Americans face automatic tax hikes at the start of 2013 that would cripple a barely limping economy. But the federal government is running astronomical budget deficits, borrowing 40 cents for every dollar it spends. What to do?
Many Republicans have signed the “no tax hike” pledge produced by Americans for Tax Reform, headed by Grover Norquist. Hundreds have campaigned wearing that pledge as a badge of principle.
But President Obama is pressuring Republicans to deal with the fiscal crisis by making the “rich pay their fair share.” (Note to the President: the top 5% of income-earners together already pay around 59 percent of all the income tax the Federal Government receives; does that sound fair?) And Obama’s campaign consisted mainly of envy-driven attacks on the productive class. Since Obama won a second term, some Republicans might be tempted to cooperate with the Democrats on tax hikes since “the people have spoken.”
We already see a few Republicans—Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, House Majority Leader Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia—wavering on the “no tax” pledge.
Raising taxes would be absolutely wrong. Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss’s excuse for why he might vote for higher taxes is “I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge.” But it is just for the sake of the country that policymakers should stick to that pledge.
A tyranny of the majority is still a tyranny and must be resisted.
First, the fiscal problems this country faces are caused by runaway government spending. During his first term Obama pushed the federal debt from about $10 trillion to over $16 trillion. Higher taxes on the top producers and investors would simply mean less production and investment in the economy. Looting the “rich” would not deal with the deficit.
Second, the tax debate is a manifestation of a deep fracture in America’s moral foundation. We are becoming a country of takers versus makers, of expropriators versus producers. Paternalist politicians encourage Americans to demand that government provide all of their needs from cradle to grave, at their neighbors’ expense. Nearly half of Americans receive some form of state support. The top 50 percent of income-earners already pay around 98 percent of all income tax.
A recent Pew survey found that 47 percent of Americans aged 18-29 years old respond negatively to the word “capitalism” while only 46 percent respond positively. By contrast, 49 percent of young people respond positively to “socialism” while only 43 percent respond negatively.
The tax battle is a fight over America’s future: Will we prosper with an economy based on private property and free exchange, with government protecting our liberty? Or will we be impoverished as government uses its power to steal from makers to give to takers.
Third, when election results threaten to limit our freedom, policymakers and citizens who value their own lives and liberty should do whatever is legal and within their power to thwart the will of the majority. The value of the democratic process is to allow the governed to control government, to prevent it from becoming tyrannical. This is also the reason for federalism, separation of powers, and checks and balances in the Constitution and for the Bill of Rights.
A tyranny of the majority is still a tyranny and must be resisted. It is questionable whether the majority gave Obama a mandate in any case. No doubt many Americans voted for him because Republicans seemed to threaten some civil liberties or perhaps just because they were more personally comfortable with Obama than with Mitt Romney.
But even if a majority of voters were not endorsing full-blown Obama socialism, the political battles today are assaults on America’s traditional philosophy of individualism by collectivists and statists.
Keeping taxes low means you side with the freedom and prosperity. Raising them means you side with collectivism and stagnation. That’s the choice signers of the “no tax hike” pledge face.
Hudgins is director of regulatory studies at The Atlas Society.
*Edward Hudgins, “ Fighting for Freedom Against Reelected Obama .” November 7, 2012.
*Edward Hudgins, “ Producers vs. Expropriators: America’s Coming Civil War .” April 13, 2010.
*Edward Hudgins, “ Obama’s Grab-Bag Socialism. ” April 4, 2009.