The Fraud of Progressive Nobility

Barack Obama has admitted the need to break his most celebrated campaign promise. Suddenly he is "agnostic" on increasing taxes for people earning less than $250,000. Nine years ago, as an Illinois state senator, Obama criticized the Supreme Court for not removing a roadblock that forbids Washington to redistribute income. That roadblock is the United States Constitution.

Washington routinely redistributes income within American society. When Joe Taxpayer receives government benefits that exceed what he pays in taxes, the effect is what the Heritage Foundation calls a "distributional deficit." Joe's higher-earning fellow taxpayers must fill that deficit. "Each year, government is involved in a large-scale transfer of resources between different social groups." The very idea that human nature or any natural law would be allowed to control humans or nature nauseates progressives. For example, allowing markets to be free and the weather to do its thing are immoral. So then, government must make people and science play fairly. Steeply graduated taxation for financing that government constitutes noble robbery.

George Mason University economics professor Don Boudreaux, who is also a Café Hayek blogger, explains his acid test for determining the genuineness of someone's nobility.

Desire to help others is noble. It's noble, though, not in and of itself. It's noble only if it's likely to lead to helping others who truly need help. A desire to help others that prompts well-meaning people to address nonexistent problems isn't so much noble as it is misguided and, possibly, dangerous.

Misguided nobility tends to focus people on intent, not results. Forty years of Great Society-inspired welfarism has brought a 70-percent illegitimate birthrate among blacks -- a 218-percent explosion since the LBJ years. The non-Hispanic white illegitimacy rate hovers below 12 percent. Amid a finger-pointing blame-fest, "minority advocates" still supply the crutches on which minorities lean. For instance, affirmative action strengthens the haplessness in "protected classes" that motivated liberals to "protect" those classes in the first place.

Interestingly, Johns Hopkins and Syracuse Universities researchers found that immigrant black children attend college at a 25 percent higher rate, and upper echelon schools at a four times higher rate, than multigenerational African-American children. Princeton University and University of Pennsylvania sociologists determined that immigrants comprise 27 percent of blacks at "selective" colleges and a whopping 41 percent at Ivy League institutions despite immigrants comprising only 13 percent of early college-aged blacks in general. A black person has to be born into the victimhood peddled by the American progressive in order to fall for that victimhood.

In order to be progressive, one must keep up the appearance of helping the "less fortunate," pay no attention to the effects of said help, and soak up the feel-good one gets when the world praises the wonderfulness of one's intentions.

Professor Boudreaux points out the absurdity of a Macy's department store poster campaign which implies that 38 million Americans routinely go hungry.

... because feeding oneself and one's family is perhaps the most fundamental of all human impulses, if so many Americans were truly "at risk of hunger" on a regular basis, then it is nearly impossible to explain why poor Americans are so richly endowed with goods and services far less necessary to survival than food.

The Heritage Foundation's Ralph Rector observed that the "typical American categorized as 'poor' by the government" owns a refrigerator, stove, washing machine, home air conditioning, microwave, color TV, VCR, stereo, at least one car, and 30 percent of the time, two cars.

Evidently, then, self-anointed noble watchdogs want us to believe that starving poor people in the throes of fighting off a survival impulse transmitted by their stomachs to their brains leave air-conditioned homes and drive air-conditioned cars to appliance stores, where they buy microwave ovens to reheat nonexistent food that they didn't buy because they couldn't afford it. Such rationale passes for clear thought among progressives, who push taxpayer funding for feel-good programs based on flawed science and economics.

If allowed to remain off-leash, where will noble progressives take America?

The Tax Foundation found that President Obama's policies would massively increase income redistribution. Already, 60 percent of Americans are "net 'receivers' of federal government benefits." Most families earning no more than $86,000 currently pay less federal tax than the dollar-value of government benefits that they collect. The new threshold will grow to $109,000 if Obama gets his way on health care, carbon "cap-and-trade," and new taxes on the wealthy. The president's plans would annually take almost $1 trillion from the top-earning 30 percent of families and hand it to the bottom 70 percent. Essentially, three of ten families will pay all federal bills for the remaining seven.

Even before considering Obama's hefty redistributionism, every federal tax dollar paid by America's lowest earners garners for those earners $10.44 in federal benefits. The president's 2012 reelection campaign slogan will be, "Open a progressive savings account. Hold out your hand and I'll double your 1,000-percent interest rate."

Another Tax Foundation study puts a frightening perspective on Obama's grotesque spending. Eliminating the federal deficit could require a 95.2-percent tax rate on the wealthiest Americans. Beatle George Harrison captured his government's arrogance back when he was enduring confiscatory taxation. Harrison wrote, "Should five percent appear too small, be thankful I don't take it all." One wonders who it is that the noble progressives think will create the jobs they keep promising when $952 of every $1,000 earned by small business owners is used to pay unemployment compensation for people who have no job and no intention of getting one as long as the noble progressives have their backs.

Reality-blind progressives like Barack Obama and the leftist ideologues who inhabit Capital Hill will spend and borrow and tax and spend even as prosperity evaporates. They will "spread the wealth" so thinly that only the super-wealthy will have any wealth left to confiscate for spreading. Progressives' tax-the-rich agenda could have the insidious effect of encouraging the wealthy to work less in order to avoid being nobly robbed of more of their wealth. If Barack Obama somehow rams through his prosperity-killing agenda, then John Galt will emerge from the mountains of Colorado to pluck the achievers from society once again.

A physicist and former high-tech executive, Chuck Rogér was a columnist for a Phoenix newspaper and now blogs at Email:
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