Category Archive 'American Character'

15 Dec 2010

Most Americans Are Hopeful, Not Envious

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Even now, House liberals are strategizing about a final effort to amend the bill extending the Bush tax cut to raise its death tax provision from 35% to 45% and lower its threshold from $5 million to $3.5 million.

William McGurn, in Wall Street Journal editorial yesterday, pointed out that the democrat’s obsessive animosity toward private wealth is not, in fact, an attitude shared by most ordinary Americans, wealthy or non-wealthy. Americans admire achievement and tend to believe people are entitled to enjoy the fruits of their own effort or even of mere good fortune unmolested.

For all the talk about “fairness,” Mr. Obama, Mr. Sanders and their fellow Democrats never really tell us what the magic number for fairness is. Is it 35% of income? 50%? 75%? Though they never commit themselves to an actual number, in each and every case we get the same answer: Taxes should be higher than they are now, for their own sake.

Americans are a more hopeful and less envious people than that. We are now hearing from them. Thus the heart of the tea party’s objections to the Beltway status quo is fundamentally a moral one: that Washington is arrogant about how it takes and spends our money.

The American people understand this. It’s not just tea partiers or those who work on Wall Street. Many years ago, the activist Michael Harrington—he, like Mr. Sanders, a self-declared socialist—wrote about the experience a friend of his had while campaigning in 1972 for George McGovern among the mostly black and Latina workers of New York City’s garment district.

Harrington told his friend that he must have had an easy time selling the candidate, given Mr. McGovern’s proposal for a 100% tax on every dollar over $500,000 of inheritance. This, Harrington thought, must have especially appealed to garment workers laboring for very low pay.

The friend informed Harrington how wrong he was: “Those underpaid women . . . were outraged that the government would confiscate the money they would hand down to their children if they made a million dollars.” No matter how he tried to tell these garment workers how unlikely they ever were to see a million dollars in their lifetimes, they couldn’t get past the idea that the government would take it from them if they did.

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