Inspired by Slave Wage Awareness Week here at Not Right, Phillip sends us the latest Ben Stein editorial via e-mail. Here's what the Artist Formerly Known as Phizz had to say about it:
Yo Ian: party at my casa Saturday. Your turn to bring the goat and the duct tape. Also bring Spicy Nacho Doritos.
Whoops, wrong e-mail! But he did highly recommend Ben Stein's stance on who's really to blame for the current record deficit. Want to guess at whom the avid Republican and former Nixon speechwriter points the finger? Exactly!
Put simply, the rich pay a lot of taxes as a total percentage of taxes collected, but they don’t pay a lot of taxes as a percentage of what they can afford to pay, or as a percentage of what the government needs to close the deficit gap.
Something to think about the next time a dittohead tells you that the top 1 percent pays the top 182 percent of taxes, or whatever the official figure is this week. The only percentage that matters is the one they pay as individuals.
Here's a candy analogy: Suppose you have 100 Mike and Ikes, and I have 20. You pay 20 as a tribute to the Mob, while I pay 10. Why, you've given away twice as many Mike and Ikes as I have, you selfless philanthropist! You're also taking two-thirds of the burden of the payment we owe to the Mob. On the other hand, I'm paying 50 percent of my candy, while you've paid only 20 percent. That's barely a loss to you, whereas I'm starved for my real fruit flavors. And we still owe the Mob big anyway, because Mike and Ikes don't pay off gambling debts and flashy new war toys.
But wait a minute! Professor Stein, aren't you merely fomenting class warfare by blaming the current deficit on the rich?
Even though I agreed with him, I warned that whenever someone tried to raise the issue, he or she was accused of fomenting class warfare.
“There’s class warfare, all right,” Mr. Buffett said, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
And who is this Mister Buffett? Jimmy? Nope; it's Warren E. Buffett, famous zillionaire and economic realist.
Mr. Buffett compiled a data sheet of the men and women who work in his office. He had each of them make a fraction; the numerator was how much they paid in federal income tax and in payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, and the denominator was their taxable income. The people in his office were mostly secretaries and clerks, though not all.
It turned out that Mr. Buffett, with immense income from dividends and capital gains, paid far, far less as a fraction of his income than the secretaries or the clerks or anyone else in his office. Further, in conversation it came up that Mr. Buffett doesn’t use any tax planning at all. He just pays as the Internal Revenue Code requires. “How can this be fair?” he asked of how little he pays relative to his employees. “How can this be right?”
Simple--it's not! And, according to Stein (and most people who don't drink the punch), neither is the idea that lower taxes generate more government revenue. Indeed, Stein argues for higher taxes whenever appropriate. Gasp!!
The sad fact is that spending rises every year...spending has risen every year since 1940 except for a few years after World War II and a brief period after the Korean War.
The imperatives for spending are built into the system, and now, with entitlements expanding rapidly, increased spending is locked in. Medicare, Social Security, interest on the debt — all are growing like mad, and how they will ever be stopped or slowed is beyond imagining...
People ask how I can be a conservative and still want higher taxes. It makes my head spin, and I guess it shows how old I am. But I thought that conservatives were supposed to like balanced budgets. I thought it was the conservative position to not leave heavy indebtedness to our grandchildren. I thought it was the conservative view that there should be some balance between income and outflow. When did this change?
Oh, now, now, now I recall. It changed when we figured that we could cut taxes and generate so much revenue that we would balance the budget. But isn’t that what doctors call magical thinking? Haven’t the facts proved that this theory, though charming and beguiling, was wrong? [...]
If, in fact, it’s all just a giveaway to the rich masquerading as a new way of stimulating the economy and balancing the budget, please, Mr. Bush, let’s rethink it. I don’t like paying $7 billion a week in interest on the debt. I don’t like the idea that Mr. Buffett pays a lot less in tax as a percentage of his income than my housekeeper does or than I do.
Ben Stein knows a thing or two about money, having had enough to give it away every week on his eponymous game show. His government-spending ideal is classic paleocon: small government doing smart spending with big funds. As Stein said, he is indeed old; old enough to recall a time when taxes were fair and deficits did matter. The GOP would be wise to heed the words of one of its most ubiquitous voices.