher taxes or paying higher taxes is patriotic. In the middle class of America, which is where Todd and I have been all of our lives, that’s not patriotic.”

What an awful statement. Palin defended the government’s $700 billion rescue plan. She defended the surge in Iraq, where her own son is now serving. She defended sending more troops to Afghanistan. And yet, at the same time, she declared that Americans who pay their fair share of taxes to support all those government-led endeavors should not be considered patriotic.

I only wish she had been asked: “Governor Palin, if paying taxes is not considered patriotic in your neighborhood, who is going to pay for the body armor that will protect your son in Iraq? Who is going to pay for the bailout you endorsed? If it isn’t from tax revenues, there are only two ways to pay for those big projects — printing more money or borrowing more money. Do you think borrowing money from China is more patriotic than raising it in taxes from Americans?” That is not putting America first. That is selling America first.

Sorry, I grew up in a very middle-class family in a very middle-class suburb of Minneapolis, and my parents taught me that paying taxes, while certainly no fun, was how we paid for the police and the Army, our public universities and local schools, scientific research and Medicare for the elderly. No one said it better than Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: “I like paying taxes. With them I buy civilization.”

I can understand someone saying that the government has no business bailing out the financial system, but I can’t understand someone arguing that we should do that but not pay for it with taxes. I can understand someone saying we have no business in Iraq, but I can’t understand someone who advocates staying in Iraq until “victory” declaring that paying taxes to fund that is not patriotic.

How in the world can conservative commentators write with a straight face that this woman should be vice president of the United States? Do these people understand what serious trouble our country is in right now?

3 comments:

Tracy said...

Have McCain and Palin looked at where their federally-funded campaign funds came from? Taxes.

Mr. K said...

Underneath Palin's poor delivery, it's fairly clear that she's referring to the progressiveness of Obama's tax plan.

The large majority of the country seems to intuitively understand the concept of marginal utility ... except when it comes to taxation.

Generally, many people seem to understand that $1 in the hands of a person struggling with a moderate mortgage on a modest home is more valuable than $1 to a multi-millionaire, but this is somehow forgotten when the talk turns to taxes.

What is the best way to address these concerns which looks at raw dollar figures only? How best to remind people that it comes down to utility and not dollars?

agnes said...

[M]y parents taught me that paying taxes, while certainly no fun, was how we paid for the police and the Army, our public universities and local schools, scientific research and Medicare for the elderly. No one said it better than Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: 'I like paying taxes. With them I buy civilization.

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