The Republican Case for Redistribution of Wealth

It looks like my taxes are going to go up.  That’s not the worst thing in the world.  My wife and I aren’t rich by any stretch of the imagination but we’re comfortable and they won’t go up but so much.

It’s looking like we’re going to have our taxes go up slightly after a number of deductions that we use here in New York (along with, quite plausibly, some my wife can use as a teacher) are eliminated from the tax code.  Again – not really that big of a deal.  It’s how these things work.  Money comes and money goes; federal priorities change and we need to make things happen.

In this particular case, these hikes and eliminations of deductions are going to pay for, among other (more substantial but marginally less absurd) things, elimination of an estate tax that only affects inheritances of more than $5.49 million.  Most tax breaks and inflation adjustments that are included to help people who make less money than I do are phased out after a time, whereas those that reduce the tax burden on corporations are often not.

Reducing taxes on corporations is probably a good thing, in general, but claims that the cuts will explode investment in working and middle class jobs has been exposed as little more than wishful thinking.  I invest some money so I might come out in the wash, but most people don’t.

Republican think tanks and government agencies are going to perform cartwheels with their dynamic scoring that will make their $1.5 trillion budget deficit disappear, and if they won’t, Steve Mnuchin will at least tell lawmakers so for long enough to get them through the vote.

But none of this is really the point.

There are people who have far less than I who will be hurt.  People in more tenuous financial situations or studying in school who will truly be hit hard.  If the bill does indeed eviscerate the Affordable Care Act by repealing its individual mandate, then millions of people will be priced out of health insurance.  That was an unacceptable outcome for John McCain, Lisa Murkowski, and Susan Collins when it was termed "Skinny Repeal," but dressed up as a tax cut, I suppose it's more palatable.

But – though much closer – that's not really the point either.

I’m not an accountant or an expert in macro-economics or anything of the sort.  What I am is a progressive guy who has numerous conversations with people who look a lot like me about ideas and policies that I think are important.  I’m a guy who rolls his eyes as those people rail against socialism when I argue that we should allot tax revenue to the insurance of citizens against catastrophic illness.  Who heaves sighs when those people ridicule “redistribution of wealth” when that wealth is going to go into the pockets of people who will spend it on food, clothing, shelter, and medicine.

We are a massive mixed economy where taxes fund the mechanism of government.  Any time money leaves the pocket of a citizen, that wealth is being redistributed.  It’s going to someone else – or, more appropriately to the common good.  That’s the way these things work.  There is no moral high ground for those who spout off about “redistribution of wealth.”  The only moral high ground is for those who want that wealth spent well, spent on those who need it, and channeled in service of the public good.

The Affordable Care Act was not perfect and it was more expensive in some ways than intended (though cheaper in others).  It was also – imperfectly – written to at least attempt revenue neutrality.  If that was socialism and a sinister redistribution of wealth, then what the fuck is this?