Henry Blodget is driving me crazy
Like many people, I’m a fan of Business Insider – or, I should say, I used to be a fan up until my online experience kept being interrupted regularly by Henry Blodget‘s Mother Jones-style political missives brimming with strawmen. Take his piece today: “David Simon Explains Why So Many Jaws Dropped When Mitt Romney Said He Had Never Paid Less Than A 13% Tax Rate”
David Simon is responsible for perhaps the greatest television show ever, The Wire, but I’m pretty sure that even if Romney paid a 70 percent top marginal tax rate and donated the rest to wind farms and orphans, David Simon would still not be voting for Mitt Romney. So, really, who cares if his jaw drops?
How many voters are really shocked that Romney never paid less than a 13 percent tax rate? I have no idea – and though it’s arguable that his tax rate (in his case, his investment tax rate) is any less than the average American’s, I realize this is politics rather than a healthy policy debate. The guy is rich and he should pay more even if invested dollars are more useful to economic growth than more tax dollars. (Though, if Bloget believes that tax loopholes Romney might using are outrageous, he probably should support plans that might close them).
But if tax returns reflect some deeper moral truth about a candidate, then let’s turn it around for a minute. Did Joe Biden or Barack Obama refuse to take the Bush-era tax cuts that are supposedly driving our republic into ruin? Did David Simon turn down this deal with the Devil? Why did these good souls take advantage of something so terrible?
The biggest problem, though, is Blodget’s massive strawman. He writes, for instance:
“Unlike those who argue that Romney’s money is Romney’s money and that every dime that he is forced to pay in taxes is a dime that is effectively stolen or “confiscated” from him, Simon recognizes that his own financial success is in part due to the economic environment in which he lives and works.”
Actually, no one argues this. No one that matters. And no doubt, some people believe that a tax rate can become confiscatory (surely Blodget concedes at some level this can occur), no candidate or Republican argues that all taxes are tantamount to stealing. Can Blodget point the tax plan from Heritage, AEI, Cato, Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney that asserts that taxes are stolen from citizens and shouldn’t be paid at all? The debate is over how we pay taxes, how much we should pay in taxes and what we should be paying taxes for.
We can turn this around, as well: When Barack Obama refers to taxes that he isn’t collecting as “costing” Americans, he is in essence arguing that the baseline for taxes is 100 percent and anything government doesn’t collect is a gift from government to the taxpayer.
But Blodget goes on:
“But one other important philosophical difference between Americans is that they fall into two basic camps:
- Those who believe that their success or failure is due entirely to their own personal efforts (or lack thereof), and
- Those who believe that their success or failure is due not just to their own efforts but also to the economic, legal, and civic environment in which all Americans are fortunate enough to live”
These are the two basic camps in the imagination of Elizabeth Warren — not reality. Every serious person in America believes that success is due to “the economic, legal, and civic environment in which all Americans are fortunate enough to live.” We just have a different view of what that that entails and what it should be moving forward. But since we’re playing this game, I also think the philosophical difference between American can fall into two camps:
- Those who believe that government should enforce the rule of law to create an environment of economic freedom where individuals can succeed on merit and people can enter into voluntary associations that benefit all parties.
- Those who believe government should lord over our every economic decision since they believe government drives innovation and prosperity.
Blodget also keeps imply – piece after piece, without any evidence — that the rich aren’t paying their share or, more often, that raising taxes on the rich is going to have some real impact on lowering the deficit or debt. He keeps pretending that raising taxes automatically means that revenue will increase. Blodget also says that every “non-partisan” economist says that we can’t fix our problems with spending cuts alone. True. If Blodget were truly concerned about debt he might write a piece about exactly President Obama’s plan – raising a mere $80 billion a year by stopping the extension of Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy –would do to mitigate the $11 trillion his proposed budget would add to the debt?
If Blodget wants to argue that paying taxes is a patriotic and moral enterprise, rather than simply a necessity, that’s his choice as a liberal. But consistent mischaracterization and simplification of opponent’s opinions is what’s really irksome – especially coming from someone who’s so interesting to read otherwise.