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Hey Jihadis, Get with the Program! Will Political Correctness Backfire?

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OK Liberals: Let's Talk Inequality

by Christopher Chantrill
January 27, 2015 at 12:00 am

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I SHOULDN'T have done it, but this week I read a piece by Harold Meyerson in the Washington Post, titled “Democrats’ New Faith.” He’s delighted that President Obama is finally doing something about inequality.

You know the standard Democratic narrative. Back in the good old days middle-class workers had good jobs at union wages. Then Reagan came and threw US manufacturing jobs onto the scrap heap with his trickle-down economics. So economic inequality has increased as the middle-class has thinned out.

But now comes President Obama. He’d addressed inequality before, of course, but this time is different.

This time, he had a concrete proposal to diminish the shift from income derived from work to income derived from investment — by raising the tax on capital gains and using the income to provide a tax credit to help working parents pay for child care.

Oh. So now our razor sharp liberal minds are mixing up ordinary investment income like dividends with gains on capital appreciation.

I slammed out a response to Meyerson’s article on my blog Friday, and suggested seven reasons off the top of my head why the increase in inequality might have nothing to do with “income derived from investment.” But today let’s address our liberal friends more gently. Let us ask the following question:

It is not possible, dear liberals, that the layers upon layers of government programs you have enacted over the past century have themselves contributed to “inequality?”

For instance, let us look at the marginal cost of getting off of welfare if you are, say, a single mother with two children. Here’s a chart I have adapted from another article in The Washington Post. I have augmented the chart from Gene Steuerle at blog.governmentwedeserve.org by adding a big red line.

The original image shows how welfare benefits change as a recipient increases her income from work. As you can see, the benefits start to ramp down pretty sharply once the recipient reaches about $15,000 in earnings.

That’s where the dirty red line comes in. It shows what would happen to welfare benefits if the government strictly reduced benefits by 50 cents for each dollar of work income. When the top line that sits on the geological strata of benefits is parallel to my red line it means that the welfare recipient is experiencing a 50 percent marginal tax rate on her work income, due to the reduction in benefits. And that’s not including any payroll taxes and income tax our recovering recipient would face.

Is it any wonder that since the Great Society programs of the 1960s low-income women don’t marry and the men don’t work, as Charles Murray wrote in Coming Apart? Why bother when you can get $25,000 for nothing and face a swingeing tax rate on any earnings from work.

And this mess is to be solved with a tax on “income from investment” and middle-class tax credits? Because inequality?

In reality, the process of “getting off welfare” is not as simple as a 50 percent marginal tax rate. That’s because of welfare’s mind-numbing complexity, e.g., at some point you have to get off Medicaid and switch to Obamacare and CHIP. Probably you don’t, not until your welfare caseworker or a lovely Lois Lerner lookalike at the IRS comes after you. Boy, am I glad I’m not on welfare (because my Medicare isn’t welfare. No siree).

Liberals used to hang their hats on helping the working stiff. Government programs, paid for by the rich, would cure the blight of poverty, they told us. Only it didn’t.

Then they got blindsided by the success of Reaganism, and had to reinvent themselves as pragmatic centrists, traveling a Third Way between left and right. Now under President Obama they have veered hard left. Now we must all fight inequality.

In Sunday’s Daily Telegraph Janet Daley is bemused by the sharp left turn from Britain’s Labour Party and Barack Obama’s Democratic Party. After Blair and Clinton it’s back to “the spirit of the Left-wing True Believer” in Britain and the US. But left-wing politics always about another stupid slogan and another stupid government program.

Sci-fi writer John C. Wright calls these empty slogans “word fetishes,” a way of attributing mystical qualities to political catchphrases. It’s not just “inequality.” It’s Hope and Change, Change We Need, Hands Up Don’t Shoot, Middle Class Economics.

OK. Everyone uses catchphrases: supply-side economics, Morning in America, compassionate conservatism, No Child Left Behind, Drill Baby Drill.

It all depends on whether you end up with the mob chanting your catchphrases as they bay for your blood, as in “there goes the Dirty Maximum” at the execution of Robespierre.

Do you really think, liberals, that your fight against inequality is based on any better science than Robespierre’s fight for maximum prices?

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Chappies

“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison


Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust


Hugo on Genius

“Tear down theory, poetic systems... No more rules, no more models... Genius conjures up rather than learns... ” —Victor Hugo
César Graña, Bohemian versus Bourgeois


Education

“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State


Faith & Purpose

“When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.”
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990


Conversion

“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh


Postmodernism

A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ’merely relative’, is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.
Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy


Faith and Politics

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable... [1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006


China and Christianity

At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing


Religion, Property, and Family

But the only religions that have survived are those which support property and the family. Thus the outlook for communism, which is both anti-property and anti-family, (and also anti-religion), is not promising.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit


Conservatism

Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority — the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says ‘we should...’.
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity


US Life in 1842

Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


presented by Christopher Chantrill

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