Thursday, March 1, 2012

Fair War (Thursday LINKS)

With the Senate expressing its intention to shift the focus of new revenue from the Governor's proposed gas tax and extinguishment of deductions for higher earners in favor of across the board income tax increases, we can expect my two least favorite arguments to be bandied about with flourish and self-righteousness:

"Fair Share" & "Class Warfare"

As a preliminary matter, I may suggest that if your argument can be summed up in two words, you aren't really having a productive conversation.  In fact, if you are using the terms "fair share" and "class warfare", you probably aren't even expressing your own ideas.  You are rather obediently representing someone else's sound-bite.

Democrats are conditioned to suggest that higher earners should not only pay a greater percentage in income taxes, but also unilaterally bear the burden of revenue increases, because this is their "fair share."  This argument flies in the face of those who created a progressive income tax, who premised that vehicle on ability to pay, not some everlasting determination of who owes what.  Equity was one of the pillars of progressive tax rates, but that goes more to the fact that "the money has to come from somewhere and it might as well be from those who make the most."  The whole premise of arguing that high income earners need to pay their "fair share" is that right now they are getting away with something.  Certainly some are, but the vast majority are just living their life, paying Uncle Sam their due, and rightfully enjoying the fruits of their labor.  "Fair share" arguments always have a punitive aspect that probably supports Gov. Romney's unfortunate description of "envy."

Meanwhile, Republicans are programmed to include "class warfare" in the first sentence of any argument about income tax rates.  In fact, if a Republican is half-conscious on the street, you can revive him/her by simply saying the phrase "high income earner" and they will snap into a rage, with the first signs of life being a rebel yell of "CLASS WARFARE!"  I once found this argument valid.  The idea was that by villainizing the rich, you reinforced the idea of an unbreakable caste system, wherein the rich will always be rich and the poor will always be poor.  So long as that caste system is in place, I have every motivation to attack the upper castes to benefit my lower caste and no motivation to think that one day I may be a part of the so-called "rich."  That makes some sense, but ignores the interminably poor and the fact that the "Bootstraps Narrative" is sometimes a myth.  If you have come up from poverty to a level of significant wealth, congratulations.  You are part of the minority.  Your parents most likely did not have substance abuse problems, encouraged you to do your school work, and imposed some form of discipline that discouraged bad behavior.  Believe it or not, that is not universal and has very little to do with who "you" are.

With this as background, this "class warfare" battle cry has effectively crippled our Country's ability to talk about poverty.  I can talk to any person in this County about taxes for two hours, but if I try to talk to them about the poor, their eyes glaze over and they fall back on what we are conditioned to say "They need to work."  "If I could do it, so can they.  "Class warfare."  We all think of our own problems with an assumption of complexity and depth, while the problems of the poor always come down to motivation, as if being poor is like Disneyland without the costumes.

So when we're talking about taxes this Spring, please keep "fair share" and "class warfare" in your back pocket.  If you want to talk about cuts, do your research and make explicit examples.  If you want to talk about the wealthy paying more, explain why the size of government is adequate with room to grow.  That is the hard stuff.  If we aren't going to talk about that, we probably have no business discussing the complex matters of government.


Opponents of the same-sex marriage bill have had their referendum petition language approved by the State Board of Election.

Baltimore City schools face a $35 million budget shortfall, primarily driven by labor costs due to the new pay-for-performance model.  Unfortunately, I think we can expect the increased pay to have a consequence of decreased positions (i.e., school closings), which obviously was contemplated by the union when they fought for more pay.

Kevin Rector covers some of the questions people are having about the 16-step "Land Development Review Process" that is a part of the Plan for Downtown Columbia.  Your predictable nattering naybobs of negativity are quoted as expected.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: WB calls for new faces on the CA Board in the context of saying goodbye to a strong advocate for Columbia -- Emily Lincoln.  Regardless of whether retirement is on the horizon for any Board member, CA can and will benefit from contested elections all around.  I plan to say the same should I decide to run again in 2013.

Have a great Thursday doing what you love!