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The Lucky Bystanders

Obama’s tax cut deal is really bringing the apologists out of the woodwork.  Earlier this week it was Roger Simon urging Democrats to stop hating on the rich people (no, seriously!), and now Steven Pearlstein has managed to push the envelope of stupid even farther.  I’m still kind of in shock that someone actually wrote this with a straight face:

One of the great enduring mysteries of American politics is why Republicans attach so much importance to cutting taxes for the rich.

I know there are many Democrats and independents who believe that Republicans get up in the morning determined to do whatever is necessary to help their rich friends and campaign contributors. While that may explain some Republicans’ behavior some of the time, I strongly doubt it’s the primary motivation.

For starters, there is no American Association of Rich Persons out there with a huge political action committee and a formidable grass-roots lobbying effort. Yes, there are cabals of very rich people who fund conservative think tanks and political advertising. But American democracy is not so corrupt or dysfunctional that a tiny portion of the population, driven purely by selfish greed, can capture so many elected officials and bamboozle so many voters.

Sure, it’s not like the GOP is the party of, by and for the rich.  And it’s not like the wealthy can or do wield any kind of power without being members of a formal lobbying organization – they don’t control enormous media conglomerates or have the ears of politicians or fund the Tea Party movement or anything like that.  And there certainly isn’t any historical evidence that money trumps all other considerations when it comes to elections or policy decisions, nooo.

Pearlstein then goes on to state the obvious, that all the GOP’s rationales for cutting taxes for the rich are bullshit, which makes his initial claim that the rich just get tax cuts handed to them for no reason even more bizarre.  He finally concludes that this inexplicable obsession is either because of the right’s dedication to George W. Bush (because, as we all know, Republicans didn’t care about cutting taxes for the rich until Dubya invented the idea), or…

For Republicans, it’s also a moral issue, looked at through a much different lens. For them, the focus isn’t on the fairness of income distribution but the fairness of the system that produces it. And part of that calculation involves how much of a person’s hard-earned income government takes away.

Well, if that’s what the GOP is so worried about, how about we tax “hard-earned income” at a much lower rate than, say, inherited wealth, or capital gains, or windfall profits from gaming the system, or paychecks from cushy sinecures, speaking gigs and braindead punditry?  Surely they couldn’t object to that, and I suspect the result would be a generally more progressive tax structure than what we have now.  We would just need to figure out some way to factor value added into the calculation, so as not to reward the vampire squids who work 18 hours a day inventing new ways to suck our economy dry.

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