‘Tis the season for giving but somehow the actions of this Administration are even prompting disagreements over the meaning of compassion and charity. A few days ago, a lady boldly told a group of us at church that we should be happy to pay more in taxes for the less well off. She singled out Republicans as being selfish for wanting to keep more of their money for themselves when others are in need.
The key word, of course, was ‘taxes’. Americans already give more of their own money to charitable causes than people anywhere else in the world. These private contributions also underpin the values of a fundamentally caring society that, unfortunately, contrasts strongly with the impression often put out by media organizations. But Americans are also poised to pay a lot more in taxes and that is inevitably causing some social angst.
What the lady was really saying is that it is acceptable for a third party – the government – to use its over-arching power to force people to hand over a proportion of their income – determined by them – and spend it on programs that will – according to them – help others. While many Democrats do believe exactly this, many conservatives do not share their faith in government as a force for good.
Politicians, of course, can be very generous with money taken from their citizens. Some of it is put to good use but much is not. The more wealth a government can extract from people, the more they can redistribute. The more they are seen to redistribute ‘public money’ to ‘needy’ causes, the more they can take credit for alleviating poverty. But when it comes to their own money, they are often far less generous. Bill Clinton and Joe Biden were notoriously poor givers until their tax records became public.
So how do we assess the generosity of this Administration? Do we judge the President’s generosity by his ability to increase taxes and redistribute wealth? And what have President Obama and the Democrats done for the ‘needy’?
Most significantly, they transferred $787 billion from American citizens to programs that they deemed were worthy and which they claimed would stimulate the economy. But the money has been largely wasted on numerous non-essential spending projects that have, as predicted by these columns, failed to produce economic growth and stem the tide of rising unemployment.
Worse, this single act will ensure that generations of Americans will be less prosperous than they otherwise would have been because it has weakened the dollar and lit the fuse of inflation. Far from helping people, the resulting stagnation will increase both dependency and despondency. How is that for generosity?
To pay for this, the President and Congress are preparing to increase taxes. This ‘spend and tax’ policy will further reduce economic activity and will also take money away from people. Why do they do this? Is it out of generosity or is it because they can?
Unbelievably, having built record debt in record time, Democrats have crafted what the Wall Street Journal described as one of the worst bills ever to come before Congress. ObamaCare will create needless misery by rationing medical care along European and Canadian lines. A majority of Americans oppose it, but with Democrats in control of the White House and both Houses of Congress, inferior medical care is about to be imposed. Very generous. This misery, too, comes with a long-term price tag that the country can’t afford, further expanding America’s debt mountain.
Ironically, the President deployed a metaphor today that was supposed to encourage people to insulate their homes, but best explains why Americans are not keen to pay ever more taxes to their government. “Think about it this way: If you saw $20 bills just sort of floating through the window up into the atmosphere, you’d try to figure out how you were going to keep that. But that’s exactly what’s happening because of the lack of efficiency in our buildings.” Just substitute the last four words with “smart thinking in Washington”.
Like the maître d’ goading the disgusting Mr. Creosote with “one last wafer” in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, President Obama and Congress are putting the U.S. economy in peril with their endless spending. Far from saving the United States from a depression, as he likes to claim, the President is creating the conditions for economic stagnation.
There is nothing generous about a political system that focuses on redistributing wealth. History tells us that it is capitalism and free markets that produce improved living standards. As Winston Churchill said, “You can’t tax your way to prosperity.”
People show how much they care not by paying high redistributive taxes but through their own private donations of time and money. Real generosity is voluntary and flows from the goodness of an individual, not the coercive power of the state.