Thursday, July 20, 2006

Blowback: It's not just for Republicans anymore

Here's an interesting observation presented in the book "The Myth of Mental Illness" by Thomas S. Szasz, M.D.:
In general then, the open acknowledgement of satisfaction is feared only in oppressive situations -- for example, by the much-suffering wife married to a domineering husband. The experience and expression of satisfaction (joy, contentment) are inhibited lest they lead to an augmentation of one's burden. This dilemma must be faced, for example, by persons who come from large poor families and do moderately well financially while to other family members remain poor. If such a person manages to become very wealthy, he will be able to take care of all the other family members who want to be dependent on him. However, if he is only moderately well off, he will be faced with the threat that, irrespective of how hard he works, the demands of his poor relatives will prevent him from enjoying the fruits of his own labor, thrift, and perhaps good luck. Their needs will aways be greater than his assets.* If our hypothetical moderately successful man wants to prevent antagonizing his poor relatives, he will be prompted to "malinger" in regard to his financial situation. He will pretend to be less well off than he really is.
The footnote indicated by * reads "Progressive taxation may create similar feelings in people."

Now there is an observation of real utility for Democrats who can't understand why their goverment spending isn't wholeheartedly embraced by American society. Observe that one of the major exertions of modern liberals is to increase the weight of the moral bludgeon used to extract money from the American tax base. As the excerpt above makes clear, the public will naturally react against heavy-handed tax collections. In response, liberals simply escalate their efforts to attempt to overcome the public's resistance to further taxation, while remaining seemingly oblivious that this will only further inflame public opinion.

The side effect for liberals is a sometimes amazingly neurotic approach to politics. One prominent example is Senator Kerry's charge during the 2004 elections that President Bush was deliberately underfunding homeland security measures in coastal states because these states are predominately Democratic. Or pay attention to what happens when a new Democratic spending program pops up in Congress: evil, stone-hearted, Hitleresque bastard Republicans will instantly transform into warm-heared, compassionate, far-seeing guardians of the public trust by voting for a ten-percent increase in federal education spending over the next five years. You could also just listen to Democratic politicians give speechs for a week or so. One day Republicans are evil conspirators launching a coup d'etat or destroying the constitution; the next day Republicans are "bipartisan" partners in accomplishing some good deed.

This analysis only understates the problems for liberals because their policies seem calculated to deliberately increase the anxieties of the tax-paying public. There is liberal habit of always pushing for new taxes regardless of the state of the economy, since the poor need the most help during recessions but the rich can afford to pay more during expansions. There is the liberal habit of framing new spending proposals in ways they make them impossible to reverse (i.e. the entitlement mentality). Liberals protect the extraordinary taxes such as the alternative-minimum tax that are initially levied only onto the extra-wealthy but slowly creep down onto the middle class over time. Liberals even protect taxes levied on wealth, such as the estate tax, while remaining oblivious to the fact that undermining the public's trust in the private ownership of wealth will only increase its anxieties about the taxation of its income.

And even this analysis understates the problems for liberals once we take into account the liberal crusades against any corporation that dares to show a profit on its books. Although to be fair, a Democratic politician is usually willing to shower public money and acclaim on corporations that threaten to lay off large numbers of that politician's constituents before moving operations to a state with a friendlier economic climate.

One of the reasons why Georgia Senator Zell Miller was excommunicated by the Democratic Party is that he recognized that exactly this type of dynamic was at work. The one policy that he advocated for today's Democratic party was to be willing to lower taxes. Aside from avoiding the neurotic traps that I mention above, doesn't it make sense that a poitical party that is willing to lower taxes when more government revenues are not necessary can be trusted to raise taxes when move government revenues are necessary?


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