Tag Archives: tax

Why Liberals Could but Won’t (and Shouldn’t) Support Ron Paul

16 Aug

The call of Ron Paul: every collegiate twenty-something feels it at some time or another. Because college is a time when young people often discover their own political leanings, the politics of the youth have always seemed to encompass more progressive views than those of general society. That’s not to say all college students are liberal –there are plenty of conservatives –just that they’re more progressive than the rest of the country. On the issues of climate change, gay rights and the legalization of marijuana, college students on a whole are left of center. The Pew research center reported that 66% of those under the age of 30 voted for President Obama in 2008. Pew even says “Among voters ages 18-29, a 19-point gap now separates Democratic party affiliation (45%) and Republican affiliation (26%).

A way to seemingly reconcile the progressive social leanings of the youth with free-market ideals is libertarianism. It seems like this is a natural way for those who were raised republican to integrate their liberal social mores with fiscal conservatism. Because the very nature of dorm life creates an integrated environment where students are exposed to and live in close quarters with people of all races, sexual orientations, geographical backgrounds and political ideologies, the desire for inclusiveness can lead to support for politics like the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, support of gay marriage, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and a host of other causes. It’s harder than it is easier to graduate college with exclusionary politics.

Although the Pew statistics suggest young people identify more with Democrats than with Republicans, a key group amongst the young politically minded are the libertarians. Often torn between the social politics of the democrats and the fiscal politics of the republicans, most libertarians I’ve met are fervent and zealous in promulgating libertarianism. After the spending-binge that is known as the George W. Bush presidency, libertarians shunned the Republican party. Early incarnations of the Tea Party were quite libertarian –then the Religious Right and Birthers infiltrated the group. With libertarians unable to call the Republican party home and unable to find solace in the Democratic party because of their pro-union, pro-spending philosophy, these politically displaced nomads were wandering around looking for a candidate they could believe in.

Enter: Ron Paul.

Rep. Ron Paul has always had a niche group of supporters; it’s why he’s been a member of Congress for so long. Ron Paul is able to draw in young supporters with his willingness to vocally oppose some of the less inclusive policies of the Republican party, to allow for some progressive views on social issues and maintain a conservative fiscal approach to the economy. The objectivists who treat Ayn Rand as a prophet find in Ron Paul a candidate who closely mirrors the philosophy that they believe in. Rand fans are to fiscal policy what evangelicals are to social policy: a vocal, zealous, block of consistent voters. I’ve been known to jokingly refer to Ron Paul’s supporters as “Rondroids” who defend him against every assailment and inflate his Google numbers and Wikipedia page far beyond his actual relevance to the rest of society. As we’ve seen in American politics, small minorities can outshine and out-maneuver silent majorities. Just as the devout showed up in high numbers to support Michele Bachmann at the Iowa Straw Poll, Rand fans turned out in high numbers to support Ron Paul.

Conservatives and libertarians adore Ron Paul – but unexpectedly, some liberals can at times be mesmerized by him too. His public persona –chalk it up to good PR or individualism—is that there is a contrast to the current Republican field of candidates. He is often perceived to be much more of an intellectual than his contemporaries. He undoubtedly gained some liberal empathy when Rick Santorum picked a fight with him during the GOP debate to garner some air time. But he frankly appealed to the youth so much because he advocated for troop withdrawal and an end to America’s militarism. This view is so far out of the mainstream that you rarely see even Democrats arguing for it –despite its popularity with liberals. The problem is that the very idea that gains him so many fans –the drawback of the military and defense spending—is what puts him so outside the status quo of Washington that he has become a dismissed entity. The dismissal of anti-militaristic views from the mainstream goes back to the post-9/11 era when any and all opposition to anything the defense department did merited accusations of anti-patriotism. The Bush administration all but sewed militarism into the American flag. Do you think the Patriot Act, the Iraq War and torture at Guantanamo Bay would have happened if a culture of fear-mongering didn’t exist? The dismissal of Ron Paul from presidential viability also gains him some empathy with liberals because that very dismissal marginalizes the anti-war sentiment of many on the left. Many Obama supporters are becoming disaffected with President Obama’s continuation of military and defense emphasis and the continuation of the Iraq War, especially after he touted his vote against the way during his campaign. The disaffection with Obama over defense policy may pave the way for some liberals to jump ship and join the Ron Paul train.

There’s little evidence of this yet; the President’s approval rating with liberals has gone down but it’s still very strong. But it would be a mischaracterization to say Paul could win over liberals in an election. While his approach to military spending is right in line with a liberal philosophy, he has extremely conservative views in too many other arenas. He opposed abortion, even reintroducing the Sanctity of Life Act. His rhetoric around the separation of church and state characterizes famous supreme court cases as a way to “deprive citizens of their religious liberty.” He was also critical of the Civil Rights act of 1964. He is one of the most fiscally conservative members in Congress. All of his fiscal views and most of his social views are conservative – so for liberals to jump from Obama to Paul would require a complete 180 on their political philosophy. Paul’s blunt anti-war sentiment has a magic surrounding its rhetoric, but at most he can elicit liberal praise. As far as liberal votes go, it’s the economy, stupid—so one progressive stance won’t negate an entire history of conservative fiscal policy and criticism of liberal economic values.

But that’s in regard to the choice liberals will make when they vote. In our daily lives on non-election days, we often don’t define ourselves through the scope of “democrat” or “republican.” We don’t have to vote up or down on the totality of a candidate as a person. Liberals can (and should) admire Ron Paul’s vocalization of anti-war sentiment. The two-party duopoly of our political system orients us in such a way that we have to see politicians as one-note. We ascribe each politician a persona –usually based on false marketing in campaign ads–and demand that they adhere to it and ignore them when they don’t. Ron Paul can’t be categorized and dismissed as such.


Why Warren Buffett’s Op-ed Resonates So Much with Us

15 Aug

First thing’s first, read this.

Work of Mark Hirschey

The buzz, surprise and resonance that Warren Buffett’s New York Times op-ed has created is keeping it amongst the most emailed news stories today and a constant trending topic on Twitter. The editorial is a rare instance of a public figure taking a stand against the political winds to stand up for the long-term benefit of the country.

U.S. tax policy is far too mired by the ongoing war between short-term politics and long-term benefits. Short-term politics are what continuously keeps our government officials from tackling truly sensitive issues like Social Security reform, Medicare, universal health care and a revamp of our tax code. The political climate in Washington is so subservient to the status quo that our leaders run elections by trying to say as little as possible, offend as few as possible and hide their stances as much as possible. It’s why a discussion on tax policies always turns into: jobs are good. It’s why any conversation about entitlements turns into: old people are nice.

Poll after poll reveals that for the first time in recent American history, a majority of people believe the lives of this generation will not be better than the lives of the past generation. This is because our politicians refuse to put the long-term benefit of this country over the short-term political maneuvering that has incited the ire of the public and put Congress in a 14% approval rating.

So perhaps the very thing needed in society today was someone outside of the political system (truly outside of it, not just as a talking point). Buffett’s article has spread across the annals of social media like a wildfire –a testament to how much of a chord it has struck. It’s odd that a billionaire’s opinion on taxation would resonate so much with people who can relate to him so little –but that’s exactly the case. For those of us outside the D.C. environment, it’s quite obvious how desperately change based on pragmatic but drastic measures is to this country’s wellbeing. The majority of Americans favor increasing taxes on those earning more than $250,000 a year. Despite the fact that the public has spoken, no provision of sorts was included in the recent debt deal, much to the glee of Grover Norquist I’m sure.

Let’s not let tax policy turn into what climate change has turned into. A majority of Americans believe that climate change is occurring and we need to enact more environmentally friendly policy –but a vocal few deniers have prevented this from happening. And while a majority of Americans still believe in climate change despite PR efforts on the extreme Right to dismiss its validity, the spin-tactics have had an undeniable effect on public opinion and the percent of people who believe in global warming has declined. Yes, you read that right: as more and more irrefutable scientific evidence proving the existence of global climate change has been promulgated, fewer Americans believe in it. (You can’t refute the evidence, but maybe you can refudiate it?)

That’s why I love Buffett’s op-ed. As a billionaire himself and someone of significant fiscal acumen, spinmasters can’t just use their usual ad hominem attacks against him. Since he’s not a political figure and because he’s arguing against his own financial interests, the PR machine can’t just dismiss him. He’s given a level of credibility to this stance on taxes that no politician or pundit could give.

A focal point of his argument is that raising taxes does not kill jobs. He mentions that during periods of high taxation, significant job growth has occurred. During a recent period of low tax rates, job creation fell off a cliff (the Bush years). The main point of the argument is not that billionaires do or don’t mind paying more taxes – it’s that the rate they pay has no correlation to how many people they employ.

Fiscal conservatives will argue that you can lower taxes and still increase overall tax revenue: this is true if the employment rate is high, so more people have taxable income (If there are more incomes to tax, then it is feasible that the government could gain more revenue by taxing more people at a lower rate than by taxing fewer people at a higher rate). But, it is a farce to mistake what could be true with what always is true –and furthermore, to argue this proves a causal correlation is wrong because it doesn’t. While low tax rates and increased revenues can occur concurrently, it has never been proven that low tax rates cause the job growth necessary to increase overall tax revenue in the country.