Imagine an argument for the abolition of slavery based not upon natural law and fundamental human rights, but whether slavery is an effective means of production. Such an abolitionist might say, Slaves cannot be relied upon to produce all that the country requires. The subsequent debate would then center around the efficiency of slavery, rather than its morality.
That’s the character of our modern debate regarding taxation. The Wall Street Journal published an editorial on Monday demonstrating “the fiscal futility of raising rates on the top 2%, or even the top 5% or 10%, of taxpayers to close the deficit.” Confiscating all the taxable income of the top 10% of taxpayers will not close the deficit, they say. Taxes will therefore have to be raised on the middle class to maintain the entitlement state.
Jeffery Sachs counters from The Huffington Post. He claims that the “IRS data in fact prove exactly the opposite of what the Journal claims.”
I’ll leave it to the Journal to defend their math, not because their case lacks importance, but because it is entirely beside the point. While it may be prudent to highlight “the fiscal futility” of the Left’s tax-hiking impulse, the foremost argument against perpetuating the entitlement state is a moral one. Consider Sachs’ rhetoric.
[The Journal has] done us a huge service by drawing attention to the astonishing incomes received by America’s richest taxpayers, coupled with the declining rates of average personal income taxation paid by this group(…)
… the American people are coming to understand the outsized incomes and wealth of the richest Americans and the need for them to pay more in taxes to help close the budget deficit.
This is the slaver owner saying to our misguided abolitionist, We need only breed them faster and beat them harder, and our needs can be met.
By focusing on the fiscal argument, conservatives cede the moral one. It doesn’t matter whether you can close the budget deficit with higher taxes. It’s still wrong to use the coercive power of government to redistribute wealth. It wouldn’t matter if there were a single person in all of America who claimed as earned income enough wealth to fund the grandest entitlement schemes we could hatch. It wouldn’t matter if there were one billionaire left on Earth while the rest of us starved. It would still be wrong to steal from that individual.
The movement to abolish slavery was driven by moral outrage, by an appeal to our innate sense of right and wrong. So too must our quest for modern abolition be framed. The entitlement state is a yoke around our necks and those of our children. It is a curse we are obligated to lift.
The citation of tax rates rather than taxes paid is as fundamentally dehumanizing as any claim of superiority one group has made against another, and should be as offensive to our sensibilities. It takes as granted that the labor and talent of one man is owed in tribute to another. This is not a notion upon which compromise is possible. You either believe all men are created equal and must be treated so under the law, or you don’t. Sachs does not. Neither does President Obama or any other leftist arguing to maintain the fundamentally corrupt status quo.
Another man’s possession of that which you want or need does not entitle you to rob him, whether by your lone volition or by majority vote. This should not be controversial. Rather, it should be the line which divides citizen from criminal. This is the argument Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians must drag the Left to. It exposes their tyrannical nature and presents the public with a stark moral choice.