Skip to main content

Differences of degree

I've talked about this before here. In that post I was discussing the individual mandate and the conservative rhetoric in opposition to it. Here's what I said:

The gov't forces everyone to do all sorts of things. The ones he mentions is one of the more important ones. A few other off the top of my head are; you also have to send your kids to school, you have to drive at certain speeds, not kill or harm other people, pay even 1% of taxes, and any number of things that no one really complains about.

So when people say they oppose the mandate because the gov't can't force them to do something they are just factually wrong. What they mean to say is that the gov't can't force them to do this specific thing because it crosses some sort of line. And once you acknowledge that we are just arguing over differences in degree. We aren't arguing over the difference between freedom and tyranny. I get that people use inflamed rhetoric in order to try and make their point more effectively. But the reality is much different than the rhetoric. And if that was acknowledged perhaps more constructive policies would get passed.

The talk in DC has turned to taxes. And Wick Allison makes this point:

The Republican Party can appeal to “Judeo-Christian values” as long as the sun shines and their voices hold out. But they’ve abandoned the most basic moral value of all: fairness. America is supposed to be the land of opportunity. But tell that to minorities, to single women, to working-class whites. Even 44 percent of voters who earn over $200,000 a year voted for Obama, the candidate who promised to raise their taxes.

We all know that eliminating the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy will not make much of a difference in the deficit ($42 billion a year, by most estimates). But anybody who preaches on that point will find himself talking to an empty auditorium. And if raising taxes on the rich is redistributionist socialism, someone should should have told Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan, whose rates on the rich were 91, 70, and 50 percent.

You can argue a 91% tax rate is tyrannical. It certainly would be for someone earning less than millions. Maybe 50% is too much for someone making less than 75k. But that is not our tax policy anymore. We are arguing over as little as 3%. When the rates are ~ 30%, 3% is not the difference between freedom and tyranny. This is often lost amid policy discussions.

It's beneficial for both sides to frame debates in the most dire terms. But some things simply don't meet that criteria. When it comes to taxes, we'd be much better off (I'd argue more free) if the narrative wasn't dominated by conservative doomsaying and liberal fear over that type of reaction.