Erik Larson

Oct 27, 2008

Diatribe, Addendum

Clarification: “spreading the wealth” does not equal “progressive income taxation”…

Just in case anyone has this straw man in mind. Here’s why: spreading the wealth means, point blank, from the rich, to the poor . It’s direct income redistribution. Wealth spreading is different than simply taking a greater share from those who have more , which is progressive taxation.

Progressive taxation seeks greater tax revenues by taking more money from those who have plenty. Flat taxers will argue the fairness of this as well (see my prior post ), but as a strategy for tax revenue generation, it’s been pretty roundly adopted by advanced economies, and it has shown itself to be fairly resilient to charges of obvious unfairness.

On the other hand, this business of wealth redistribution is much more contentious, particularly in America. It moves directly from tax revenues from the wealthy to more income to the poor: from those who have more, directly to those who have less. So, the “Marxist” or “Communist” charges we’ve heard blurted around the fringes of the McCain campaign, while clearly incendiary and political (in the pejorative sense), are not without a certain tout court plausibility.

All this said, politicians talking to scary looking dudes like “Joe the Plumber” might occasionally choose less-than-optimal phrases to convey their meaning; I’m happy to assume that Obama is not—in any real sense—some Trojan Horse Marxist. More likely, he’d like to help some of the middle class by using tax revenue from members of the upper class. We’re already doing this, with varying degrees of success. We’ll see, if Obama is elected, if he’s got the right strategy to make it succeed with American voters. They’ll be baaaack , in what may seem like a long or a very short four years. With a Democratic House and Senate alongside an Obama administration, if it’s a long four we’ll all know exactly who to blame. Right or wrong, the pendulum swingeth, and it surely will swingeth again.