Eating the Rich: By the Numbers

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Tom Van Dyke

Tom Van Dyke, businessman, musician, bon vivant and game-show champ (The Joker's Wild, and Win Ben Stein's Money), knows lots of stuff, although not quite everything yet. A past inactive to The American Spectator Online, the late great Reform Club blog, and currently on religion and the American Founding at American Creation, TVD continues to write on matters of both great and small importance from his ranch type style tract house high on a hill above Los Angeles.

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57 Responses

  1. Avatar kenB says:

    It’s not the money, it’s the principle of the thing.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      Principles are pleasant to talk about, until they start costing money. As I’ve said elsewhere, I am more than willing to entertain the idea that taxes should be raised, especially on the upper income brackets. But as TVD demonstrates, there is a limit to the utility that would be realized from doing this. Unless we’re just making symbolic gestures, a policy solution to budgetary problems will necessarily have to involve more than this.Report

  2. Avatar greginak says:

    so one day is a post about how stereotypes R’s are, then another day its all tilting at strawmen and mocking the weakest arguments of the people you disagree with. All the same silliness you use to attack raising taxes could be aimed at the “we must lower” taxes arguments. I heard plenty about unfair burdens so we have to lower taxes and estate taxes as class warfare.

    Show me who has said all our problems could be solved only by raising taxes on the rich. Show me who is proposing the solutions you are trying to mock.Report

  3. Avatar b-psycho says:

    If it were up to me, the Left would focus much less on the amounts of money themselves and focus much more on how it is obtained.Report

    • Avatar Scott says:

      B:

      Assuming a person is not breaking any laws, why is one means of earning/obtaining money any morally superior than another?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Assuming that there is a morality that accurately reflects the underlying moral fabric of the universe, it should not be automatically assumed that legislation accurately reflects this morality/moral fabric.

        As such, it’s not unthinkable at all to imagine a system where someone amasses much money immorally (but not illegally).

        This is easiest, of course, when the legislature is captured.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Who are the laws written for. If the law allows, oh lets say, an insurance company to cut off the insurance for a person with a chronic illness based on  a clerical error, that is not unlawful but of, at the least, of questionable morality.Report

        • Avatar wardsmith says:

          an insurance company to cut off the insurance for a person with a chronic illness based on  a clerical error

          Greg, no doubt it is a specious argument on your part, but are you telling me that if such a thing actually happened there is not ONE ambulance chasing lawyer willing to go after big bad insurance company for $Millions? Because I have a highly successful ambulance chasing lawyer neighbor who would be all over that like white on rice. So please tell me where exactly this happened (your imagination doesn’t count), so I can sic him on ’em.Report

          • Avatar b-psycho says:

            It’s called “rescission”.  It has happened, was even in the news several times.  And several lawyers beat your neighbor to it. The practice has since been banned, requiring proof of intent to deceive to drop a policy.

            Before you respond to this, remember I opposed the “reform” bill.  The part dealing with rescission though I would say makes sense: if you seriously think someone falsified their contract info, then press fraud charges. Simply dropping coverage and walking off doesn’t make sense considering the gravity of what they claim the person was doing.

             Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        So that which is legal is inherently moral? Does the law define morality more generally, or only when it comes to commerce?Report

  4. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    But the point of talking about the Waltons and not anyone else is to show just how much wealth such a small goup of people really have compared (though of course Mark Thompson’s point about the number of people with zero or negative net worth does put this in the proper context). Rufus wasn’t making a tax point, other than just ot suggest that in this context some redistribution might be justified (if it ever is).  Is was just an illustration of the size of the numbers.  But if we decided to raise the top marginal rate, not only would that not apply only to the Waltons but to an entire class of people defined by income – it wouldn’t even apply to their wealth, but to their annual income.  In other words, no one is talking about how much money we could all get by seizing all the Walton’s preperty, liquidating it, and dividing it up amongst ourselves one time.  So why are you doing that, Tom?

    The point is taken, but also long conceded, that only taxing the rich doesn’t fix our budget problems.  But the demand that the rich pay their fair share is not a claim that it would.  It is simply a demand that their being made to do so be one of the things that is done in the course of doing it.  I don’t know exactly how much of our problem raising the top marginal annual income tax rate back to the Clinton level would solve, but by all accounts it’s not trifling.  Raising the capital gains tax a smidge would do yet more, again, not trfling the way Tom suggests.

    The point that Tom does make that is salient is that fairness is in the eye of the beholder.  The rich already pay far, far more taxes than the non-rich.  There’s a prima facie case, in my mind, that they already pay their fair share.  But that doesn’t mean that on close examination it’s a convincing case.  Ultimately, if you concede the rightness of fair shares being paid, then you are necessitating a binding, straightened, serious discussion about distributional justice and the desert of private economic actors to keep their freely- exchanged compensation for their labor and the fruits of their capital returns, vis-a-vis the costs of duly enacted and publicly valued welfare structures and other costs of government.  Is that what you’re calling for, Tom?

    Incidentally, why is this on the sidebar?  It’s totally germane to a core topic of discussion on the main blog, and it’s way over Off-The-Cuff length!

    It’s a good post, too.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

      Thx, Mr. Drew.  It got longer when I punched up the copy a bit.  ;-P

      The point is the point, and “income inequality” or “wealth inequality” is a stand-alone argument, that of “distributional justice” and other such newspeak.  Some quick math shows just how little value someone spending their time knocking up a patriotic graph targeting the Waltons really has.

      Killing them, of course, was what they call a “modest proposal,” that taking the situation to the extreme would still yield only a couple hundred bucks, hardly worth the trouble of killing them, let alone drawing up a patriotic graph.

      And I quite disagree that those who take the time to create such graphs are seriously speaking of higher taxes on the rich as but the small part of the solution that it would be, and are acknowledging the more serious ones that are necessary.  Such balance is sorely missing in such essays, including, unfortunately, your own here, rather proving my point.  [The answer to your question, an answer every class warrior should know, is that a return to Clinton tax rates would theoretically net just a bit under $100B, and that’s with no tax avoidance and with no ill effects on the economy or economic behavior on the part of the rich.]

      But I’m glad you found the post worthy, and that it perhaps that it provides some numerical literacy and perspective.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Let’s stipulate to the silliness and patent stupidity of attempting to instigate Class Warfare on the basis of bumper sticker logic.

        Do you remember the early days of Dolby noise reduction?   Dolby would distort the recorded signal and un-distort it on the way out.   The Steely Dan band found out, to their horror, the un-distortion process could go seriously awry.   Nowadays, we sample audio at high enough bit rates, far beyond the range of human hearing, not to preserve those tones but to eliminate the “clipping”.

        Yes, the rich pay “more” taxes but the rich can also afford better tax attorneys and accountants.   I pay a small fortune on my tax returns and it’s worth every penny.   If the rich do pay “more” taxes, they have the resources to shelter that income as well.  If It seems a bit facile to knock on the Waltons, it’s equally facile to ignore the death of the middle class.   The only group in this country now earning more money on a percentage basis are the extremely wealthy.

        I would rather see everyone earning more on a percentage basis and I don’t mean inflated dollars.   My Dolby compression example again returns:  this economy is seriously distorted to the benefit of the extremely wealthy.   Under Bush43, we lowered taxes but only the rich seem to have benefited.   Am I missing something here?Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

          Blaise, I’m against the government doing the “equalizing.”  That is not its purpose, unless you want to stretch the Constitution like Silly Putty.

          Which of course, “inequality” arguments do.  Fortunately, a majority of Americans reject them.  It’s a discussion and an issue only inside its own self-evident bubble.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            Yes, yes, so noted.  That doesn’t contest my assertion of a systemic distortion which has manifestly benefited the rich.   Any thoughts?Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

              To DavidR: thx for the correction.  To BlaiseP: I’m not one to beat my head against the sky, bemoaning the cosmic injustice of it all.

              I will say, that if you penetrate the latest Gallup poll I linked to via WRM, the majority of Americans want growth, not “fairness.”  These fairness arguments seem more poignant during bad times, invisible during times of plenty.  I’m proud of [the majority of] Americans’ good sense and non-envious worldview here.

              And I did dip my toe into the water of numerical literacy here, that disappropriating the Waltons would make us 200 bucks each.  And there just aren’t enough rich to soak.  They and their wealth could disappear from Earth tomorrow, and we’d still be in pretty much the same boat.

              Except for all the jobs they’d take with them…Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                C’mon. That’s a grossly insufficient argument. I’m not all alone, beweepin’ my outcast state and troubling deaf heaven with my bootless cries, nor looking upon myself and cursing my fate. I have the numbers for good company and they say the meek shall inherit nothin’.

                It doesn’t matter what America thinks it wants. America is a collection of fat morons who would stroke out if they ever had to do a two-tail distribution to save their lives. The rich are far richer and the poor are substantially poorer, beyond any quibbling. I’d like to believe I’m numerically literate and I have not advocated soaking the rich. The rich got a huge tax break and the net result has not benefited the American economy. That, Tom, is a fact beyond any dispute, and I’d like to know if you think that’s a problem.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Do the math, then, Blaise.  The $100B tax break vs. a trillion-plus deficit.  That’s part of the OP’s argument.

                I’m willing to put that $100B on the table after the other side acknowledges the other $900B+.  I’m not caught up in the rhetoric: the $100B is a bargaining chip, and won’t be surrendered for zero concessions.

                So, no, I don’t think the tax break is a “problem,” at least on the scale of one-to-ten,  the tax break being a 1 and the other part of the deficit being a 9.   [Neither do i think returning to the Clinton-era rate would net what it would in theory.]

                As for your opinion of your countrymen as “fat morons,” well, fuck you too.  [I say this with a smile and a wink, Blaise, truly.]

                But after your tours of the world’s shitholes, you can come back here to us [and even go on welfare if you need to] and those poor unfortunates can’t.  There’s nothing “fair” about that either.

                I care about what works.  That the poor have enough is my concern; that the rich have too much concerns me not at all.  So far, most of America feels that way, too, and that has been no small part of our success.  Much of the rest of the world has been so concerned with “fairness” and political solutions for it that they never learned how to create wealth so that there is enough for all.

                 Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                That’s great, it really is.  The last paragraph, this.

                A trillion dollars in deficit, you say?   Sure wish we had that trillion or so back from those WAAAARS we’ve been fighting ( ‘ten.,,shun!)   which we borrowed from the Chinese.   Hope you’ll agree we won’t get that money back from Iraq, as we were promised when the War on Saddam began.

                US taxes are set up 180% out of phase.   Government should only be allowed to collect taxes on the basis of some limit the economy can bear, in total.   If the country does well, government budgets can rise.   If times are hard, the government has to cut back.  But like any other corporation, it can sell bonds, as it currently does.   Some of these “Balanced” budget proposals are nonsense, but I hope you get my drift leading up to that point.   We can limit government if the numbers point there and let the CBO do its job, only this time on a repeal or revision of the 16th Amendment:  the “enumeration” at the end and Glenshaw Glass case means the government can tax income over which the taxpayer has complete dominion.   In my little Private Idaho the folks who run the Sacred Cattle Ranch would be limited to pre-ordering Sacred Cattle Fodder and pay for it now.   Their credit’s not so great.

                The integer deficit doesn’t matter as long as the accounting is sound.   Government might even have to put out something like a 401K, detailing its own actions and projections for the record. The current government budget process is bananas, all these skulking little courier Byzantine-era eunuchs running around under the Capitol Dome, resulting in metric tons of lying bafflegap called a Budget.

                 Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Blaise, Iraq is changing the subject, and a category error:  it’s a debt, not an ongoing deficit.  Out of order.

                I enjoyed your byzantine invocation of Byzantium, though.  I reckon there’s a point in there.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                How much did the Iraq War cost us?   I’ll agree with any number you come up with.   It is greater than a million and bigger than a breadbox.

                You’re right.  It be a category error to say we shouldn’t have fought the Iraq War, but that’s not my exact point.   We ought to pay for wars we fight, not put them on the tab.   We did in other wars and made our allies help us pay for them.

                The French Empire fought itself into debt  (backing our own War for Independence as a sideshow to the fight for the Caribbean) and foundered on the rocks of antique taxation law which hadn’t been changed in centuries.   Countries can collapse in odd ways.  Economies have changed and taxation has to adapt.   The 16th Amendment is a swollen appendix, just waiting for this country’s leadership to screw up.

                2008 was just the aircraft stalling at altitude. If this country doesn’t reform its budget making process and put the taxpayers back in charge of the government and put some air under the wings of this economy, we’re only going to see more of this brinksmanship.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Uh, that’s 180 degrees out of phase.   We return you to your regularly scheduled rant.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      Pretty much everything related to justice/fairness/equality/taste/the best ice cream flavor is in the eye of beholder. I think people are trying to have the discussion about distributional justice but posts like this aim to dismiss it with hand waving. We are at the point where things have to be cut and taxes raised and etc. As Tom, and much of the R’s in Washington,seem to be using the word “serious”, serious means cutting stuff that helps poor and middle class folk first while avoiding taxes on the rich.

      That the rich pay far more then everybody else seems like an obvious point: they have a huge amount of the money so of course they pay a lot. 10% of 100 mil is always going to be a lot more then 30% of 10 mil. What are the tax rates different groups pay and whose income has been growing and whose hasn’t.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      Rufus wasn’t making a tax point, other than just ot suggest that in this context some redistribution might be justified (if it ever is). 

      Actually, it wasn’t my post. I’ve stayed out of this conversation for the most part. It’s honestly hard for me to understand why it should bother me very much if the Waltons have a trillion dollars and a partridge in a pear tree. I’m not terribly concerned about that end of the social spectrum. I’m more worried about people like my parents who have been squeezed most of the way out of the middle class in my lifetime, despite having worked nonstop for decades. Granted, this is on my mind right now since my mother’s department was liquidated at Time Warner last week for no apparent reason and, as for my father, a few large grocery store chains are trying to squeeze the lobstermen as hard as possible to get their product for damn near free. So I’d much rather focus on the people who work hard their entire lives and keep getting their dominoes knocked over, and maybe we can work on addressing that. If, in the process of people like my parents getting paid better and treated better, the Waltons make another billion, it’s all fine by me.Report

  5. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Out of curiosity, Tom, how would you respond to the argument that the rich should pay a substantially greater percentage for government since they receive substantially greater access to government?  (I ask not as a challenge, but because I anticipate learning from/respecting your take.)Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

      The “access” argument doesn’t sway me, RTod.  Public sector unions are killing our balance sheet more than the Waltons, more than the military-industrial complex, esp if we factor in the state and local levels.

      Enviros have an outsized influence.  Should we tax them more?  Well, it’s a good thought, come to think of it. ;-P

      Tax fairness arguments don’t have much sway with me either.  They’re a luxury we can’t afford.  A flat tax would be more “fair,” but I don’t think we can afford it.  So we operate under the opposing [but also valid] premise, that somehow the rich benefit more from a functional government, and tax accordingly.

      The problem is, this new meme on “income inequality,” which ensures the continued survival of the left and class war.  No matter how high the rich’s “fair” share is set, we still have the “inequality.”  And that’s never going to go away.

      The most interesting point of the other threads was WSmith’s, that as recently as 1982, the Fortune 400 was lousy with DuPonts, but now there are none. This point was of course ignored.Report

      • Avatar David Ryan says:

        Forbes 400; Fortune 500.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        And if anybody was pushing for an end to absolute inequality of any sort you have have an argument instead of a strawman. Find me someone who wants to end all inequality and i’ll agree with you they are a fool.

        What you aren’t addressing is why do the rich have so much. The argument you are evading is that many people think they have so, so, so much because they have gamed the system. Most people are fine with rich being rich, they just object to having the game rigged.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

          Mr. Gregniak, by making even the concept of justice subjective, to derive scientia over mere “opinion,” the very goal of Socratic dialogue has been abolished.  By reserving the trump card of “you have your opinion, I have mine,” you make any joint inquiry with you a waste of time.  To participate in a symposium requires being a good sport.

          You’re also missing too much of what I’ve written, by uncareful reading and reflection, or simply that too much is going over your head.  In either case, restating my arguments to someone as hostile to them as yourself is again, a waste of time.

          I don’t care that the rich have “too much.”  That’s a concern of yours and [so far] only a minority of Americans.  Why y’all spend so much time marshaling the evidence of income inequality” is beyond me.  It is stipulated.

          Better you should do some math and demonstrate its significance.  As MarkT illustrated [as have I], numbers thrown about ominously but without context are meaningless.

          As is the speechifying about “inequality” and “justice,” since you have emptied the words of their underlying concept, and substituted your own meaning, you aren’t speaking to me or anybody else who doesn’t share your subjective definition.  This is useless in a symposium open to all comers, only in an echo chamber.

           Report

        • Avatar Roger says:

          Greginak,

          In a market economy the assumption is that they “have so much” because they created so much value for others. The market is a positive sum win/win process when played by the rules.  I assume Sam got rich by enriching hundreds of millions of people. He deserves our thanks, not our envy.

          Of course if you have proof that he instead got rich by fraud or force or theft or rent seeking… well please lay out your case for us. I will share your outrage if he did something wrong. You seem to just assume shenanigans, probably because you misunderstand the potential of economics.

          It really is tiresome to watch “progressives” throw out the same economic fallacies, have it pointed out to them and then see them just repeat it the next day.

           Report

      • Avatar b-psycho says:

        Public Government sector unions are killing our balance sheet more than the Waltons, more than the military-industrial complex, esp if we factor in the state and local levels.

        “defense” spending, as defined by the U.S. government itself (DOD + related activities under other departments), is to cross for 2012 a Trillion. With a T.

        Are you sure?Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

          I dunno, Mr. Psycho.  Do the math and bring it back to this here symposium since numerical literacy is the subtext here.

          [Defense spending, of course, being pretty much the only other arrow in the quiver of the “inequality” argument types besides taxing the rich more.]Report

          • Avatar b-psycho says:

            I looked up government employee union compensation and among the links I found was this PDF from the Cato Institute.  Their number given for total compensation of state & local workers was $1.1T (2008).  The focus on state & local makes sense, because most federal-level employees can’t do collective bargaining anyway, making the argument about government employee unions moot there.  The number I saw for all “defense” spending was a range of $1.03T – $1.4T (obviously some calculations are still being made).

            A few things about those numbers:

            • I tried to find a breakdown of how much of that spending is “private” military contractors,or if that were considered additional spending above the number listed, but got nowhere.  For the time being, I’ll be generous and assume that number is already baked into the pie.
            • If the low-end estimate is what sticks, then by a nose you have a point. How often does the government miscalculate costs skewing high though?
            • That said, for “defense” functions there’s really no true alternative to government operating at the moment, since even what is contracted out is paid for with tax dollars (in case you wonder why “private” gets quote marks). In comparison, local services can be obtained without the involvement of government at all.
            • Finally, since the Cato paper included a number for average private-sector compensation, I attempted to reverse engineer the government-sector number to see how much those services would cost if paid at the same rate as private employees.  The result was 972 billion — not much of a dent really.  And that’s arguably generous, since I can’t factor in whether any of those services convert to for-profit in any measure: this is simply take the same employees and system and cut their pay until parity.

            So, in summary, the two numbers are closer than I expected, but M.I.C. < G.S.U. is an idealist case for the former.Report

            • Avatar wardsmith says:

              B, Case in point would be San Diego and any other burb on a map of California you can hit with a dart while standing across the room blindfolded. The politicians kicked the can down the road, promised ever higher benefits and never accounted for them on the books.

              I personally know a retired police officer in San Francisco who worked the minimum time to get a pension (20yrs?) making $82K his last year on the force who now pulls down $104K per year, retired. We don’t need to talk about Bell, CA, too easy. These jobs are better than winning the lottery. In fact the cop’s benefits go to his wife when he dies. Economically unsustainable, San Diego is trying to fix the mess their politicians have made for them and of course are being sued by their public sector employees. Read all about it here. Now multiply by 50 (some worse than others and it would be unfair for me to point out that the blue states are the worst of the bunch so I won’t). 😉

               Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      how would you respond to the argument that the rich should pay a substantially greater percentage for government since they receive substantially greater access to government? 

      They already do pay more for that access–it’s called campaign finance.Report

  6. Avatar Liberty60 says:

    I am just repeating arguments made on previous threads, so if someone had a smashing riposte, feel free to link to it.

    Since wealth equals power, wealth inequality means too much political power in too few hands, exactly the outcome the Founders feared.

    The fact that all this power is in private, not governmental hands is irrelevant for me, since time and again, private power inevitably consumes government or just creates it outright.Report

    • Avatar Roger says:

      Liberty,

      You have defined yourself into a box.

      Wealth does not have to be used in a zero sum, win/lose way. Yes, it can be used in such ways, and history is filled with examples. The solution is a set of simple consistent rules that prohibit force, fraud and rent seeking. I could care less if someone else is rich as long as they do not use force or the state against me. No, that is not true… I HOPE others are rich as Midas, as long as they got rich by enriching other peoples (as did the Waltons). We need more rich, lots more. This is the path to wealth. Redistribution is the expressway of envy to poverty.Report

      • Avatar Liberty60 says:

        Roger, the separation of powers, checks and balance logic of the Constitution would seem to argue that power IS in fact a zero sum game, and needs to be carefully balanced so no one gets too much of it.

        You want fair rules that protect your liberty- well, great! But do you allow for the possiblity that some enormously wealthy entity can use its power to collude with the state to do exactly that?

        For example, passing a law mandating that you buy insurance from a small handful of companies?

        Or an even more bizarre hypothetical, the entity could persuade Congress to write them a check for a trillion dollars , and Congress would force you to pay for that?

        Or maybe even a private prison could lobby the legislature to pass draconian drug laws that would drive more customers to their prisons?

        And your strategy to resist that would consist of what? Sitting in a park in a drum circle? Writing sternly worded blog posts?

        Taking your business to another country in protest?Report

        • Avatar Roger says:

          Liberty,

          As Murali articulates, you are skipping a critical step in your argument.

          I totally agree that wealth CAN be used in negative, zero sum ways. But it can also be used to feed and shelter one’s family or to invest in new ideas or products.  Right?

          The problem is not wealth, nor is it unequal wealth or power imbalance, the problem (as well illustrated in your examples) is in destructive, win/lose interactions — especially those enforced via an activist regulatory system.

          The solution is totally obvious. A set of simple, consistent rules with non-partisan referees that prohibits direct win lose interactions such as theft, fraud, blackmail, rent seeking and barriers of entrance. I should be able to buy whatever soft drink I want, and anybody should be free to enter the soft drink market.

          As your examples reveal, the danger is in complex, active regulators. Once the playing field shifts from creating products and services that meet consumers needs into the byzantine world of regulations, rule wrestling and bureaucracy, the powerful incumbents have already one.

          I hope the Gates and Waltons and Oprahs are unfathomably wealthy as long as they get it by creating value for others and are not allowed to use it against us. The state is their weapon.

          Wealth is not the problem, it is the solution. Giving power to activist regulators is the problem. The fact that you want to give them this power in the name of justice or equality of outcome is both ironic and sad. The left has been brainwashed by their own economic ignorance to seek their own ensurfment.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

      “Power” is kind of the marxist riff.  Small “m,” not calling anyone a commie, but it’s a worldview and a vocabulary, and to many or most of us, a materialist and reductionist one.

      As previously asserted, public unions are dragging down the balance sheet bigtime, as much or more as those mysterious “powers that be” we refer to as “them” as opposed to “us.”

      Most people dig Wal-Mart [even in China, with 200 stores and Lord knows how many people employed making that Chinese junk we buy both here and there].  Most people don’t believe Wal-Mart makes them poorer.

      In the least, it makes them less poor, so if the price is 6 people named Walton having $70B and creating stupid museums, so be it.Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      Since wealth equals power, wealth inequality means too much political power in too few hands, exactly the outcome the Founders feared

      Its not clear that this is altogether the problem it is often touted to be. Wealth is of course one kind of power. Purchacing power. Purchacing power is translatable into political power if political power is on the market. Take political power off the market and you remove one of the biggest worries that people could legitimately have with wealth inquality.

      This is one good reason for campaign finance reform. Here’s the thing right? the kind of political system you want should as far as possible not be vulnerable to certain kinds of factors which would otherwise not be problematic. So if we have some feature of the world X, and X is not problematic except as it makes things in politcal system Y go to hell that much more quickly, the problem is not with X, but with Y. Campaign finance reform would go a long way towards correcting this problem.

      I am of mixed views about the tie between money and political power. Economic literacy tracks education (and therefore wealth). If the poor were to have more say in things, I predict worse policy outcomes (even for the worst off) not better.
      (updated at 4pm)Report

      • Avatar Liberty60 says:

        I agree, that if government were “off the market” economic inequality would not be so dangerous to liberty.

        But I just don’t see any method by which a democracy forbids the wealthy from participating in the process. All the various campaign reforms we have seen have been pretty ineffectual so far.

        I take issue with your last paragraph. You assume economically literate people will make better choices about policy.

        Looking at the smoldering wreckage of our economy, what evidence do you see that supports that assertion? Who, other than the “economically literate” was crafting policy?

        I’m not making the argument against education or intelligence; its just that the educated and intelligent are no less capable of being gullible and stupid than Joe the Plumber.Report

  7. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    There’s a surprising number of pithy quotes “said by Ben Franklin” that were neither ‘said’ nor ‘by Ben Franklin’.Report

  8. Avatar Scott says:

    These guys claim to have the answer and it involves taxing the rich but they don”t call it that. I enjoy how they rationalize it.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/19/opinion/dont-tax-the-rich-tax-inequality-itself.html?ref=opinionReport