Not just because we both write for these pages, I generally enjoy Ben Stein's work. It's personable, obviously sincere, and conveys actual human emotion extraordinarily well.
But with increasing frequency, Ben's bombast regarding Republicans and tax policy is driving me up a wall. And since I have the privilege of being able to post my thoughts about this in a separate blog note where it might be seen by more people than a comment to Ben's note would be, I'm going to use that privilege.
In particular, I'd like to respond to these thoughts of Ben's from his American Spectator article today. I quote his tax-related paragraphs in full, to prevent any question of my taking his words out of context:
How did we ever get into the position of fighting like madmen to keep taxes low on billionaires? How can we possibly win if our position is to sacrifice the welfare of poor and lower middle class people to make sure we keep the taxes of very wealthy people low? Let's see: Obama is for keeping almost all entitlements and raising taxes on the rich (his definition of rich is insane but that's another story). Our GOP position is low taxes on the rich and cut entitlements and medical care for the poor. Hmmm, which is a winning position?
My old boss, Mr. Nixon, used to say, "Honesty may not be the best policy but it's worth trying once in a while."
So, Let's be honest: the ultra-rich do not need ultra-low taxes. The poor have a moral claim on the generosity of the nation if they are genuinely in need. Might we just try to align ourselves with the morally right position for fiscal policy?
Yes, government spends insanely too much. Yes, government is criminally wasteful. But the nation is racing towards bankruptcy. Do we right the course by taking from the very rich -- while searching like Sherlock Holmes for waste to cut? Why not? I'd like to see the party win the next election and being the party of the billionaires does not help us.
Wow, I was really enjoying the article until I got to this leftist muddle.
What part of "the taxes of the rich are not low" does Ben not get?
What part of "the top 1% pay nearly 40% of all federal income taxes" does Ben not get?
What part of "the top 1% pay more than the bottom 90%" does Ben not get?
What part of "need for ultra-low taxes" being not just the wrong standard, but a horrifyingly dangerous one, does Ben not get?
What part of "we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem" does Ben not get?
What part of "from the inception of the War on Poverty, increased government spending has never substantially decreased poverty because welfare encourages the disease it purports to treat" does Ben not get?
I do have to thank Ben for distilling his deep errors down to one fundamental claim, that "the poor have a moral claim on the generosity of the nation..."
But "the nation" is not and cannot be generous since "the nation" does not have its own resources. It only has what it takes from its citizens. This means, therefore, that Ben believes the poor have a moral claim on the earnings of every non-poor individual in this country. Such an argument is morally false, but it's more than that. It is also the basis on which many regimes have not only failed to improve their citizens' well-being but have resorted to the worst atrocities imaginable to further their goals. It is a stance which gives moral sanction to almost any government action which claims to redistribute wealth.
Ben, you may be trying to cover the true nature of your views on taxation by harping on billionaires, for whom few have economic sympathy, and by repeating in capital letters that you are NOT RICH. But your statements about tax policy, about who "needs" low taxes, and about a "moral claim to generosity" are not just drivel; they are evil.