December 18, 2010
The Left's Politics of Retribution
Liberal pundits have awakened from the euphoria of nearly two years of successful Democratic initiatives, and they are fuming. Barack Obama decided to side with Republicans on the issue of extending Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans in exchange for the extension of unemployment benefits in a deal consummated Thursday night.
It could have been expected that this wouldn't sit well with his base. Disproportionately taxing the wealthy is a critical plank in the ideology of the left, and the reason for that is simple. When liberals think of George Bush, they think of big business destroying society. When they think of big business destroying society, they think of rich, corporate fat cats. And as much as they would love to, they are unable to send George Bush to the poor house, so settling the score with the rich, corporate fat cats is the next best thing.
That's what it is all about: retribution. But the left can't just be forthright and say, "We want to steal rich people's money to get back at them." So they use rhetorical sleight-of-hand to conceal the fact that tax increases for the rich are about vengeance.
They generally position it as a moral issue or an issue of charity. But while they spend all their time talking about how it is only "right" for the wealthy to pay more in taxes, they completely ignore that a handful of people in Washington deciding on a whim to take more property from a specific group is wrong.
Perhaps that is why when liberals are out pitching upper-class tax hikes, they have usually been compelled to preface their arguments with an unsolicited disclosure that it's not to punish success. Take Chuck Schumer's recent declaration: "It's not that we want to punish wealthy people. We want to praise them."
Democrats want to "praise" successful individuals by disproportionately confiscating much more of their property? When a group of people is "praised" for success, they are generally given a reward, or perhaps applauded. They are not singled out, further stripped of their property, and demonized in an effort to use their possessions to provide for their anonymous neighbors' well-being.
When the left defends a tax increase for the wealthy as anything other than punishment, it sounds less like the truth and more like an unintended confession of a guilty conscience. And that's probably because deep down, buried beneath their ideological disillusionment about the ends of wealth redistribution justifying the means, liberals know well that seizing an increased amount of property from individuals in one specific social class equates to discrimination and injustice.
But the collectivists who support Barack Obama overlook that logic and are furious that he compromised by endorsing the tax extensions. To them, extending unemployment benefits at the cost of letting the wealthy off without increased tax liability can be nothing more than a Pyrrhic victory. Obama's obligation to enforce the doctrine of "social justice" has always been twofold. Yes, one aspect is to assure the livelihood of those dependent upon the government, but the "justice" comes from the exacted revenge upon the rich people who have long held those dependents down.
Obama has done such an excellent job convincing his flock that rich Americans need to provide the capital for "social justice" that it seems to be liberals' top priority. Think about the fact that within two years of office, Obama has fulfilled the long-held dream of the left to pass government-run health care. In that time frame, he has also increased the government's scope of influence beyond what many Americans thought possible and has assured more massive funding to expand social welfare programs. And he did all of this in the face of staunch popular opposition and at the expense of his own approval rating.
But because Obama was unable to stick it to Bush's buddies who avoided paying their fair share for the past ten years, Democrats suddenly find that he lacks the political backbone to do what must be done. So now, he is being crucified by his own for betraying his sworn beliefs.
But thankfully for conservatives, with a turned tide in the House and an increasingly unpopular president, it looks like we will get to enjoy watching the left continue to angrily hold their breath while waiting for the reckoning they crave.