As Thomas Sowell notes in this article, Trashing Achievements, a very corrosive form of class warfare has emerged in this campaign from desperate Democratic candidates from the courthouse to the White House. For instance, Sowell recounts this recent statement from the Democratic Senate candidate in Massachusetts,
To cheering audiences, Professor Warren says, “there is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You build a factory out there, good for you, but I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers that the rest of us paid to educate.”
This argument is wrong for many reasons, including:
- It assumes that your successful neighbors don’t pay taxes—but they do. And, what’s more, no matter where you slice it—the top 1%, 2%, 5% or 10%—the earners at these levels pay most of the taxes collected at every level of government in this country.
- It assumes that the group Professor Warren calls “the rest of us” pays all the taxes that pay for the schools and the infrastructure in this country—but they don’t. While virtually everyone who has a job pays into Social Security and Medicare, those programs don’t pay for the education and the infrastructure that Professor Warren is talking about. As for the federal income taxes that do contribute to pay for those programs, almost one half of the country’s population is exempted from paying those taxes.
- It assumes that the problem with government budgets is that we aren’t raising enough revenue to pay for education and infrastructure, but those programs are not driving the increase in the public debt. What is driving the widening gap between tax revenue and public spending are the growing costs of social entitlements, public-sector pensions, layers of unnecessary bureaucrats, mounds of new regulations, and fraud and waste in the procurement process.
- Finally, and most importantly, it assumes that government in our society always came first, and that all we have accomplished is a result of government giving us benefits. But any “benefit” bestowed by government had to come from taxes, and those taxes had to come from citizens or their businesses, and those citizens and businesses had to accumulate property and income to pay for those taxes. In the end, it is the source of private property and income—jobs and business, from the farm to the town square to the factory—that came first to pay for government.
In fact, Professor Warren’s argument turns the history of this country on its head. The national government did not even appear in the United States until the colonists were here for almost 150 years—living and working on farms and in small communities. In fact, from the 1630s to the 1750s, the European governments with colonies here largely left the colonists to govern themselves. It is the productive farmers and businessmen who owned property who paid the first taxes from their earnings to pay for the schools and the canals and the roads. They continued to pay the taxes to enlarge the infrastructure during the 19th and early 20th Centuries, and they were the ones who shouldered the burden of 70%-90% marginal tax rates for decades after the New Deal programs were enacted. And it still takes the production of private income from the efforts of the private job creators to pay for all those schools and roads that Professor Warren talks about.
Government didn’t come first in America. Productive, entrepreneurial citizens always have come first in this country.
The left’s class warfare rhetoric shows what is at stake in this election. If the Democrats don’t understand our country’s history, and don’t understand the consequences of the tax and spending policies they have enacted, they can’t be trusted to fix the problems that face this country. If they do understand our history and these consequences, then they are lying to the American people to stay in office—and we must not allow them to succeed.
Not this time, and not ever again.
It is time to move beyond this corrosive class rhetoric if we are ever going to stabilize and modernize our country to meet the challenges of the 21st Century in a way that preserves and strengthens the inalienable rights we’ve been given.
It is time for a change in White House and the U.S. Senate.
It is time for all good citizens “to come to the aid of their countrymen” and make this change in the November Election.