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Reason’s Voodoo Strawmen

September 29, 2011

A great video of Elizabeth Warren discussing debt and taxation has been making the rounds of late. Of course, the liberals love a video of a smart professorial type talking about why we all have to contribute to society, and conservatives pretty much hate it. Today there is an article in Reason about it. I think the most deeply out of touch part of the article is this:

But in August remarks about class warfare that have gone viral, the Democratic candidate for a Senate seat from Massachusetts is visibly seething.

That’s okay; everyone gets worked up now and then, and most of us are lucky enough not to be caught on camera at the moment. Funny thing is, Warren’s comments—her rage and resentment and sarcasm—have made her an overnight heroine.

Uhm, you guys, a Lady used SARCASM, and she may have RAISED HER VOICE. She should be ASHAMED.

The writer of this article clearly doesn’t understand the frustration that a lot of people on the left have been feeling of late. I say this not to be patronizing, because if he did he would not think it is so “funny” that Warren’s comments were so well received. People are frustrated, and she gave voice to some of those frustrations. I hope she never looks back on this video in shame.

I will also summarize some other points he made against this video for your enjoyment:

1. She is arguing against a straw person, no one says we don’t live in a community. I mean sure there are people who don’t want to pay as much to be part of that community, or people who want “the government” to be replaced by profit driven enterprises. There are also people who don’t want certain members of the community to have any particular power compared to other members of the community who have more money. But, of course, it is still a community!

2. It is offensive to hypothetical individual business owners to call them “you” instead of including them in “the rest of us.” Distinguishing an individual hypothetical business owner from the rest of the community is just like busting unions, except it is actually CLASS WARFARE, unlike the union thing.

3. When the richest fifth of Americans pay 64% of all federal taxes while poor people don’t pay any that hurts our feelings. But it doesn’t hurt our feelings quite as much as the fact that the richest fifth ONLY had 54% of total us income in 2010, that hurts our feelings too much to even mention. Also, sales taxes TOTALLY don’t count as taxes because everyone has to pay those.

4. Nobody minds paying taxes for roads and police and stuff, that’s crazy. We just mind paying taxes for things like preventing our fellow citizens from starving or being homeless. They should get a job, there are plenty of jobs they are not qualified for because they couldn’t afford the education, so really, hop to it.

5. Something possibly valid about schools and how we could try to improve efficiency there through validated methods that work. Though it is possible that improve efficiency actually means fire teachers and or pay them less. (I”m not even sure paying them less is possible at this point.)

6. Elizabeth Warren clearly hates employers. She wants them to pay taxes, But the poor employers are already providing jobs and pensions for their workers. Well that is they are providing pensions for their workers until profit margins get tight, and then the pensions are gonna go. Also the jobs might go too if the employer can find someone to do it cheaper somewhere else. Maybe the workers will just have to work twice as hard for less money, gotta make a profit y’know? Did someone say Union? You’re fired.

7.Steep taxes on rich people aren’t fair because those rich people are already giving back just by being rich around other people. They employ all those lawyers and accountants to avoid paying taxes. How can you expect them to give back in any other way besides employing all those people? Plus they totally donated a couple hundred bucks to an art institute the other day. Your property values have probably gone up just because of all the rich people around here. Oh you can’t afford to live here anymore? Sorry.

8. Maybe she’s just too sheltered to understand our enlightened point of view about how rich people should always be allowed to get richer, and richer. We can’t limit their richness, or they will stop being rich and then where will we be?

All snarkiness aside, I do think it is important to have discussions about how we can improve our systems. It is important that programs like education and welfare are better and more efficient.  But the reason that is important is not to save money so the rich people can pay fewer taxes. It iso that those programs work better.

If they do save money, and then taxes can be lowered, that would be great. But republicans generally haven’t been proposing reforms and improvements in efficiency. They’ve been proposing blanket cuts, that would result in people losing services and losing their jobs.

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