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Another Day, Another Tax

The proposed sales tax on commercial transactions conducted through this newfangled internet machine is not a matter of personal interest. Being old-fashioned sorts we prefer to handle the merchandise in some brick-and-mortar establishment and then make our infrequent purchases face-to-face with a friendly clerk, which also provides a much-needed reason to get out of the house, so the tax would have little affect on our finances.
Nor does the proposal strike us as especially outrageous, despite our instinctive aversion to taxes of any sort. Given the ravenous appetite for revenues of the federal, state, and local governments, it seems more remarkable that they hadn’t decided to take a bite out of this tempting e-commerce pie long ago. There’s even an argument to be made about fairness, as sales taxes are charged at all those traditional shops that employ brick-layers and mortar masons and friendly clerks. We suppose that internet shops also employ people, although for all we know they’re run with robots or trained monkeys, but in any case it is hard to see why the law should grant them a competitive advantage.
Still, there’s something unsettling about the recent enthusiasm for all manner of new taxes. In addition to the internet sales tax, President Barack Obama’s budget proposal includes caps on income tax deductions, further cigarette tax increases, limits on the tax breaks for contributions to individual retirement accounts, and a change in the way inflation is measured that also amount to a cut in the earned income tax credit. These follow the wide variety of other taxes hidden within the thousands of pages of Obamacare regulations, the cost of new regulations that the affected businesses will pass along to customers, as well as the countless new taxes cooked up at other levels of government, and although it doesn’t come close to balancing anyone’s budgets it does add up to a lot of money.
Obama famously vowed in his first presidential campaign that he would not raise any taxes on any making less than $250,000 a year, which is apparently the threshold of avaricious greed that merits punitive taxation, but even such friendly media as Politico and the Huffington Post have noticed that these tax increases reach down much further into the middle class. That vow wasn’t so famous as George H.W. Bush’s “read my lips” pledge, which the Democrats somehow successfully used to sink his re-election chances after he capitulated to a Democratic demand for higher taxes, but it was well known enough to have helped Obama get elected. Many people will be less enthusiastic about the president’s vastly expanded government if they understand that they’ll also be asked to pitch in more, along with those all those nasty rich people, and the sooner the realization occurs the better.

— Bud Norman

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The 47 Percent Problem

Mitt Romney has been caught red-handed saying something unpleasantly true that very much needed to be said, so of course we’re all supposed to be appalled and write off his chances of winning the upcoming presidential election.
Mother Jones Magazine, the hippie journal of record, has released a surreptitiously recorded tape of ,Romney telling a group of well-heeled potential donors that 47 percent of Americans will be inclined to vote for Barack Obama “no matter what.” He goes on to explain that these Americans aren’t likely to support a campaign based on tax cuts and personal responsibility because they don’t pay income taxes, are dependent to some degree on government largesse, and consider themselves “victims” who are “entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”

None of Romney’s numerous critics can truthfully state that this any of this isn’t plainly true — and they’re unwilling to note that he actually understated the percentage of Americans who don’t pay income taxes, which is closer to 49 — so they settled for accusing him of being insensitive, out of touch, mean, merciless, plutocratic, cannibalistic, and generally having all the other moral failings they routinely attribute to Republicans. They also chortled that Romney had “disdainfully written off half the nation,” as the Obama campaign put it, and savored the possibility of winning a landslide based on the dependent-American vote.

Romney refused to back away from the comments during a Tuesday news conference, except to concede the “inelegant” phrasing, and we can hope that the argument he advanced in the remarks will now take its rightful place at the very forefront of the campaign. Having such a large segment of the country dependent on the labor of others is a recipe for economic decline, social disintegration, and is a bloody shame, no matter how much it flatters the moral vanity of the modern liberal. If giving a man a job is somehow less compassionate than giving him a handout, then compassion is much overrated.

We suspect that much of the slight majority paying for it all will be inclined to agree, and if the Democrats want to cast themselves as the party of welfare dependency, high taxes, and income redistribution they might also be writing off half the nation, and they should note that it’s the half that’s far more likely to actually get to the polls and vote. There are many in the income tax-paying class who work for the government, or feel guilty about their relative affluence, or have some other reason to vote for the ever-expanding welfare state, but one must hope that there are at least a similar number of people taking government assistance who would much prefer a job.

Romney should continue to press the argument before the number gets to 51 percent, which is a point of no return.

— Bud Norman