Protagoras said that “Man is the measure of all things.” Albert Einstein taught us that relativity is the way of the universe. The relationship between the One Percent and the Ninety-Nine Percent has been pounded down our throats. What’s interesting is that the relationship between the 99 percent in the United States and those people who subsist in true poverty in the rest of the world never makes the evening news. Maybe it’s time to introduce a little unchanging moral principle into our political discussions.
The important thing is not the absolute difference between the haves and the have-nots. It’s not even the percentage difference. The questions we should be asking ourselves are whether the have-nots actually have-not, and if they are lacking, what are they lacking, and whether what the government has been doing for them has actually been alleviating their lot. If the 99 percent are trundling along just fine most of the time, then the fact that the one percent are flying along above them should not merit even a mention. Instead of pondering the myriad ways that we can divvy up the pie, we should be spending our mental energies trying to increase the pie so that even the lowest of the low has the opportunity to make a decent living.
Meanwhile, when calculating what it takes to keep the lowest of the low afloat, we often forget that the government tends to take away a lot of what it offers. We are constantly reminded that many of the ninety-nine percent are “working poor”, that they are paying payroll taxes, even if they’re not paying income tax. The liberals tout this as proof that they are carrying their fair share of the load. The truth is that the money deducted from their paychecks is immediately returned to them, an eternal tug-of-war that keeps the money from lighting anywhere. The poor would have been better off to just keep their earnings in the first place. Plus, their employers pay half of the Social Security tax that is due, as well as unemployment tax on wages. These added costs reduce the amount that employers are then able to pay to their employees, which further reduces their lot. The only people who benefit from this system are the federal employees hired to write checks and deposit checks and to ensure that everyone is properly abiding by the system.
In addition to payroll taxes, the working poor pay sales tax just like the rest of us do, which is one of the more regressive taxes. Another is the gas tax. And, remember the last time you moaned about the latest increase in the price of cigarettes? Odds are, you don’t, because the people who smoke are mostly the poor, who are the least able to pay the sin taxes, which tend to be mostly levied on them. We can debate whether those who have trouble providing food and shelter for themselves ought to be spending the little that they have on cigarettes, soda, alcohol, and the lottery, but they do. So to the extent that those items are taxed, other taxpayers have to subsidize the poor to an even greater extent than they would otherwise.
This is the primary problem with attempting to legislate social behavior through taxes. The same money spins around and around, not doing much in the way of persuading people to give up those pleasures that lawmakers have chosen to frown upon in this session of the legislature. Yet, when determining who is in need of assistance, the money spent on these items is ignored. People who spend a large portion of their ready money on alcohol, cigarettes or lottery tickets ought to be entitled to more assistance than are others who are not so dependent, much in the way that Sandra Fluke thinks that her choices should be subsidized when she opts for birth control pills over much cheaper condoms or really inexpensive abstinence.
But according to those who want more control over money, birth control is not a sin; it is a right. If women go back to having lots of babies, they’ll tend to want to stay home, and then there would go half the payroll taxes. This is why the government ought to get out of the relativity business, and stick to hard facts. Social science is a soft science at best, and one that is amenable to arguments on both sides. For every reason that a Republican can give for regulating this, that, or the other thing, a Democrat can come back with a perfectly logical rationale for letting people be. And verse vice. And that same amount of money just keeps spinning and spinning.