Monday, November 28, 2011

Questioning Authority

My daughters love the Disney Channel Movie "Lemonade Mouth" and one of the messages of the movie (and I am assuming the book of the same name) is to question the motives of authority, to challenge the status quo. I kind of like that notion.

In the adult/political world, we don't see enough of that. In the modern (and by modern I mean in the last three years), debate about the "rich" paying their "fair share" of the tax burden and the rise of the "patriotic millionaire" who asks to be assessed higher taxes (but doesn't voluntarily part with his/her money to the government), the class warfare has gotten pretty nasty but few people have taken the time to explain why the so called "conservative" rich people don't want to pay more in taxes. Well, Victor Davis Hanson has done that in Why Not Pay Higher Taxes?

I think a few disclaimers are in order:

1. I am not part of the $200,000 plus crowd and while 10 years ago I might have wanted to be, I am happy with my life as it is now. But while I am not inclined right now to seek inclusion in that "1%" and I don't harbor any resentment of those are in that category, either by hard work or by luck or by talent, or more likely the combination of the three.

2. While I am technically part of the so-called 99%, I certainly don't identify with the economic message of the Occupy Wall Street crowd, i.e. tax the 1% so they are paying their "fair share." I begrudge no one the money they earn so long as they earn it or don't steal it out of my bank account or off my labor.

3. I am NOT opposed to a social safety net, so don't think me callous. But I believe that the social safety net, i.e. welfare, food stamps, unemployment assistance, free medical care through Medicaid, etc. are a hand up when you fall or are pushed down. But they should not and cannot be a hand out.

4. I am NOT opposed to paying taxes. However, I am a believer in a limited government, which means my tax dollars should be spent ONLY on those functions which government MUST do, i.e. those things and powers that are granted to the government because it is part of the social compact.

So with those disclaimers in mind, I think that Hanson has nailed a few items on the head. While Hanson lists it third, I think it is the most important:
3) Wise Spending?

Then there is the manner in which the collected money is spent. It is not true to say Great Society programs have not helped millions, but it is legitimate to ask “at what cost?” came the expansion from a safety net to a sort of guaranteed livelihood. The spread of food stamps to almost 50 million recipients, the increase in unemployment to 99 weeks, the plethora of housing, health, and education supplements — all that creates not just necessary charity, but a mechanism for millions to find an alternative lifestyle, where subsidies, occasional cash, off-the-books work, and “other” activities can supplant work. Mindless “Black Friday” splurging is not just done by the well-off. Once legitimate questions have simply became taboo: “Do you make enough to support that additional child? Do you really think you needed to buy that flat-screen TV? Do you avoid alcohol and drugs?” To inquire like that is to earn liberal invective, but not to is intellectually dishonest.
When some states, such a Florida, proposed requiring drug testing as a requirement for receiving state welfare payments, the liberal crowd got all exercised. But the fact of the matter is, asking that question is not only legitimate since it relevant to the question of what welfare monies will be spent on, but it probably moral since the money that is being given to recipients is not the state's money. In fact since Florida doesn't have an income tax, it is more likely my money--at least in part-- a result of when I visit Florida and pay sales, hotel and other "tourist" taxes.

However, while the Occupy Wall Street crowd, and the liberal elite, question why the rich don't want to pay more taxes, the same folks never ask the question of whether we are spending the money in a wise manner. We never ask the analogy to the "Do you have the money for that big screen TV?" which is "Do we as a nation/government/state have a need to spend money on that social program or weapons system or governmental agency?" That question is not routinely asked at ANY level of government or by either party (yes GOP, I am looking at you). When the question is finally asked, it is always asked in the context of recession or fiscal emergency. Such a question is never, ever asked in times of plenty, despite that obvious and visible evidence that an economic down turn will occur as surely as the sun rises in the east.

Furthermore, what the 1% are implicitly asking when they object to paying more in taxes is why are we as a society asking the tough question of our political leaders; is that really a wise or necessary use of our tax dollars? What the 1% are saying is, why aren't the 99% questioning authority?

We don't ask the question enough, that is we never put our political leaders' feet to the fire and question their authority, to question their motives in what they are doing, in essence, we don't challenge the status quo. So when the demand for the rich to pay more (whether it is fair or not) is met with a question of why should they pay more, the response from the liberal thinker is "because you are rich." It is never, what you do you mean." The response is "you are greedy." The response is not to question authority or the status quo, but to challenge the very people who are questioning authority or motives.

Much like the kids in Lemonade Mouth, the 1% are challenging the status quo and they are right to do so. In the end, the kids in Lemonade Mouth are called geniuses and revolutionaries. Maybe the lower end of that 1% will be seen as such as well.

Check out my soccer blog at Nutmegs and Stepovers

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