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Rod Dreher agrees with William Galston that Elizabeth Warren “is not arguing for collectivism, but for the Burkean conservative position that we all have a moral debt to both the past and to future generations.” But the Democratic Massachusetts Senate candidate doesn’t really make that argument. Instead she creates a false dichotomy between people who build factories and the things the “rest of us paid for” and the “rest of us did.”
I already pointed out in my rejoinder to Galston that Warren’s specific examples refer to things that all of us paid for (roads, schools, police) but only some of us did (factory-building). Yet she wants more money from the factory-builder. There’s a word for that and “Burkean” is not it. Moreover, she makes this statement in the context of defending President Obama’s call for higher income taxes on upper-income filers. When it comes to those particular taxes, we’re talking about something the top 10 percent paid for to a far greater degree than the “rest of us” in the bottom 50 percent.
In fact, that top 10 percent paid over 70 percent of income taxes, the bottom 50 percent paid 3 percent, and roughly 49 percent paid no income taxes. Unlike some Republican presidential candidates, I don’t want a stiffer tax burden on the poorer “rest of us” either. But my point is that Warren isn’t even empirically correct, much less philosophically conservative. Dreher quotes Galston a second time:
If we don’t adequately provide for [future generations], we are breaking that bond. A decent political community has the right-indeed the obligation-to honor that bond-if necessary, by compelling individuals who refuse to look beyond their own immediate concerns to contribute their share to the common future.
True. But one could argue that obligation applies as much to entitlement reform as it does to preferring Bill Clinton’s top marginal tax rate to George W. Bush’s. Indeed, I’d argue more so, since it will take tax increases far larger than what Warren and Obama propose for the rich, tax increases that the “rest of us” will have to pay for, to genuinely keep the federal government solvent for future generations without reducing the existing spending commitments.
Finally, color me suspicious that a woman whose resume consists of presiding over the TARP bailout and lobbying to head a manifestly unconstitutional regulatory agency is really going to strike a blow against the “oligarchy.” I’ve lived in Massachusetts most of my life and its Democratic Party didn’t include many Burkeans this side of Ed King.