"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A Better World–Tax Reform And The Patriarchal Assumption That ‘Father Knows Best’

Congress is currently debating tax reform, and the lines have been already and predictably drawn.  Democrats want to continue progressive taxation – high taxes for the rich to subsidize the poor – and Republicans want individual American citizens to keep as much of their income as possible, for they alone know how it should be spent.

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Tax reform passed in the House with not one vote of Democratic support. They see Republican initiatives as favoring the rich and the expense of the poor and refuse to be complicit.  However the opposition is more philosophical.  It is simply hard for the Left to give up the mantel of moral authority. How, they ask, can anyone grounded in insular, populist sentiments, possibly reason objectively on what is best for them and the nation?  They cannot; and therefore the responsibility lies with those who do.

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How can society ever progress if a majority of its citizens still believe in the inerrant word of the Bible, creationism, and divine fundamentalism? Such beliefs are not only errant but reactionary and counter-revolutionary; and such home-grown, nativist, and naïve convictions must be  challenged, dismissed, or completely ignored in the ineluctable path of progress.

While demurring on Marx’s conviction that ‘religion is the opiate of the people’, progressive critics prefer simply to dismiss it as irrelevant and antiquated - an incidental, peripheral aspect of life of little consequence and greater corrosive threat.  Personal religious conviction – about abortion, gay marriage, procreative surrogacy, the sexual roles of men and women – has no place in today’s modern American society.  All such issues must only be considered within the context of social reform, social justice, and social progress.

Public schools, liberals argue, are not for three R’s education but re-education – schooling in progressive social theory.  Teaching templates are simple and designed to provide the race-gender-ethnicity context through which all learning must be encouraged.   Deconstructionism – valuing context, environment, social determinants far more than individual creativity, enterprise, or insight – is the primer.

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It is understandable how, given this a priori belief in progress that the progressive Left would insist on dirigiste economics and interventionist social theory. They and their moderate associates in Congress insist that the electorate has no idea what’s best for them.  Left to their own devices they would vote for and endorse any measure which reflects their social and religious fundamentalism with little regard for the more important social movements which are intended to bring all Americans together towards a better world.

Conservatives and a significant majority of Americans beg to differ.  They know exactly what they want, how it conforms both to an originalist concept of commonweal and  individualism, and why the notion of race-gender-ethnicity not only does injustice to the democratic vision of the Founding Fathers, but is divisive, and antithetical to the concept of nationhood. They are concerned about the persistent intrusion of government into private lives. 

These Americans who reject this social and economic dirigisme are Trump supporters who, without pretense or political ambitions, simply want their due.  An acknowledgment at least that Christianity is the foundation of America; that Biblical heritage is ours , defining and essential; and that the Old and New Testaments are modern, relevant, and essential.

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How divided is America? No less divided than between conservative fundamentalism and progressive secularism.  For every feminist rally, for every Black Lives Matter or Take-a-Knee protest, there are thousand of unexpressed, and defiant Americans who resent the dissolution of common principles, the commonweal, and the Republic.

‘Tax and spend’, the mantra of American which feels right and justified in drawing down on the investments of the wealthy to create, and promote, social programs.  Despite the objection of conservatives who insist that only by leaving individuals to their own choices, freeing private money to find its own productive home, and rejecting paternalistic sentiments and initiatives, the American Left continues to promote its interventionist agenda. Democratic tax reform is only a signifier, a meme, and an arrogation of power, no different from the positions taken by the Party for decades - the redistribution of wealth and programs of social engineering.

Of course given the nature of politics, the charge of Republican cronyism - tax reform is only a cover for structural adjustments to favor the wealthy - has been made loud and clear.  Objections have been made by Democrats in this Congress and in many before that lightening the tax burden on the wealthy has never resulted in advantages to the poor.  Trickle-down theory has never worked. 

At the same time tapping the rich in the interest of the poor has no salience except in discredited socialist principle.  Despite the fact than no data has proven the assumption that for every dollar recruited from the rich a commensurate economic benefit is accrued by the poor, liberal activists continue their efforts at progressive tax reform and radical redistribution of wealth.  There is no easy zero sum in economics.

However Congress rules on the tax bill (2017), the political debate will only sharpen the philosophical divisions between conservative and progressive.  Either government is the solution or the problem.

More and more Americans are wary of government authority, of Beltway elitist arrogation of power, and of progressive intrusion into the affairs  of the common man.  This Republican Congress is not the first to challenge these assumptions but perhaps the first to so decisively throw down the gantlet.

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