I've been thinking a lot about Barack Obama and his tax plan. I'd prefer to spend my Saturdays thinking about college football, but since an Obama Presidency may force me to get a second job, well, here I am. Steve Charnovitz has a great letter today in the Wall Street Journal, commenting on the Journal's excellent piece entitled Obama's 95% Illusion. Here's what he said: Your editorial is very helpful in pointing out that Sen. Barack Obama's plan would allow 44% of U.S. taxpayers to enjoy no federal income tax liability. Such a policy is wrong in principle. If America is going to use an income tax to pay for the federal government, then all income earners should have to pay some tax.
Whenever any citizen is exempt from having to pay taxes, the untaxed citizen has little incentive to insist upon a responsible government. If we allow the tax rolls to fall to 56%, then we will soon be dangerously close to a tipping point where the majority of the public has no stake in insisting that politicians stop wasteful federal purchases and subsidies to special interests.
There are a couple of important things related to this letter that I think need to be addressed:
First, it is increasingly clear that Barack Obama's primary constituency is the non-tax payer. Because Obama's tax plan gives cash payments to those who don't pay any taxes at all, it amounts to another form of welfare. As the Journal points out:
The Tax Foundation estimates that under the Obama plan 63 million Americans, or 44% of all tax filers, would have no income tax liability and most of those would get a check from the IRS each year. The Heritage Foundation's Center for Data Analysis estimates that by 2011, under the Obama plan, an additional 10 million filers would pay zero taxes while cashing checks from the IRS.
So, Obama's plan is geared to increasing the number of non-tax payers. He is not trying to assist them in getting jobs that would help them earn enough money to pay taxes in the first place. Rather, by transferring wealth from tax payers to non-tax payers, Obama is actually enshrining a new and larger underclass -- dependent on government handouts for their livelihood. This is, of course, regressive. But it meets Obama's desire to make a large voting class permanently indebted to the Democrats.
Second, we are on a slippery path to having a majority of the nation being dependent on the innovation, hard work and entrepreneurship of a shrinking tax paying class. This is both unfair and unhealthy for the country. A permanent dependent class will be an economic burden and ultimately a killer for economic growth, because it will require new and ever higher taxes to support. What is the motivation for innovation if you know that 50, 60 or 70% of your income will go to supporting people who either don't work or don't pay taxes? How is that equitable?
It isn't equitable. And even worse, it totally ignores human nature. Multiple studies of welfare recipients have shown clearly that people want to be self-sufficient -- there is no pride in taking handouts. People want to feel proud about their lives and the work that they do. I don't believe that they want to be treated like children. The welfare reform of the 1990s proved that putting in place incentives for people to find work is effective. When given the right motivation, people find jobs for themselves. It's basic human behavior.
Unfortunately, Obama and the "well intentioned" Democrats have never understood this basic fact. The opposed welfare reform because they didn't think people could pull themselves up and provide for themselves. Their basic assumption is that we are not capable of taking care of ourselves. And now they are planning a system that will be a massive new entitlement program -- funded on the backs of those who get up every morning and go to work. It is destructive and will result in a massive new dependent class which society will have to deal with for generations.
Is this the kind of country America will become? A Democratic-socialist state with ever higher taxes and ever lower productivity?
This is the America that Barack Obama envisions. His tax plan proves it.