Matthew Dowd’s Empty Virtue Signaling on Taxes

Last week, ABC’s Chief Political Analyst Matthew Dowd, a “Proud Independent” who puts “country over party” according to his Twitter profile, offered the following thought on Twitter:

Any tax savings that I might get from this unfair and mean spirited GOP tax bill i [sic] will donate to charities to help the poor and vulnerable.  Who’s with me?

Dowd was savaged in many of the responses, and rightfully so. User Lori Olivia tweeted, “Exactly! Charity is privately giving YOUR $ to those who you believe need it.  Charity is not forcing me to give MY money to what YOU believe in.”

And that’s what it boils down to, certainly.  But let’s pause right here for a moment, and recognize that if Dowd does donate the difference to charity, this would do far more to “help the poor and vulnerable” than casting that money into the abyss of the general revenue which politicians dredge for payments to special interests and myriad other things that do nothing to help the “poor and vulnerable.”  The most inefficient charity is very likely many times more efficient than a government for which improper payments for Social Security are in the billions regularly and annually.

If the net effect of this tax legislation is that Americans donate even a tiny fraction of what they are able to keep to charity, the impact will be a positive one for the truly “poor and vulnerable.”  This is a far better result than the distribution of that money being administrated by government bureaucrats.  Dowd recognizes this, as he seems to know that government is a poor substitute for a true mechanism of charity.  If he didn’t recognize that, he would give the money he “saves” via new tax legislation back to the government.  But he won’t.  He claims that he will give it to a charity.

If the purpose of his tweet was practical, he might be celebrating the proposed tax cuts.  But it’s not.  It’s nothing more than politics and self-promotion.

He thinks the GOP tax plan is “unfair” and “mean-spirited,” so he wants the world to know that he’ll do the right thing by the “poor and vulnerable,” even though the current government won’t.

One user gave him the kudos that I’d have to imagine he wanted.  User Karen Renne tweeted, “Thank you Matthew you are a great Restorative Justice Christian/Catholic today and every day. My Mom and Grandma would be so proud of this post. I am proud of you thank you.” [sic]

Dowd acknowledged her comment with a “Thank you.”  Contrary to Ms. Renne’s opinion, I find his post an affront to individual liberty and incredibly self-serving, particularly as a Catholic.

Firstly, there is this curious compulsion to conflate charity with government taxation and redistribution, and it is all a result of this silly notion that the correct purpose of government is to act as a charity.  Consider Dowd’s position.  He argues that the new tax bill does not allow the government to confiscate enough wealth from some Americans so that the government might redistribute it to others, namely the “poor and the vulnerable.”  The government should be, given what he believes to be its rightful purpose, taking from each according to his means, redistributing to each according to his needs, as it were.  How does the position of this prominent political “independent” differ from that of a Marxist?  Maybe he wouldn’t advocate a top marginal tax rate of 90%, but it’s certainly not different in principle.

Secondly (and this is a big one because we see it everywhere), virtue signaling one’s charitable bona fides is not a Christian act.  Matthew 6:2-6:4 explicitly addresses this:

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others… But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

The idea is to condition oneself to be charitable without compulsion or incentive, and particularly absent to desire to be “honored” for one’s charitable giving.

And perhaps it is all the less a Christian act when those trumpeting their own charitable ambition are only doing so while also holding the belief that the government should be seizing wealth from others and redistributing it as a means to outsource the Christian vocation toward charity.

Matthew Dowd’s tweet is a microcosm of the larger problematic ideology which purports that more Americans being protected from a government seizure of earned wealth is evil, and the government confiscating more of that wealth for the benefit of others (who have not earned it) is somehow righteous. 

There is nothing, and there never will be, anything noble or righteous in the latter.

But allowing more Americans to keep their wealth, which is rightfully theirs (not the government’s, or anyone else’s), rather than having it seized by a bloated, overreaching bureaucracy is simply good policy, and that’s what this GOP tax cut effectually does.

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.

Last week, ABC’s Chief Political Analyst Matthew Dowd, a “Proud Independent” who puts “country over party” according to his Twitter profile, offered the following thought on Twitter:

Any tax savings that I might get from this unfair and mean spirited GOP tax bill i [sic] will donate to charities to help the poor and vulnerable.  Who’s with me?

Dowd was savaged in many of the responses, and rightfully so. User Lori Olivia tweeted, “Exactly! Charity is privately giving YOUR $ to those who you believe need it.  Charity is not forcing me to give MY money to what YOU believe in.”

And that’s what it boils down to, certainly.  But let’s pause right here for a moment, and recognize that if Dowd does donate the difference to charity, this would do far more to “help the poor and vulnerable” than casting that money into the abyss of the general revenue which politicians dredge for payments to special interests and myriad other things that do nothing to help the “poor and vulnerable.”  The most inefficient charity is very likely many times more efficient than a government for which improper payments for Social Security are in the billions regularly and annually.

If the net effect of this tax legislation is that Americans donate even a tiny fraction of what they are able to keep to charity, the impact will be a positive one for the truly “poor and vulnerable.”  This is a far better result than the distribution of that money being administrated by government bureaucrats.  Dowd recognizes this, as he seems to know that government is a poor substitute for a true mechanism of charity.  If he didn’t recognize that, he would give the money he “saves” via new tax legislation back to the government.  But he won’t.  He claims that he will give it to a charity.

If the purpose of his tweet was practical, he might be celebrating the proposed tax cuts.  But it’s not.  It’s nothing more than politics and self-promotion.

He thinks the GOP tax plan is “unfair” and “mean-spirited,” so he wants the world to know that he’ll do the right thing by the “poor and vulnerable,” even though the current government won’t.

One user gave him the kudos that I’d have to imagine he wanted.  User Karen Renne tweeted, “Thank you Matthew you are a great Restorative Justice Christian/Catholic today and every day. My Mom and Grandma would be so proud of this post. I am proud of you thank you.” [sic]

Dowd acknowledged her comment with a “Thank you.”  Contrary to Ms. Renne’s opinion, I find his post an affront to individual liberty and incredibly self-serving, particularly as a Catholic.

Firstly, there is this curious compulsion to conflate charity with government taxation and redistribution, and it is all a result of this silly notion that the correct purpose of government is to act as a charity.  Consider Dowd’s position.  He argues that the new tax bill does not allow the government to confiscate enough wealth from some Americans so that the government might redistribute it to others, namely the “poor and the vulnerable.”  The government should be, given what he believes to be its rightful purpose, taking from each according to his means, redistributing to each according to his needs, as it were.  How does the position of this prominent political “independent” differ from that of a Marxist?  Maybe he wouldn’t advocate a top marginal tax rate of 90%, but it’s certainly not different in principle.

Secondly (and this is a big one because we see it everywhere), virtue signaling one’s charitable bona fides is not a Christian act.  Matthew 6:2-6:4 explicitly addresses this:

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others… But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

The idea is to condition oneself to be charitable without compulsion or incentive, and particularly absent to desire to be “honored” for one’s charitable giving.

And perhaps it is all the less a Christian act when those trumpeting their own charitable ambition are only doing so while also holding the belief that the government should be seizing wealth from others and redistributing it as a means to outsource the Christian vocation toward charity.

Matthew Dowd’s tweet is a microcosm of the larger problematic ideology which purports that more Americans being protected from a government seizure of earned wealth is evil, and the government confiscating more of that wealth for the benefit of others (who have not earned it) is somehow righteous. 

There is nothing, and there never will be, anything noble or righteous in the latter.

But allowing more Americans to keep their wealth, which is rightfully theirs (not the government’s, or anyone else’s), rather than having it seized by a bloated, overreaching bureaucracy is simply good policy, and that’s what this GOP tax cut effectually does.

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.

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