Is stealing ever right? If by “steal” you mean “the use of force to transfer wealth against somebody’s will” then we do it all the time — it’s called taxes. (If you have another definition of stealing I’d be interested in hearing it)
The topic came up today while I was reading this interesting article about using taxes to try to help the poor. the article is titled “A Nation of Thieves” and it’s by Walter Williams, who teaches economics at George Mason university.
I’ve got to admit I agree with Dr. Williams, as wacky as he first sounds. I am not an active participant in deciding how much I should be taxed or where that money goes — all of those decisions were mostly made in social legislation since the 1930s. Most of it happened long before I could vote, and there’s zero chance of any of it going away. So from where I sit, I’m being taxed without my permission or participation (although with some sort of pitiful excuse at representation — who knew politicians could screw up one of the simplest ideas we have?)
Do we need taxes? Absolutely. The founding fathers found out quickly that you can’t raise an army, provide for the common defense, or even pay the Sargent at Arms without some kind of money coming in from the people. But that’s a long and far distant cry from today, where we work a huge chunk of the year to finally pay the government for all the “goodness” it does for us.
I was just finishing that article when I turned to Steven Malanga’s article, Anti-Business States Awash in Red Ink. Malanga does an excellent job of describing how states with “progressive” and many times anti-business policies are spending way more than they can pay for. In a time where the national debt is through the roof (and most of it is because of social spending, not the Iraq war, no matter what you’ve heard), there are some similarities.
Malanga starts with:
Shortly after he was confirmed as governor of New York earlier this year, David Paterson told a group of business executives that when he received congratulations from old friends he hadn’t heard from in years, he was surprised how many no longer lived in New York. “All of them basically said the same thing,” Paterson told the group. “‘Good luck in New York state, but we can’t pay the taxes. The opportunities aren’t there.’”
But certainly all of this taxation has come to some good. For instance, out of the current $9.6 Trillion we are in debt, over half of it went directly to programs to help the poor. A great majority of the rest went to other social programs, like Social Security, that directly impact the poor but are not poverty programs.
Williams makes the point in his “thieves” article:
Much of the justification for the welfare state is to reduce income inequality by making income transfers to the poor. Browning provides some statistics that might help us to evaluate the sincerity and truthfulness of this claim. In 2005, total federal, state and local government expenditures on 85 welfare programs were $620 billion. That’s larger than national defense ($495 billion) or public education ($472 billion). The 2005 official poverty count was 37 million persons. That means welfare expenditures per poor person were $16,750, or $67,000 for a poor family of four.
Note those numbers don’t include Social Security, Medicare, private charity, etc.
If you’re poor and living in a family, are you getting your 50 thousand bucks or more? Ever wonder why the government employees all have a powerful union? Think you’re ever going to get rid of all of those employees standing between you and “your” money? Or do you think we’ll just get more employees, more “feel good” laws, and more taxes?
I’m not trying to be cynical. I simply ask the reader to look at history and facts and make a reasoned prediction.
States that are running out of money? They’re going to the Feds, claiming they were denied their “fair share” of all the federal tax goodies. The Feds? They’re simply borrowing more and more, having learned that printing money doesn’t work, now we’re simply running it all up on the national credit card.
In my opinion, that’s an honest appraisal of our economic situation. I doubt you’ll hear much of this from the candidates, though. They’re too interested in new programs, new promises, and new voters. The old programs, promises, and voters have made the decision to stick us with the bill — and those guys are long gone.
Wonder how our kids will feel about us?
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