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Tax Cut Morality

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There’s a good post by Ned Resnikoff up at 

“The non-existent moral case for tax cuts” outlines the Tea Party and elite argument for cuts: 

It goes like this: We earned this money. We deserve it. It is therefore immoral to take it from us. 

Resnikoff correctly points out that the argument is silly because it is impossible to give an accurate accounting for how much of a role circumstance and environmental factors played in achieving that wealth, and how much of it was sweat equity. 

The word “deserve” is extremely loaded, and eminently debatable: 

When you control for environmental, genetic, social, historical, and biological factors, what differentiates my own distinguishing features from Charles Manson’s — or, for that matter, Obama’s, Palin’s, Lincoln’s or yours — is either imperceptible or completely nonexistent. And if that’s the case, I don’t see how you can argue that either of us deserve more or less than any of those people. 

What this suggests to me is that the only way you can coherently argue that a person inherently deserves a certain level of privilege or material comfort is to also argue that all persons deserve it, by virtue of their personhood. We already have language to describe these things that all persons innately deserve: we call them rights. 

If this is so, and I personally agree that it is, then the argument from the right is pure bluster and a manifestation of privilege. 

The conclusion is one that I am also convinced of. It is, however, not a subject  that you can discuss with extreme partisans: 

Mostly it falls back to a question of economics: how to balance the state’s ability to provide needed services for all citizens, including its most needy, while preserving a capitalist system which rewards achievement, and therefore (one would hope) innovation, productivity and excellence. 


October 1, 2010 - Posted by | Deficit, Democrats, Economics, Politics, Republicans, Tax Debate, Tea Party | , , , , , , ,


  1. While I find it astonishing that the Conservatives argue for tax cuts for richest members of our society, Resnikoff rightly points out that this is fundamentally a question of how to balance the principles of capitalism with the need to take care of all citizens. He may be correct that it’s not helpful to think of this in terms of who “deserves” what, but rather what rights we are all entitled to by virtue of our personhood. Once the Right and the Left put aside the abundance of misinformation, the question of basic rights is often at the heart of the divide between the two sides.

    Comment by politesmile | October 1, 2010 | Reply

    • I agree.

      It’s just that most on the right do not see many things as rights, and adopt a libertarian attitude — until something terrible happens to them and they need assistance.

      My take on it is that people have the right to opportunities. In concrete, this takes the form of education, healthcare, and equal treatment financially and under the law.

      Conservatives and many Democrats have adopted a worship of free market Capitalism that does not address it’s shortcomings.

      “Social Darwinism” is at the heart of this movement.

      The question is, how do you make zealots understand that taking care of all citizens benefits everyone (as self-interest seems to be their only motivation).

      Comment by wcward57 | October 1, 2010 | Reply

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