The Real Moochers of America

Sághalie Latlah

Sághalie Latlah

Sághalie Latlah is a pro-trade neoliberal technocrat and unapologetic globalist. Sooner or later, he will enrage you.

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127 Responses

  1. Avatar Pinky
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    says:

    There’s plenty of social stigma for taking deductions. I hear complaints all the time about the fat cats cheating the system. I hardly ever hear people complaining about the poor receiving benefits – in fact, there’s more talk than ever about increasing those benefits. Income support, Medicare for All, guaranteed college tuition. No stigma, just disagreement.Report

  2. Avatar Chip Daniels
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    says:

    There is also the larger intangible of what we receive in benefit from the legal and social order which taxes support.

    For example, in other less ordered societies, a tremendous portion of any person’s wealth is diverted to paying for security when there is rampant crime, or access to clean water or disposal of waste when there isn’t a publicly available infrastructure. These usually show up as purchases, but they are actually taxes.Report

  3. Avatar Mike Dwyer
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    says:

    The tax code is tilted towards home ownership because there are a myriad of social benefits that come with it. You’re literally investing in your community and socially you begin to put down roots. That creates stability, relationships with your neighbors, commitment to a local school, etc. So I’m not particularly convinced that somehow we should look down on mortgage deductions. They seem to be very much a net good.

    On the other hand, as Pinky says, I don’t really hear a lot of people dogging those on welfare these days, and I travel in the circles that very much believe in bootstraps and personal responsibility. I think a lot of the cleanup of the system done during the Clinton years helped squash most of that.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Mike Dwyer
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      says:

      I will also note that while the writing trick in the OP of reversing the conversation is mildly clever, it’s also the kind of populist nonsense that does not play well in most of the country. Americans like home ownership and there is almost zero chance of convincing them they are somehow doing something bad by accepting tax credits as part of the deal.Report

    • Avatar Philip H in reply to Mike Dwyer
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      says:

      “On the other hand, as Pinky says, I don’t really hear a lot of people dogging those on welfare these days, and I travel in the circles that very much believe in bootstraps and personal responsibility.”

      Well Mike, check the recent headlines on work requirements for welfare as it relates to White House policy proposals, particularly on Medicaid. Or most state rhetoric in states run by republicans. You’d see a much different story.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Philip H
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        says:

        @phillip

        I don’t see working while on welfare as a severe policy proposal. That just kind of seems like common sense to me. But I also hear card-carrying Republicans these days also saying they don’t have problems with welfare as long as the people are also doing something to get themselves back on their feet. Of course, I hang around with actual human beings and faceless proxies for evil Republicans, so I might be skewing my anecdotal data.Report

        • Avatar Philip H in reply to Mike Dwyer
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          says:

          “workfare” has been the law of the land since 1996 or so. Current efforts to tie medicaid more strictly to work are estimated to throw hundreds of thousands of current recipients off the rolls, mostly in rural communities where they lack effective transportation as well actual job or educational opportunities. Yet Republican politicians at the state and federal level all over the US have latched on to the idea that there are ablebodied people laying around taking benefits and not contributing thus requiring this change. Your friends and coworkers may not think or speak that way, but many politicians who claim to speak for you are doing so quite regularly.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Philip H
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            says:

            @phillip

            .”Your friends and coworkers may not think or speak that way, but many politicians who claim to speak for you are doing so quite regularly.”

            I don’t recall any Independents taking that position.Report

            • Avatar Philip H in reply to Mike Dwyer
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              says:

              The senior senator from your state does all the time.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Philip H
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                says:

                I have done my best to see him retire but the Dems keep running turds against him. It’s almost like they want him to stay in office.Report

              • Avatar Philip H in reply to Mike Dwyer
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                says:

                My party of record has been way too focused on the WH for too long and has lost the long game on state level offices, including the US Senate. I had hoped after Doug Jones prevailed in Alabam they would change their tune, but after the most recent midterm its clear they haven’t.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Philip H
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                says:

                The first priority for Kentucky right now is getting rid of our governor. I don’t know if I have ever hated an elected official more. After that, we’ll start hoping that McConnell retires, but I think he takes his cues from John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay so he probably plans to just die in office.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Philip H
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                says:

                To beat my usual dead horse, it is surprising how geographic this has been. In the 13-state West, in 2016 and 2018, the Dems gained Senators, Representatives, governors, and state legislative chambers.Report

        • Avatar Zac Black in reply to Mike Dwyer
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          says:

          “Of course, I hang around with actual human beings and faceless proxies for evil Republicans”

          Well, at least you’re hearing from both sides.Report

    • Avatar Philip H in reply to Mike Dwyer
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      says:

      There’s also the whole “lets drug test welfare recipients” wing of the Republican party, even though every state that has done it reports the costs of the testing program then the fraud it uncovers. Because, you know, welfare recipients are all druggies . . .Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to Mike Dwyer
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      says:

      There are negative effects of home ownership as well – home owners can’t move as easily which leads to higher frictional unemployment.

      But leaving that aside, the problem with the mortgage interest deduction is that it doesn’t subside home ownership, it subsidies mortgage borrowing. After all, a household who owns a home unencumbered still provides the benefits you outlined and yet doesn’t benefit from the mortgage interest deduction at all.Report

      • Avatar pillsy in reply to James K
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        says:

        This last seems false. If I own a home outright, I benefit in numerous ways if it’s worth more (and suffer in a couple ways, like if my property taxes are higher). It may be hard to sell, but it will be worth more if I sell it (or I can sell it more easily by dropping the price), and it will also allow me to borrow more against it’s value should I need to do so.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to James K
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        says:

        @jamesk

        I think the purpose is to help people buy the home. By the time you are in the clear (20-30 years later) I think most of the social benefits have probably been realized. Typically people are raising their families during the first half of that loan.Report

        • Avatar James K in reply to Mike Dwyer
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          says:

          Then why not subsidise house buying directly instead of debt?Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to James K
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            says:

            There’s a really good argument to be made for using the tax code instead of direct subsidies to encourage certain behaviors. The tax code rewards behavior that has already happened. Subsidies are more ‘aspirational’ in that the good behavior hasn’t actually demonstrated yet.Report

            • Avatar Dave in reply to Mike Dwyer
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              says:

              “There’s a really good argument to be made for using the tax code instead of direct subsidies to encourage certain behaviors.”

              It’s why after the Bush tax cuts of 2001, which cut capital gains taxes significantly, you saw more property owners elect to sell and take cash as opposed to using tax deferral strategies such as like-kind exchanges or OP Units in a REIT that can be converted common stock in the future which would then trigger the tax event..Report

            • Avatar James K in reply to Mike Dwyer
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              says:

              If the subsidy is only payable on taking the action, then it is no more aspirational than a tax break. Besides which, this still doesn’t address my point. If home ownership is beneficial, why direct cash as borrowing money to buy a house, rather than simply at buying or owning a house?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to James K
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                says:

                @jamesk

                If the person gets the subsidy on Jan 1st, what happens to the money if they can’t pay their mortgage on June 1st and have to sell the house?Report

              • Avatar James K in reply to Mike Dwyer
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                says:

                What happens with property taxes? Same answer, a subsidy / tax break on home ownership would just be a negative property tax.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to James K
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                says:

                I disagree. With a subsidy, the government is giving you money i.e. taxes collected from someone else. Tax credits are just letting you keep your own money. Subsidies function as wealth redistribution. There’s a reason why the poor live in subsidized housing and the middle class and above are often paying mortgages and claiming deductions. And I’m not claiming we shouldn’t have subsidized housing. I believe strongly in social safety nets.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Mike Dwyer
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                says:

                With a subsidy, the government is giving you money i.e. taxes collected from someone else. Tax credits are just letting you keep your own money.

                While I understand the philosophical difference, at the end of the month the bank account balances are the same either way.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Michael Cain
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                says:

                Does it though? Are you suggesting that our money belongs to the government unless they specifically don’t take it?Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Mike Dwyer
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                says:

                “Are you suggesting that our money belongs to the government unless they specifically don’t take it?”

                Yes. This is true, in the most literal way possible.

                That is, taxes are not money that we gift to government like charity, and they are not the result of an impromptu negotiation every April.

                Taxes originate as a lien, a literal claim upon wealth.
                For example, here in CA, property taxes are 1% of assessed value, and a permanent lien is in place for every property, released only when the tax is paid.

                The government actually owns that 1% of your property. Always and forever.

                When you pay the tax, you are just giving to the government what it already owns and which was never yours to begin with.Report

              • Avatar James K in reply to Mike Dwyer
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                says:

                You are still not addressing my actual point – that even granting the premise that it is good policy to financially support home ownership, it makes absolutely no sense to support it by by encouraging people to borrow money. This will actually drive up house prices by making it cheaper to borrow, and leads to households holding more debt which exacerbates the economic risks of the housing market.Report

              • Avatar aaron david in reply to James K
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                says:

                Because the parts that make home ownership beneficial to society don’t come from solely residing in the house but in all of the actions that one takes to buy the home, along with the actions that one takes after they have ownership.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Mike Dwyer
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      says:

      See now, I think this is ridiculous, this whole “homeowners are connected contributors to their community, renters are shady transient elements we don’t want in our community” business.

      Many of the people I know who contribute the most to their communities – people who work with the homeless, social workers, addiction counsellors – they rent. Because care workers are simply not paid enough to own houses.

      Meanwhile, my neighbours who regularly had the cops called on them, where I several times ran over to break up a fight or help calm down an intoxicated and agitated person – they owned their house. If they were renters, they’d have been kicked out years before. I mean, they were good people and owning the house probably was a rock of stability in their lives that was tremendously helpful.

      But really, wealthy people tend to be able afford to buy houses, and wealthy people also tend to have more stable lives that make them good or at least non-bad neighbours. These are two effects of the same cause (wealth). Trying to make more one effect of wealth happen, by means other than increasing the wealthy of those who most lack it, isn’t going to make other effects of wealth happen.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to dragonfrog
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        says:

        Men are more likely to earn a good wage than women.
        Men are more likely to have a beard than women.
        How can we increase wage equality between the genders?
        I know! A tax deduction for beards!Report

        • Avatar Maribou in reply to dragonfrog
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          says:

          @dragonfrog As I come to enter perimenopause, and thus actually have a shot at growing some kind of beard, I find this proposal extremely seductive.

          (You weren’t pitching your satire at nonbinary folks though.)Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to dragonfrog
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        says:

        @dragonfrog

        “…this whole “homeowners are connected contributors to their community, renters are shady transient elements we don’t want in our community” business.”

        I think you are having a one-sided conversation there. Saying home ownership creates net positives doesn’t mean that non-home ownership makes someone shady. This isn’t a binary discussion.

        ‘…wealthy people tend to be able afford to buy houses…”

        And so do non-wealthy people. LOTS of them.Report

        • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Mike Dwyer
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          says:

          And so do non-wealthy people. LOTS of them.

          Sure. But the homes – and mortgages – that non-wealthy (fsvo non-wealthy) can actually afford aren’t large enough to actually afford you a tax benefit in excess of the standard deduction unless you have a lot of other deductions, which you probably don’t. That’s the situation I’m in.Report

  4. Avatar Philip H
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    says:

    now now you are starting to sound mighty progressive with all this “deductions are welfare” talk. Better dial that back or your neoliberal card will loose a corner.

    Kidding aside, I take issue with this quote:

    America’s tax system is fundamentally progressive, with the rich paying a higher marginal rate than the poor.

    That’s nominally true for earned income, but the rent you point out below it is often either compensated as capitol gains or through some other business structure that isn’t legally considered income. Thats how Warren Buffet famously says he pays less in taxes then his secretary. Addressing just that issue would go a long way to changing this whole ball o wax.Report

    • Avatar Dave in reply to Philip H
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      says:

      Addressing carried interest…

      Yeah good luck with that.

      That structure is most commonly used by real estate owners, especially in development deals. I’d think you’d want development seeing as it means union jobs and other middle class jobs.

      Doesn’t sound like a smart idea to me. Why make the cost to build more expensive?Report

  5. Avatar Michael Siegel
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    says:

    “It’s time to start admitting that not paying taxes is the exact same thing as receiving Federal benefits.”

    No, they’re really not. One is you keeping your own money. The other is taking other people’s money. A more accurate phrasing for when people get tax breaks is that someone else is paying their taxes. But it should be noted that when you account for all taxes — sales, etc. — the tax burden goes up dramatically with income. And the US system is far more progressive than most other systems, where you have to use heavy middle class taxes to fund social welfare systems.

    “They still pay property taxes, incorporated into their rent expenses.”

    Disagree with this statement. I’m a landlord and I pay taxes whether the place is rented or not.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Michael Siegel
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      says:

      I will also note that my wife and I make a solidly middle class income, own a home and have no dependents. We break even on our taxes. The tax code is heavily tilted towards parents, not home owners, so it seems like the message about home ownership might be much ado about nothing.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Michael Siegel
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      says:

      I agree with your point that keeping your money is different than taking other people’s money. But the truth is, when people get tax breaks, or receive benefits, or have lower rates, there really isn’t anyone paying the money to balance the accounts. The real moochers of America are everyone. We’re putting about 25% of our federal bills onto our national credit card.Report

      • Avatar JoeSal in reply to Pinky
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        says:

        Doesn’t the final tally have the currency value reach zero? I mean the account eventually gets balanced.Report

        • Avatar Pinky in reply to JoeSal
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          says:

          We’re shoplifting 25% of what we leave the store with. Eventually the accounts get balanced, sure. The shopkeeper loses money, or the cost of the items we do purchase goes up. Doesn’t make us any less moochers.Report

          • Avatar JoeSal in reply to Pinky
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            says:

            So is it Hyper-moochers, Super-moochers, or maybe Alpha-moochers?Report

            • Avatar JoeSal in reply to JoeSal
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              says:

              Also, are we supposed to act “surprised” when the currency value hits zero?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to JoeSal
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                says:

                I imagine that it will happen so slowly that people won’t really notice *OR* they won’t make causal connections.

                “Holy cow! I’m making $X/year!” they’ll think. “When I was a kid, that number seemed so far out of reach! I guess I’ve finally made it!”

                Followed by “I can’t believe it’s $5 for a pint of blackberries.”

                You’d need something like “Wow. I can’t believe that 80″ televisions are only $1200!” to help soften the blow.

                I imagine.Report

              • Avatar JoeSal in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Meh, it’s the years when zero becomes privileged.
                Like a tv runs $12,000,000,000,000.

                See all that privilege up in there? You’ll know it when you see it.Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to JoeSal
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                says:

                The currency value is another issue (although obviously it can be related). But it’ll never be zero. There’s an infinite difference between worth less and worthless.Report

              • Avatar JoeSal in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                So maybe on par with TP?Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Pinky
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            says:

            Massive tax cuts for the wealthiest, new passthrough for business owners, subsidies to farmers hurt by the trade war, tax hikes targeted at blue states.

            Which “we” would that be?Report

            • Avatar JoeSal in reply to Mike Schilling
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              says:

              “we” was deployed in the context of #ALLmoochers so I don’t know why you would be gaming whataboutism.Report

            • Avatar Pinky in reply to Mike Schilling
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              says:

              I was talking about the sum. We can argue about the fair proportions of taxes and benefits, but we can’t deny that the total income is less than the total payout.

              As a tangent, it’s impossible to quantify the benefit of a government action. First of all, they’re collective. Secondly, they’re incommensurable. Thirdly, they have higher-level effects. Take the ejection system on a military aircraft. It’s not just the pilot who receives a benefit from it; we all do. The most direct benefit is a pilot’s life. The economic effects extend to everything that comes from a fairly stable international political and economic system. Quantify that (and show your work).

              There’s a natural inclination to look at the most obvious costs and benefits of government, such as direct payments to individuals. The direct impact is more easily measurable: the amount on the check. We should perhaps focus more on the aggregate of the impact of the choices we’ve made.Report

              • Avatar JoeSal in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                I currently have no need for a military aircraft or the pilot, or the ejection seat. If I have full retention of the value of my labor I may have a considerable ability to hire one as needed.

                That is how subjective value works. If you think Government Value will win the day over subjective value then there may be a social truth problem somewhere in the overall scheme of things.

                You mention choices as if I have had any say in these choices.

                If I had my choice, I would not have created a social construct that was mathematically unsustainable. Period.

                I’m only jotting down notes to etch into the plaque at the bottom of the cliff where the social herd lands at. Not that far from where those other social herds landed at in the past.

                Now back to the important part :
                “Here lies a herd of
                Hyper-moochers, Super-moochers, or maybe Alpha-moochers?
                They landed here about 20??”Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                Voting for an all-GOP government is voting for massive deficits. That’s been true since 1980. It’s not a secret.Report

              • Avatar JoeSal in reply to Mike Schilling
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                says:

                Well no shet, and the country has been nearly half communist since the 60s. No secret.

                Do ya wanna double down on whataboutism a second time?Report

              • Avatar JoeSal in reply to JoeSal
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                says:

                Pointing at the other side and saying “they did it too!”
                doesn’t change my etching. You get that right?Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to JoeSal
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                says:

                They didn’t do it too. They did it, period, end of discussion.Report

              • Avatar JoeSal in reply to Mike Schilling
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                says:

                Social spending does it.Report

              • Avatar JoeSal in reply to JoeSal
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                says:

                “Here lies a herd of Super-moochers with some dressed in deficit hawk outfits.”Report

              • Avatar Dave in reply to JoeSal
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                says:

                Half communist? I guess reality is socially constructed after all and truth is whatever the f–k people say it is. Nice to know that this problem isn’t limited to the left…ok I actually did know but seeing it play out in OT is always a treat.

                I’m sorry, I can’t take a “half communist” comment seriously.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Dave
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                says:

                If you are interested in exploring the extent to which America is a Communist country, may I recommend Mencius Moldbug? (Content Warning: contains references to slurs and it’s a long essay (like, really really long) and Mencius is one of the fathers of the neoreactionary movement that evolved into one of the many tentacles of the Alt-Right.)Report

              • Avatar Dave in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Jaybird,

                I read it. I have more comments about that than I did about Kristen’s post in the other thread so if you want to hit up a few of the points and I”ll respond, that’s probably helpful.

                What’s interesting is that despite the fact that he’s written a very long anti-SJW manifesto (which is what this is more than an argument in favor of communism), his flagrant use of redefining language is similar to those he attacks.Report

              • Avatar Dave in reply to Dave
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                says:

                It also reminded me of this.

                https://areomagazine.com/2018/09/02/how-post-modern-conservatism-emerged/

                Welcome to your conservative “enemies” circa 2019.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Dave
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                says:

                I’m mostly interested in how I saw the argument that America is a Communist Country as significantly reframed.

                Once upon a time, I would have scoffed at the notion.

                Now? Well, I’m reminded of the comment made the other day about how the American Communist Party was the most successful party of the 20th Century because it actually *ACHIEVED* its planks.

                It went from a laughable claim to a surprisingly defensible one.

                In that light, the claim that America is half communist is one that I see as, potentially, worth taking seriously. (Which, let me point out, you said you couldn’t do.)Report

              • Avatar JoeSal in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Diana West covers the early history, Trevor Loudon covers the more recent.

                Past and a few present Communist Party USA Platform issues:
                -Provide free health care for everyone
                -Expand funding for HIV/AIDS programs
                -Provide reproductive rights and health care for women
                – Fully fund public education from pre-K through college
                -Increase federal spending for job programs for minorities
                -Raise minimum wage to living-wage standard
                -Expand Section 8 and other affordable housing measures
                -Do not privatize Social Security
                -Outlaw racial profiling
                -Abolish the death penalty
                -Institute alternative sentencing for non-violent crimes
                -End discrimination based on sexual orientation
                -Stop development and testing of nuclear weapons
                -Develop renewable energy alternatives
                -Increase access education for immigrants
                -Repeal tax cuts for the rich
                -Restore tax rates on the wealthy and corporations to 1970 levels
                -Repeal the Patriot Act
                -Fund enforcement of the Voting Rights Act

                My bet is that a majority of the candidates that will run for the Dems in 2020 will have associations with the The Council for a Livable World and of course the The Democratic Socialists of America.

                I could be wrong but there is a pretty thin line if any between communism and leftwardness these days.Report

              • Avatar JoeSal in reply to JoeSal
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                says:

                [I’m also sssuming Dave has read the Communist Manifesto and the planks involved, and there is not a need to list them here.]Report

              • Avatar JoeSal in reply to JoeSal
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                says:

                https://www.conservapedia.com/National_Lawyers_Guild

                versus

                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Lawyers_Guild

                (FTR this isn’t pointed at any lawyer types around here, yall appear to be on the up and up, mostly)Report

              • Avatar JoeSal in reply to JoeSal
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                says:

                Hmm, comment in moderation? then disappeared?
                We all good here, or did I cross a line somewhere?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to JoeSal
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                says:

                Did you edit the comment? I find that I’m pretty good with writing a comment with a link in it… but when I see that I screwed up my phrasing and edit it to fix it, it throws the comment into moderation, even though the original version was okay.Report

              • Avatar JoeSal in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                ahh, it showed upReport

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to JoeSal
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                says:

                There was one of those shocker articles way back in the early 70s where someone did a “man on the street” interview and read to them some of the US Constitution, and a bunch of respondents angrily said it sounded like the Communist Manifesto.

                I would like to repeat that experiment, except read them this list of planks and see how many people would sign on.
                For bonus hilarity, see what percentage of registered Republicans would do as well.Report

              • Avatar JoeSal in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                I figure more than half of the registered Republicans would sign on as if it were the way it always was.Report

              • Avatar JoeSal in reply to JoeSal
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                says:

                (with the exception of the abortion stuff….that’s going to be a hard point for awhile)Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to JoeSal
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                says:

                Would it be fair to say that there is also a pretty thin line between Republicans and Communists, then?Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                They call ’em Red States for a reason, Chip.Report

              • Avatar JoeSal in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                There are still enough hard points to distinguish maybe not a thick line, but a medium line.

                Still, they are considearably too agreeable with certain aspects of socialism for my taste.

                Independents have a center of mass that plots slightly left of center, so half of that faction you could make a good case that the line disappears completely.

                Hell, you could probably covertly run a communist as a Independent Centrist and no one would know the difference other than right wing anarchists, or ancaps.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Michael Siegel
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      says:

      Federal deficit last month was > $200 Billion. Someone’s not paying their share.Report

      • Avatar Philip H in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        Mostly because we stopped asking for it. Under Eisenhower the top marginal tax rate was 90%. By the days of Reagan is was 70%. Now I believe its 39%. And that’s top marginal rate for people who “make” most of their compensation as capitol gains (which are now taxed at 25%).Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Philip H
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          says:

          @phillip

          I know that Democrats dream wistfully of a 90%tax rate on the rich, but no one actually paid that rate back then. There were far more loopholes in the tax code at that time. Today we have a lower rate, but actually a far tighter system so it’s rougjly even.Report

          • Avatar Philip H in reply to Mike Dwyer
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            says:

            if it were even, adjusted for inflation, we’d have amuch smaller debt and deficit issue. The economics don’t work otherwise. And the rich don’t pay the lower rates on income either.Report

          • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Mike Dwyer
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            says:

            A variety of different approaches to the question suggest that at least for the US today, a top marginal income tax rate in the range of 65-70% would yield the most total revenue. Depending on the details of the actual tax system, there may be multiple peaks.

            (That is, something like the Laffer Curve really is a thing, it’s just that the peak is probably not where Laffer hypothesized.)Report

      • Avatar JoeSal in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        For the record, I was never in favor of the Fed opening back up.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        That’s due to spending. Since WW-II, federal revenue has remained at about 17% of GDP. The lowest was 13% in 1950, followed by 14% in 2010. The highest was 19.8% in 1945, followed by 19.75% in 2000.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Michael Siegel
      Ignored
      says:

      I’m also a landlord and I disagree with you.

      If the property taxes go up to the point where I’m losing money, I’m not going to swallow that loss if I can help it – I’m going to increase the rent until it covers the property tax.

      It’s the same with any business – all costs, including taxes, are passed along to the customer, along with enough headroom to make the business operator enough profit to make the effort and capital investment worthwhile. If the revenue can’t be made to accomplish that, you go out of business and sell off your business assets.Report

    • Avatar Dave in reply to Michael Siegel
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      says:

      I work for a real estate company. Market rental rates for residential property take into all property-level expenses. To the extent that the property is occupied is the extent to which you’re being reimbursed for those expenses. In my world, in the properties I’m acquiring, I prefer that we receive the rent payments but require the Tenant to pay the real estate taxes directly. If not, we pay the taxes and the tenant reimburses us.

      I don’t see why we’re making distinctions. I don’t fall into the “payers vs. moochers” mindset, and I already agree that people across the board receive benefits from government programs. I don’t need to think about it past that.Report

  6. Avatar JoeSal
    Ignored
    says:

    Another preacher from/for the Church of Needs.Report

  7. Avatar Em Carpenter
    Ignored
    says:

    I feel like I’m being punked by the commenters who say there is not much complaining about those receiving government benefits. To paraphrase (I think) Pinky from the other day:
    One of you needs to crack a smile or I’m going to think you are serious.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Em Carpenter
      Ignored
      says:

      I think there’s some cognitive bias involved. We’re fairly bimodal in our politics in the US, so either side can point to 40% of the population who’s against them. I notice people saying that the rich don’t pay their fair share because what they’re saying seems odd to me. I don’t even hear the people complaining about government benefits because they blend in to my thinking. In that sense, I think this whole article is flawed. I’d need to see proof of a significant increase in the thinking that Sághalie criticizes, and I really doubt that either of us has the right frame of mind to quantify it.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Pinky
        Ignored
        says:

        In other words, you admit to cognitive bias and then use that cognitive bias to dismiss the post based on a standard of proof you established based on your cognitive bias.

        Anytime someone qualifies a claim by saying “In that sense” when what proceeded it is a mountain of gobbleygook, my cognitive bias compels me to point it out.

        “I really doubt that either of us has the right frame of mind to quantify it.”

        For what it’s worth, I think Em is quite capable.Report

  8. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    The other day, I was going through one of the threads we had after the Big Gulp Ban was lifted.

    One of the undercurrents that showed up in the threads was that the people who drink Big Gulps are imposing health care costs on the rest of us. Just copying and pasting these excerpts from two different comments written by two different people:

    My take is that we’re subsidizing the soda companies so that they can sucker folks with health care costs. We, you and me, pay for that suckering in our insurance rates, our and our inflated health care costs. Do you have a fair way to get at that other then slapping on a sin tax, like we do with alcohol and tobacco?

    ——————

    IMO, the right to drink large quantities of soda in one cup is analagous to the right to drive without a seatbelt. The cost to overall rights and freedoms is as close to zero as possible and the gain to human welfare and lives saved may (it was an experiment, after all) have been fairly substantial. If good and just government is about balancing human well being with individual rights, and not exclusively and ideologically pursuing one or the other, the large soda ban was entirely just and good government, or at least it could have proven to be so if the experiment had been allowed to proceed.

    One thing that I see creep up over and over and over again in any system where it’s pointed out that *YOU* have responsibilities because We All Have Responsibilities To Each Other is the question “What in the heck is their responsibility to me?”

    When we, as individuals, feel that we have met our obligations to us, as a society, that’s when the tension begins. When others start asking for more, more, more, more despite, say, slurping down Big Gulps, we’re going to start seeing people defect. Or “mooch”.

    (Also: look at that deficit. We Are *ALL* Moochers. People proud of making the interest only payments because “they’re paying their fair share” are fooling themselves.)Report

  9. Avatar InMD
    Ignored
    says:

    I agree with the fundamental thesis, that we in the middle class shouldn’t look at these situations as a morality tale. They aren’t, and I think most people with less are behaving rationally within their circumstances.

    However, I also want to say take this sanctimony and get it off my lawn.

    Middle class families in this country don’t get the type of material handouts from the state they do in other first world countries. Our tuition bills, daycare bills, loan payments, doctor bills and all the rest of it are our own. Everyone who honestly thinks about it prefers the middle class life to the most probable alternative. But the reality in most high earning/high cost of living parts of the country is that success means becoming a middle man between your employer and your creditors. Getting there typically requires having a few advantages in life, the primary one being growing up in a basically functional middle class household. The rest is playing the game, getting the advanced degree, and treating every opportunity like a mercenary until you can finally both finance your debts and hold a decent standard of living (an outcome which is of course never guaranteed). Even then at the end of the day your ass can still get fired, you can still go bankrupt from medical bills, and the real estate market can still blow up in your face.

    Would I be willing to pay a little more for our model to look a little more European? Sure. The problem is I know every extra cent is going to be allocated towards weapons to point at some Arab on the other side of the globe or doled out based on the latest addendum to the progressive hierarchy of grievance. If the conversation was really about using our wealth to reinvest in ourselves I’d be all for it, but it isn’t, and I begrudge the argument that those of us still hanging on to the American dream are the assholes.

    So if the point is not to spit on people down the ladder, sure, but much the way I think they’re mostly acting rationally so are people a little higher up. I’m totally on board with talking about reforming the tax structure, or rethinking the way we administer benefits. What sounds like a waste of time though is encouraging enmity between groups of people whose standards are ultimately still precarious.Report

    • Avatar pillsy in reply to InMD
      Ignored
      says:

      It can be extremely hard to quantify what middle class folk get from the state, which is, if not exactly the point of this article, seems to be kind of adjacent to it. This means, among other things, that it can be extremely hard to pinpoint what we lose when we lose it, because it’s hidden behind layers of subsidies, tax advantages, and guaranteed loans, instead of directly affecting a number on your paycheck.

      There are a lot of reasons for this, but one, I think, is that there’s always been a belief on the part of the architects of our social programs (including the submerged parts like tax expenditures) that the recipients of those benefits should be steered into a certain way of life which is preferable to the alternatives. Drug testing for SNAP and work requirements for Medicaid are really in your face, but it’s not like there weren’t clear intended incentives behind letting people deduct their home mortgage interest or federally guaranteeing college loans.

      This, despite my general liberal technocratic inclinations, really bugs the hell out of me, both for libertarianish reasons (the state is going to create a mess and it’s paternalistic as hell) and for democratic reasons (these opaque schemes are much less accountable to the public).

      Forget about who is a moocher and who isn’t [1], I don’t think we can reasonably debate policy until we know what the current policy actually is and why, and the morass of tax expenditures are just one more thing that make it hard to figure that out.

      [1] OK, this may be where my more usual left-leaning impulses come in. I think figuring out who’s “mooching” is a mugs’ game.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to pillsy
        Ignored
        says:

        I think this unease was described by Bastiat in “The Law”. He argues that the only purpose of the law is to safeguard life, property, and liberty, but it is sometimes perverted into legal plunder, in which people use the law as a proxy where it “takes from some persons that which belongs to them, to give to others what does not belong to them.”

        You can detect a shift in tone when that happens. Instead of “How do we best pool our wealth to pay for essential projects and functions?” we hear angry cries of “Who should we go after?” which is essentially “Who haven’t we looted yet?” That’s a sign that people are trying to use the legal system to rob their neighbors, and when that happens nobody is safe. Everyone feels vulnerable, and many desperately try to point the mob toward someone else’s house. It does not result in social harmony, cohesion, or security.

        One of the features of Scandinavian countries is that everyone pays a very high income tax rate, even people who just make a thousand a year. They’re not trying to plunder each other or freeload. Estonia’s tax form was the size of an index card.

        One of the problems with having a complex tax system is that it can become highly targeted, and in response people often rely on their own representatives to shield them, which turns government into a protection racket.Report

        • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to George Turner
          Ignored
          says:

          Did Bastiat provide a handy cheat sheet as to how one differentiates between the proper exercise of state power to safeguard “life, property, and liberty” and the exercise of state power to “to give to others what does not belong to them”?Report

          • Avatar Maribou in reply to Chip Daniels
            Ignored
            says:

            @chip-daniels He did, and you can see excerpts from it easily at his Wikipedia page without going to a whole lot of effort.

            he was also writing in the relatively immediate context (ie in the same country, in the decades just following) the French revolutions and their aftermaths, which shaped his opinions as much as WW2 shaped the notable thinkers and writers of 1950-1970 (of multiple different ideologies), and for that matter continues to affect our political philosophy today.Report

            • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Maribou
              Ignored
              says:

              I know, and IMO he shared the same blindness of his contemporaries like Locke and Jefferson, which is that they were born into a class which tremendously from monstrous injustice and their efforts weren’t intended to deliver justice “to all” but rather, just delete the specific bits of government which they found irksome.

              For example, they were landowning members of the upper middle class who had no trouble whatsoever with the ugly circumstances by which the land in Europe had come to be divided up leaving the mass of people landless serfs.

              For them, this was just, y’know, how things came to be, no reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater!

              But the burdens of supporting Church and Crown (the same Church and Crown which created their land claims in the first place) felt heavy to them.

              So they naturally drew a line around the parts of government which they enjoyed, and cast out any parts they didn’t in some arbitrary Sorting Hat which decides that for example, socialized firefighting is somehow “defending life”, but socialized medicine is not, or socialized policing is “protecting property” but building codes are not.Report

              • Avatar Dave in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                “So they naturally drew a line around the parts of government which they enjoyed, and cast out any parts they didn’t in some arbitrary Sorting Hat which decides that for example, socialized firefighting is somehow “defending life”, but socialized medicine is not, or socialized policing is “protecting property” but building codes are not.”

                Naturally…

                ???Report

              • Avatar Maribou in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                @chip-daniels
                “I know, and …”

                Then why did you bother to ask?Report

      • Avatar InMD in reply to pillsy
        Ignored
        says:

        I agree with all of this, not least the footer. I also think having a bunch of paternalistic strings to welfare programs is at best counterproductive and at worst an excuse to kick people when they’re down. I don’t like it and I don’t think it serves anyone well. You also I think laid your finger on the real question, which is what is the policy. Failure to answer that is part of why our tax code and welfare state is such an incoherent mess.

        The framing of the OP IMO gets it all wrong.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy
        Ignored
        says:

        Second the [1]. As much as ‘moochers’ offend my sensibilities, every system is game-able and will be gamed. The CBA has to be such that measures to prevent gaming have to save us more than they cost us.Report

  10. Avatar Brandon Berg
    Ignored
    says:

    This is very poorly reasoned. Yes, there’s some sense in which everyone “pays taxes,” but there are people who pay more in taxes than the government(s) spend(s) on them, and there are people who pay less. And yes, most people spend part of their lives in each category, but the fact remains that the net present value of some people’s lifetime net fiscal impact to the government(s) is positive, and there are others for whom it is negative. And no, the former category does not consist primarily of welfare recipients, and the latter does not consist primarily of wealthy homeowners.

    The idea that tax deductions are welfare for the rich is utter nonsense. First of all, most tax deductions are either capped or phased out at high incomes, such that they’re rounding errors for the truly wealthy. The only significant deductions for incomes in the millions per year were SALT and charitable donations, and the 2017 tax reform capped SALT at $10,000, so now it’s just charitable donations.

    More importantly, though, think about what happens if deductions go away. You don’t have to speculate—it already happened back in the 80s, and again in 2017. That’s right: Marginal rate cuts! While opinions may differ wildly between individual legislators, Congress as a whole has a pretty good idea of how much money they need to raise and how they want the burden of taxation to be distributed. If deductions get cut, the government is likely to cut rates to compensate.

    So the way a deduction works, essentially, is that the government takes a bunch of your money and says, “If you buy the items on this list, you can have some of it back.” That’s not welfare—it’s extortion. And it’s not good for anybody. It’s better to have your money to spend however you want than to have the government put strings on some of it.

    This is not to say that the SALT deduction and mortgage interest deduction are good policy. They’re not, and cutting them back in the 2017 tax reform bill was a good thing. But they’re bad because of their effects on incentives, not because of their effects on the overall distribution of the tax burden.Report

    • Avatar Philip H in reply to Brandon Berg
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      says:

      Legislators have a great idea of how much money they want to spend – but they also have a great idea that keeping marginal tax rates low (especially for upper incomes where capitol gains taxation kicks in) is a good thing, which means 1/3rd or so of what the federal government does in not covered by taxes collected. There are really only two options – raise rates to collect more taxes or cut programs. And by cut programs i mean massive cuts. Pretty much ALL of the Executive branch functions would have to go, including the law enforcement and environmental protection and defense ones. Or the mandatory spending would have to all go – which has been a conservative goal since Roosevelt decided that colored people deserved to not die in poverty at old age. There’s no other solution. We haven’t cut our way to greater growth. We’ve tried for 40 years and it has failed miserably.Report

  11. Avatar Road Scholar
    Ignored
    says:

    And so do non-wealthy people. LOTS of them.

    Sure. But the homes – and mortgages – that non-wealthy (fsvo non-wealthy) can actually afford aren’t large enough to actually afford you a tax benefit in excess of the standard deduction unless you have a lot of other deductions, which you probably don’t. That’s the situation I’m in.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Road Scholar
      Ignored
      says:

      When I was a kid, my parents had a mortgage interest rate in the teens. It was like 16% or something. (I remember my first savings account in 1980 had an interest rate of 10%. I boggled at how, in 1981, I’d have one hundred and *TEN* dollars instead of merely one hundred. And the only thing my money would do is sit there!)

      When we moved to Colorado in 1990, my mom’s mortgage rate was 9%. She couldn’t believe it.

      My rate is in the 4’s.

      I have co-workers who were able to get one in the 3’s.

      My parents didn’t take the standard deduction, even though it meant keeping a million receipts.
      The amount of work I’d have to do to keep the receipts and the sorting of everything to make itemizing worthwhile is not worth the amount of money I’d get back (and certainly not the piece of mind I get from knowing I’m not going to get audited) so I take the standard.

      The tax benefits of home ownership have changed dramatically in the last 40 years. There’s more going on than merely policies that benefit the wealthy.

      I mean, unless we’re willing to redefine “wealthy” broadly enough to cover people who merely consider themselves “well-off”.Report

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