I'm not a journalist, just a concerned citizen. But I'm sad to see so much of our media filled not with journalist integrity but with sarcastic jabs, cliched rhetoric, and outright rumor mongering that seems to pass for journalism. Granted, the column, titled "Why don't we just give it all to the government?" by syndicated columnist Jonah Goldberg in the April 8, 2010 Houston Chronicle was an op-ed, but even op-eds should have some integrity. His writing is typical of the kind of sound-bite, tabloidy, attention grabbing trash that often comes from such places as Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, et. al., and to some extent, MSNBC.
For Goldberg, like his peers, there was little need for facts in this most recent of his op-eds, only spin and distortions. His analogy that the government taking 100% of your income would be romanticized by some as socialism or communism is not only misplaced and absurd, it's just plain wrong for not even communism suggests enslaving its citizens to that extent.
Pundits like Goldberg are noted for their inflammatory rhetoric with a very biased view. Responsible readers and listeners alike of this kind of mudslinging slime must now make frequent visits to Factcheck.org or some similar web site to help us determine what is fact and what is fiction.
Goldberg does, however, make a statement that all can agree
with. "But any amount of taxation can be unjust if it is used for
bad reasons, is applied discriminatorily or is taken without
That, my friends, is where the right and left can agree but it is also where they disagree. Where they disagree is about what would be considered taxation used for bad reasons. For example, the right appears to be disgusted with anything that would be considered welfare unless, of course, it is corporate welfare. The left rails over Congresses habit for never refusing to spend money to wage war or launch invasions but embraces any spending on social services or the environment.
In looking at taxation, Goldberg, just like all who use tax statistics to make a point, got it only half right. He stated that the top 10 percent of earners pay more than 70 percent of the income taxes. Stats like this are frequently used by the right to point out that the rich pay an unfair share of the taxes and the rest of us don't. Statistics can always be twisted to prove any point. When you include social security taxes that 70 percent number drops significantly because that tax disappears for incomes over $108,000. Throw in other taxes and the number would drop more.
One also has to realize that the top 10% of earners earn about 40% of all the income. While that still doesn't jive with their level of paying you have to remember that our tax system is, and always has been, a progressive one for a reason. Families of four with household incomes of $50,000 or less have little or no discretionary income and really can't afford to pay any tax and still be able to pay for the basic necessities of modern life in America. A family that makes $500,000 still enjoys a lavish lifestyle even though they are burdened with a higher tax rate. And when nearly half of all American households falls into that first group you can understand why the top half would have to bear the heavier burden of taxes.
Another way to look at is by wealth as opposed to income
(including financial assets such as stocks and bonds). The work of economist Edward N. Wolff of New YorkUniversity
shows that in 2007 the top 20% of financial wealth holders in the U.S.
hold 93% of the financial wealth. The top 1% holds 43% of the
wealth. Looking at it that way the
wealthy actually pay less than their fair share.
The issue of fairness in taxation has always been a point of contention between left and right. When the numbers are presented in a clear unbiased fashion one can understand the other side's point of view. Unfortunately, neither side ever seems to present the data in a fair manner.
Goldberg then hints of conspiracy theories. "If all of ...Obama's plans are enacted, that percentage (of taxes the rich will pay) will increase. We are heading toward being a country where instead of the people deciding how much money the government should have, the government decides how much money the people should have. Only after they passed ObamaCare did Democrats clarify that this was one of their motives."
In other words, Goldberg also claims that "health care reform was more about redistributing wealth than saving money" and that "Democrats believe the government is smarter at spending tax dollars than the dumb private sector." Now here is one area where the left does not understand the right. Don't those protesting about health care reform see that the nation really needs health care reform? His choice of the words "smarter" and "dumb" again reveal that his motive is more to excite than to inform. A more appropriate explanation would be that Democrats believe that some social services are a necessity, such as public education, and the government is the appropriate entity to handle it.
Goldberg follows up his taxation comments with this one; "I have never understood liberalism's blind spot for liberty when it comes to taxation." Mr. Goldberg, taxation does not limit liberty, but poverty does and a higher and higher percentage of Americans are being pushed closer and closer to poverty every year. Sadly, social services have evolved from being a safety net to being a necessity for many and it's becoming harder and harder to realize that American dream.
Goldberg then comes up with one of those statements that makes you just shake your head and wonder what he was smoking. "...our income tax that requires law-abiding citizens to reveal (and document!) many of their most private decisions to government inspectors..." What tax form are you completing??!! This is the kind of rabble that is making the newest incarnation of the GOP appear like a lunatic fringe. (Can you say "Glen Beck"?) Are these "inspectors" also the ones who serve on "Death Panels"? I've done my own taxes for years and have yet to reveal any personal information other than name, address, ssn, and income information. Is he so paranoid about the government that he doesn't want to reveal income information for purposes of taxation?
Both sides of the aisle claim the other side doesn't have a clue. Goldberg says "...the Democrats and the news media have a hard time understanding what the tea party crowd is talking about when it complains of incipient tyranny and intrusive government." Those on the left understand what is being said, they just disagree. They want universal health care, the tea-partiers don't. They see it as a civil right. The right sees it as a right of those who can afford it. The left sees Medicare as a viable option for all. The right doesn't seem to understand that Medicare IS government health care. (Why aren't they screaming for the repeal of Medicare?)
The criticism from the left toward the tea partiers is more about the open displays of threatening language, behavior, and guns along with spreading of patently false information about Obama and healthcare reform. They can understand their valid concerns over fiscal responsibility but wonder why they didn't seem to care when President Bush went on his spending spree.
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