“Poverty” in America, Part III: The Misleading “Solution” of More Taxation

One oft-championed road out of “poverty” in America, advocated by the aforementioned Kos writer and others, is through tax increases to fund assorted social-welfare programs nominally directed toward aid for the poor. Advocates ignore this model’s greatest flaw: inefficiency.

For two decades, I’ve wondered how the enormous bureaucracy of government, with all its red tape and layers upon layers of salaries and overhead, is the solution to the problem of American “poverty”. Who in their right mind, I’ve asked, thinks that big government can help the “poor” more swiftly, nimbly, and effectively, with more rapid return on the dollar, more situational familiarity and a lower rate of chronic dependency, than charitable aid at the local level? National, large-bureaucracy programs take a one-size-fits all approach, almost out of necessity, since they aren’t familiar with local problems and local solutions. More on that later…

As for the rich (or anyone else) who advocate more taxes, such as the Kos writer? Pay attention, for I am calling your bluff, right here, right now. Put your money where your mouth is. Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk. Stand up for your principles. Live by what you advocate. How? Take my longstanding “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is Tax Challenge”, which is this:

The government will take payments in any amount through pay.gov. Show how true you are to your ideals and pay, on your own, the extra amount you think you should.

Or, do you selfishly advocate that higher taxes apply only to others?

Which way is it?

If you advocate that your income bracket pays more, then…do it! Nobody is stopping you. It’s simple and easy to pay. Do you have the courage of conviction to take my challenge? If not, there goes your credibility in that argument too, because you refuse to back it up with your own behavior. “Do as I say, but not as I do.” Well, I once lived in Missouri, so…show me. Don’t be a hypocrite! Pay the extra amount you think should go to the government that you seem to believe is so streamlined and effective at eliminating poverty.

Yes, that means you, Elizabeth Warren, naturally gifted with verbal eloquence and expository skills, but misguided in your lack of non-bureaucratic solutions. That means you, Warren Buffett, who benefited from the system but won’t give back your own proposed rates in this way. That means you, George Soros, big rich guy who wants higher taxes. That means you, Michael Moore, big rich guy who wants more taxes. Pay them now! Why wait for government to force the issue? Take my challenge. Will you do what you say, or do your pseudo-populist proclamations melt away like burning flesh in the hellish heat of reality’s kitchen?

I’ve been challenging advocates of higher taxes for years this way, and nobody–I mean not one person–has had the guts to take my challenge. That sort of spinelessness and unwillingness to stand up for one’s ideals, to me, manifests the very selfishness and greed that advocates of higher taxes and more bureaucracy (like Warren B. and Mrs. Warren) belittle.

It’s not a matter of national-debt elimination–which raising taxes on “the rich” a thousand times over won’t accomplish anyway. [By the way, who are “the wealthy”? What is the unambiguous, consistent threshold for “rich”?] It’s simply a matter of principle. That’s all. Who will stand up for their principles on this? Anyone? I wait patiently, as crickets chirp outside the window and a lone clock ticks wistfully in a dark corner of the room. Tick, tock, tick, tock…snooze. Wake me up when somebody actually lives up to their professed ideal there.

Are there problems of greed and corruption in America? Absolutely! This applies to the ilk of Ken Lay and Bernie Madoff, but also and equally, to every single welfare parasite. Yes, there are rich folks who didn’t earn it. The unearned rich get far less respect from me as a result; for they share with shameless welfare moochers the common denominator of unjustified attitudes of entitlement.

No economic stratum has a monopoly on greed. It just manifests differently. A minority of the rich take bailouts and kickbacks, and fleece the public and corporate coffers through schemes of varying legality. A minority of the “poor” flip public aid into drugs, alcohol, flat-screen TVs, cell phones and/or Air Jordans via their own little schemes of varying legality. I’ve seen it at both ends and in between. Greed is human nature crossing all bounds of income and society. Don’t ever pigeonhole all rich as greedy and all poor as victims; that’s unadulterated BS. And I say that as someone offering intimate familiarity with roaches, rats, leaky ceilings, ceaseless collection-call harassment, and the sounds of gunshots and sirens in the night.

Despite the sound-bite mischaracterizations aimed at fiscal conservatives like me by the left, the truth is that I do not defend corporate or personal greed. I don’t defend predatory lending practices, medical overbilling, or an avalanche of fine print (though it is everyone’s responsibility to read and understand every word of a contract they sign). Who really does want predatory financial crime, except for a pathological 1% of 1%? To paint any anti-tax advocate with that label is irresponsible, misleading, over-simplistic, ignorant, disingenuous, diversionary and cowardly. Don’t try to apply the label to me because it won’t stick.

Greedy corporate thieves and rapacious big-bankers? Lock ’em up! The place for criminals is incarceration, and that includes white-collar thieves like Madoff, Lay and anyone else who breaks laws. If you don’t like what some financiers (in any field) have done that is technically legal, work and lobby to make their actions illegal through legislative processes, and hope the laws stand the test of constitutionality.

Of course faultless misfortune exists, and there is a (limited) place for welfare. Don’t you think I, of all people, know this? Go ahead, use heartbreaking, real-life examples of honest and terrible events to (mis)characterize the entirety of public-aid recipients as such. Only an delusional sadist will deny the existence of legitimate stories of need. I’ve seen many. I know and love someone (my elderly, senile, blind mom) for whom I cannot provide necessary direct care, and who is justifiably dependent on state and federal help. Who argues that situations like hers aren’t deserving targets of what should be the last-ditch options of public aid, in combination with private charity? But I’ve also known plenty who game and cheat the system out of more than they are entitled–including those who are both needy and greedy!

And don’t try to lay some sort of false guilt trip on us with “self-made” capital that we are somehow responsible for “helping” others solely via big-government spending of our tax money. No, no, a thousand times no. Far from it! We as responsible citizens (and especially those of us of faith) rightly are responsible for helping others however is the most efficient, beneficial and direct–and most often, that is NOT through big government.

This is where the pompous, finger-wagging, schoolmarm style scolding by Elizabeth Warren about “social contracts”, and others of similar mindset, either speak from within the cage of a politically convenient delusion, or deliberately offer a disingenuous red herring for the sake of emotional appeal. Yes, the roads to our factories were built and are maintained with taxes. Yes, police protection is paid for that way. Irrelevant!

No conscientious fiscal conservative that I know advocates elimination of all financial aid to the poor, or of student loans. None of them (us) call for elimination of highway funds to transport goods and people, food inspectors, storm forecasters, national-disaster aid, or other economically essential, taxpayer-funded infrastructure and public-protection functions that cross state lines by necessity. The argument that any factory owner got where he is partly through such “help” is factually true but meaningless; as I don’t offer such things for utter elimination at any governmental level.

Instead, I offer the idea that a great deal of aid to the truly unfortunate is best done away from the tentacles of the governmental hydra. I understand the reality of it from the other side, from directly within the envelope of what we call “poverty” in the USA. As such, I’ve seen first-hand that the governmental method of throwing more money at the problem won’t solve it.

Government hasn’t solved American “poverty” in twenty decades of trying. What makes higher-tax advocates think that will change? It won’t, no matter how much money we feed to the red-tape-covered entitlement monster and mass-promoter of public-dependency addiction that is big government. We cannot tax our way out of “poverty”.. Ever. More of the same failed idea only means more failure.

Remember this: every dollar spent on taxes is a dollar not donated to charity or spent creating jobs on Main Street.

“Poverty” exists nationwide, but is not a national problem in the sense of what works well. Helping the downtrodden has limited governmental justification, but is far more a local problem with local solutions. In Part IV, sometime in the next few days or weeks, I’ll cover examples of some, and suggest ways you and I can help the poor far more directly, fulfillingly and efficiently, both through charity and supporting job creation, than via the money you are forced through legal compulsion to fling at the bloated bureaucratic pig.

I’ll also suggest some ways the big pig can help. [Hint: get out of the damned way!]



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