The Tragic, Hilarious “We Are The 53 percent” Movement

The conservative response to the “We are the 99 percent” movement is … hilarious. (And, sure, heartbreaking.) Conservative filmmaker Mike Wilson and vacuous right-blogger Erick Erickson joined forces to start“We Are the 53%,” a blog made up of contributions from the 53 percent of Americans who pay more in federal income taxes than they receive back in deductions or credits.

The project was kicked off by Erick Erickson, who announced that he works “three jobs,” by which he means being a professional television pundit, radio pundit and Internet pundit. There is a stunning amount of cognitive dissonance, misplaced resentment and class revulsion going on, even for a conservative Web project.

The site can’t even manage to correctly represent that 53 percent, with multiple contributors very clearly belonging to the 47 percent of people who make up the supposed parasite class. There is a blog dedicated to this confused minority. The best example is obviously this dog.

Let’s get this out of the way early: Pretty much every adult American pays taxes. Workers who are too poor to pay federal income taxes still pay payroll taxes, and property taxes if they own their home. Even the unemployed pay sales taxes. The poorest Americans — people who make an average of $12,500 a year — pay, on average, 16 percent of their paltry income in taxes. That is less than every other demographic, but the point of a progressive tax system is that 16 percent of a poor person’s income is a hell of a lot more meaningful to that person than 30 percent of a millionaire’s. It’s a simple concept, and one that most Americans agree with. And that simplicity and popularity is why the conservative movement has spent 100 years attempting to muddy the debate with misinformation. (They are quite dedicated, actually, to class warfare, in that they seek to align the shrinking middle with the elites in a war against the downtrodden.)

So a good number of people who pay no federal income taxes are simply lucky enough to be impoverished. The rest are beneficiaries of tax breaks and loopholes championed most vocally by Republicans. A member of “the 1 percent” (or, more accurately, the tenth-of-1 percent) likely considers these harried taxpayers “the 53 percent of people without the sense to hire a good accountant.”

Here’s my Tumblr idea, for Americans resentful of the free rides they imagine others are getting as they work themselves to the bone: “We are the 94 percent of people who claim never to have received government benefits who have actually directly benefited from government social programs.”

In conclusion, rockets.

(Source: letterstomycountry)

"Oddly, one never hears Republicans praise those countries where people are lucky duckies — those where taxation is a small fraction of what it is here."

I’d Rather Be an Unlucky Ducky
Bruce Bartlett 

Equatorial Guinea: According to the Republican-leaning Heritage Foundation, those who live in this small country in sub-Saharan Africa are lucky duckies indeed. Because of recently discovered oil deposits, the citizens of Equatorial Guinea pay less than 1 percent of the gross domestic product in taxes. The comparable figure for the United States is 26.9 percent of G.D.P., according to Heritage.

However, Equatorial Guinea doesn’t seem to be a very pleasant place to live. The people are poor and have little freedom. Heritage says that “persistent institutional weaknesses impede creation of a more vibrant private sector” and “the rule of law is weak.” This sounds suspiciously as if government is too small to do its job properly. But I’m sure that the citizens of Equatorial Guinea don’t mind having a dysfunctional government; after all, they’re lucky duckies.

Myanmar: The people who live in this small country in Southeast Asia are also lucky duckies, if not quite as lucky as those in Equatorial Guinea. According to Heritage, taxes in Myanmar are 3 percent of G.D.P.

Oddly, this also doesn’t sound like someplace one would want to live. Heritage says “longstanding structural problems include poor public finance management and undeveloped legal and regulatory frameworks.” Apparently, the government doesn’t protect property rights very well, the infrastructure is poor, and there is a lot of corruption. But at least the people get to keep almost all their earnings.

Libya: Why the people revolted in this North African fiscal paradise is a mystery. According to Heritage, government revenues are just 3.4 percent of G.D.P.

ChadHeritage says the people of this African nation pay just 5.3 percent of G.D.P. in taxes. But for some reason, the nation is mired in poverty. Perhaps because, as Heritage says, “the efficiency and quality of government remain poor.” I wonder why.

Republic of Congo: The people of this country in Africa also pay 5.3 percent of G.D.P. to the government. But it is also very poor. Heritage says a key reason is “the government has failed to provide basic public goods and infrastructure.” This doesn’t really make much sense by the logic of Republican candidates, who seem to agree that all government spending is bad unless it goes to the Defense Department and that public works are nothing but worthless pork.

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(via manicchill)

This, to me, is pretty much a direct refutation of the Anarcho-Capitalist school of Libertarianism.  According to the popular wisdom of that school, minimal regulation and taxation should be causing these countries to thrive.  And yet their standard of living compared to 1st-world countries with strong central governments is abysmal.

With that being said: you could very reasonably make the argument that the minimal governments of these countries are nonetheless oppressive and larcenous, so what little wealth is accumulated in the market tends to be appropriated by the elites.  But the question then becomes *how* that wealth is being appropriated; is it through official channels?  Then it would show up as taxation.  Is it through thuggery?  Then how could the problem be solved without reverting to Somalia-style balkanization (which is better only when compared to the more awful government preceding it)?  

The question, then, is one of form: without a strong Constitution to limit government power, and an intellectually vibrant, Independent Judiciary to keep government in check, there is no way for the rights of citizens to be guaranteed as against their unscrupulous peers, and as against the government itself.  

All of these mechanisms, of course, cost money.  A minimalist State can be just as dangerous to Liberty and freedom as an oppressive one.  Norway, whose government accounts for 40% of its GDP, nonetheless has a very libertine criminal justice system.  There can be no question that people in Norway are more free than even people in the U.S. (who live under the Patriot Act, the War on Drugs, and the Military Commissions Act).  Yet the U.S. government accounts for closer to 20% of GDP.

Does that mean government spending as a % of GDP is dispositive with respect to freedom?  Of course not.  Form matters.  But if you aren’t bringing in enough tax revenue to support the “right” form, then Bartlett’s observation is right: you end up with a government too weak to provide a mechanism for enforcing the rights of its own citizens (i.e. an independent and well-funded judiciary paired with an enumerated Constitution).

(via letterstomycountry)

(Source: manicchill, via letterstomycountry)