The social contract

In addition to my other pessimistic predictions, I am thinking that liberal ideology will soon return to popularity.

Here is a forceful statement by the liberal law professor and Obama administration regulator Elizabeth Warren, now running for Scott Brown’s Senate seat in Massachusetts:

“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there — good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. . . . You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea — God bless, keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

via Elizabeth Warren and liberalism, twisting the ‘social contract’ – The Washington Post.

So does she have a point?  How would you answer her?

(By the way, she’s from Oklahoma, and, as I recall, my brother Jimmy, sometimes commenter and contributor to this blog,  knows her!)

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Eric Brown

    I worry when the idea of social contract is applied only to one aspect (or class) of society. The social contract isn’t simply how you handle the rich, but all members of society. What if you are poor – what are your social obligations? What if you are in the middle, what are your social obligations.

    I’m all for the social contract — but it’s contract as in “agreement” — not a social contract as in the way society can take out a hit on the rich.

  • Eric Brown

    I worry when the idea of social contract is applied only to one aspect (or class) of society. The social contract isn’t simply how you handle the rich, but all members of society. What if you are poor – what are your social obligations? What if you are in the middle, what are your social obligations.

    I’m all for the social contract — but it’s contract as in “agreement” — not a social contract as in the way society can take out a hit on the rich.

  • http://LeitersburgLutheran.org Terry Culler

    I think she is right insofar as what she says here. After all, everyone stands upon the shoulders of giants as (I believe) Edmund Burke framed it. The idea that anyone creates anything out of nothingness is just downright silly. I admit I am awfully dismayed by the number of professing Christians who seem to think that the atheist novelist Ayn Rand had anything useful to say to us. Christians are, not by nature but by God’s will for us, communitarians.

  • http://LeitersburgLutheran.org Terry Culler

    I think she is right insofar as what she says here. After all, everyone stands upon the shoulders of giants as (I believe) Edmund Burke framed it. The idea that anyone creates anything out of nothingness is just downright silly. I admit I am awfully dismayed by the number of professing Christians who seem to think that the atheist novelist Ayn Rand had anything useful to say to us. Christians are, not by nature but by God’s will for us, communitarians.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Yeah I am with Eric. I would like her to explain what obligations the rest of the members of society have. Those who can plan and execute large operations are extremely important. The rest of us cannot do that and there is no prosperity without folks with that talent. So, I smell envy where there should be gratitude. Also, government doesn’t just take from the rich and give to the poor. It also takes from the middle and gives to the rich friends of politicians. So, I reject her premise that government makes things more fair and prosperous. It can in some cases, but it can also just be corrupt cronyism where favored folks get huge government guaranteed loans and tax loopholes. So, while Warren may be correct in what she says, I doubt she would implement policies to that effect. Rather, she like others both left and right will just give government goodies to her friends, those she sees as worthy and hard working tax payers had better shut up or they are heartless, or greedy, or racist, or….

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Yeah I am with Eric. I would like her to explain what obligations the rest of the members of society have. Those who can plan and execute large operations are extremely important. The rest of us cannot do that and there is no prosperity without folks with that talent. So, I smell envy where there should be gratitude. Also, government doesn’t just take from the rich and give to the poor. It also takes from the middle and gives to the rich friends of politicians. So, I reject her premise that government makes things more fair and prosperous. It can in some cases, but it can also just be corrupt cronyism where favored folks get huge government guaranteed loans and tax loopholes. So, while Warren may be correct in what she says, I doubt she would implement policies to that effect. Rather, she like others both left and right will just give government goodies to her friends, those she sees as worthy and hard working tax payers had better shut up or they are heartless, or greedy, or racist, or….

  • Booklover

    The Christian’s only social contract is to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” When Christians fail to live up to that supreme social contract, other inferior philosophies fill the vacuum, demanding pieces of the soul of the Christian, because the first obligation has not been met.

  • Booklover

    The Christian’s only social contract is to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” When Christians fail to live up to that supreme social contract, other inferior philosophies fill the vacuum, demanding pieces of the soul of the Christian, because the first obligation has not been met.

  • SKPeterson

    How much is a “hunk”? And, how exactly have the entrepreneurs not already paid their fair share or more? If there are public roads, they’ve paid the taxes for those roads too. They’ve paid property tax (and lots more than most) to pay for the public schools.

    The most troubling thing is this notion that the government has to reallocate resources for the “next kid who comes along.” What does that really mean? Maybe the role of the entrepreneur in fulfilling the social contract is to take a hunk of his wealth and set it aside outside government control for the next few hundred kids who come along, by expanding his operations, employing their parents, providing goods and services in a competitive economy. She says there is a social contract that exists between people, but implies that this contract must be mediated by elected officials or bureaucrats such as herself, who can better identify those “next kids” and direct the “investment” more “appropriately.”

    This boils down to Elizabeth Warren evoking the “public servant” version of the Willie Sutton maxim – why tax the rich? Because that’s where the money I want to play with is. And I’ll justify my taking it by invoking the notion of a “social contract” that no one has ever seen, signed, or agreed to but is apparently binding upon anyone Ms. Warren decides needs to pony up hunks of cash to her and her cronies.

  • SKPeterson

    How much is a “hunk”? And, how exactly have the entrepreneurs not already paid their fair share or more? If there are public roads, they’ve paid the taxes for those roads too. They’ve paid property tax (and lots more than most) to pay for the public schools.

    The most troubling thing is this notion that the government has to reallocate resources for the “next kid who comes along.” What does that really mean? Maybe the role of the entrepreneur in fulfilling the social contract is to take a hunk of his wealth and set it aside outside government control for the next few hundred kids who come along, by expanding his operations, employing their parents, providing goods and services in a competitive economy. She says there is a social contract that exists between people, but implies that this contract must be mediated by elected officials or bureaucrats such as herself, who can better identify those “next kids” and direct the “investment” more “appropriately.”

    This boils down to Elizabeth Warren evoking the “public servant” version of the Willie Sutton maxim – why tax the rich? Because that’s where the money I want to play with is. And I’ll justify my taking it by invoking the notion of a “social contract” that no one has ever seen, signed, or agreed to but is apparently binding upon anyone Ms. Warren decides needs to pony up hunks of cash to her and her cronies.

  • SAL

    What bothers me about this quote is that it assumes the rich are an alien class separated socially and physically from everyone else.

    I think there’s a danger here as the wealthy tend to go to wealthy churches, live in exclusive gated communities, and socialize with those who are also wealthy.

    This isolates the wealthy and makes them an abstraction to the lower 90% of Americans. It’s easy to vilify a stranger and easier to attack abstractions.

    There was a time when in most of the US the wealthy and the other classes shopped at the same stores, participated in the frequent community events, and met each other at Church. No longer.

    This has had a few bad consequences. As the wealthy distance themselves from others they’ve become less virtuous and beneficial to their communities. Also as the wealthy distance themselves from others they’ve lost sympathy from the other classes.

    There’s a reason why the vast majority of Americans (including Republicans) will support taxing “the rich”. Very few of us know them.

  • SAL

    What bothers me about this quote is that it assumes the rich are an alien class separated socially and physically from everyone else.

    I think there’s a danger here as the wealthy tend to go to wealthy churches, live in exclusive gated communities, and socialize with those who are also wealthy.

    This isolates the wealthy and makes them an abstraction to the lower 90% of Americans. It’s easy to vilify a stranger and easier to attack abstractions.

    There was a time when in most of the US the wealthy and the other classes shopped at the same stores, participated in the frequent community events, and met each other at Church. No longer.

    This has had a few bad consequences. As the wealthy distance themselves from others they’ve become less virtuous and beneficial to their communities. Also as the wealthy distance themselves from others they’ve lost sympathy from the other classes.

    There’s a reason why the vast majority of Americans (including Republicans) will support taxing “the rich”. Very few of us know them.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    There was a mocking response to this circulating on Facebook a few days ago. It involved who you are socially obligated to have sex with. Crass, yes. But it made the point pretty well about the logic behind this kind of “social contract.”

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    There was a mocking response to this circulating on Facebook a few days ago. It involved who you are socially obligated to have sex with. Crass, yes. But it made the point pretty well about the logic behind this kind of “social contract.”

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “There’s a reason why the vast majority of Americans (including Republicans) will support taxing “the rich”. Very few of us know them.”

    Taxing the rich is okay, but we aren’t even addressing where the money goes. Anyway, Warren doesn’t really want to tax the rich, she just doesn’t want to be a target. If she were in office, she would be shoveling $$$ to rich people and granting them special loopholes to avoid the official tax rate. The high earning middle class making $100k-$200k would pay more and get less in services. The lower classes would get just enough to keep them from rioting and the rich would get much much richer under the policies Warren would support which is why the rich support her.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “There’s a reason why the vast majority of Americans (including Republicans) will support taxing “the rich”. Very few of us know them.”

    Taxing the rich is okay, but we aren’t even addressing where the money goes. Anyway, Warren doesn’t really want to tax the rich, she just doesn’t want to be a target. If she were in office, she would be shoveling $$$ to rich people and granting them special loopholes to avoid the official tax rate. The high earning middle class making $100k-$200k would pay more and get less in services. The lower classes would get just enough to keep them from rioting and the rich would get much much richer under the policies Warren would support which is why the rich support her.

  • http://fivepintlutheran.blogspot.com/ David Cochrane

    Good rhetoric but we have years of evidence that it will not work.

  • http://fivepintlutheran.blogspot.com/ David Cochrane

    Good rhetoric but we have years of evidence that it will not work.

  • Lisa

    @Mike. No, it was just crass. It made no point and it was base.

  • Lisa

    @Mike. No, it was just crass. It made no point and it was base.

  • Martin J.

    An excellent response to the column you linked to (by George Will) also appears in yesterday’s Washington Post:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/from-elizabeth-warren-the-proper-case-for-liberalism/2011/10/09/gIQA5ZZeYL_story.html

    A few choice quotations:
    “In this case, he (George Will) demonstrates his debating skills by first accusing Warren of being ‘a pyromaniac in a field of straw men,’ and then by conceding the one and only point that Warren actually made.”

    “Will knows danger when he sees it.”

    “What Warren has done is to make a proper case for liberalism, which does not happen often enough.”

    “..he has advanced arguments of his own that complement hers. In his thoughtful 1983 book ‘Statecraft as Soulcraft,’ Will rightly lamented that America’s sense of community had become “thin gruel” and chided fellow conservatives “caught in the web of their careless anti-government rhetoric.”

  • Martin J.

    An excellent response to the column you linked to (by George Will) also appears in yesterday’s Washington Post:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/from-elizabeth-warren-the-proper-case-for-liberalism/2011/10/09/gIQA5ZZeYL_story.html

    A few choice quotations:
    “In this case, he (George Will) demonstrates his debating skills by first accusing Warren of being ‘a pyromaniac in a field of straw men,’ and then by conceding the one and only point that Warren actually made.”

    “Will knows danger when he sees it.”

    “What Warren has done is to make a proper case for liberalism, which does not happen often enough.”

    “..he has advanced arguments of his own that complement hers. In his thoughtful 1983 book ‘Statecraft as Soulcraft,’ Will rightly lamented that America’s sense of community had become “thin gruel” and chided fellow conservatives “caught in the web of their careless anti-government rhetoric.”

  • DonS

    SKP and others above have stated the objections to Warren’s “philosophy” well. I will only add that she has constructed the classical “strawman” to knock down, and then walk away satisfied that she has justified and rationalized the greed and avarice of the tax consumers in our society today.

    The strawman, of course, is the idea that the factory owner doesn’t want to “give back” or pay his fair share. Our tax system is steeply progressive — the top 10% of income earners pay 71% of the federal income tax. So her point is nonsense. Additionally, most of the great museums, libraries, cultural centers, and performing arts venues in our cities have been mostly or entirely funded by the wealthy, through private donations. Hospitals also would be far less adequate without the generous donations of those who have been blessed to live in this land. Who is Warren to slander and denigrate those who have worked hard and had success in this country? She should be ashamed of herself for pitting people against one another just to try to keep the government gravy train going a little longer.

    When I talk about our “tax consumers” today, I am not talking about the poor. I am talking about the legions of unionized government workers, who will pull any political lever and step on any other group of people to be able to continue to hold their jobs, full lifetime medical care, and retirement in their fifties at nearly full pay, with inflation escalators. I’m talking about construction labor unions who want to ensure that no public infrastructure or amenities get built by non-union labor, thereby costing taxpayers billions of additional dollars each year. I’m talking about environmentalists and regulators who insist on the artificial scarcity of energy, thereby depriving millions of the poor and middle class of good jobs in manufacturing (because of artificially high energy costs or severe environmental regulation which makes manufacturing impossible or unreasonably costly) and in domestic energy production. I’m talking about higher education, which has exerted its political power to ensure that government wastes tax dollars on education at unprecedented levels, serving to allow universities to accumulate many billions of dollars in endowments, and increase tuition at rates far exceeding general rates of inflation for decades. I’m talking about “green energy” shysters like Solyndra, who enrich and engorge themselves at taxpayer expense. These are the people Warren is defending, at the expense of sullying the reputations of the successful. And, incidentally, at the expense of the truly needy, since they are the first to feel the pain when tax dollars are diverted to the politically powerful.

  • DonS

    SKP and others above have stated the objections to Warren’s “philosophy” well. I will only add that she has constructed the classical “strawman” to knock down, and then walk away satisfied that she has justified and rationalized the greed and avarice of the tax consumers in our society today.

    The strawman, of course, is the idea that the factory owner doesn’t want to “give back” or pay his fair share. Our tax system is steeply progressive — the top 10% of income earners pay 71% of the federal income tax. So her point is nonsense. Additionally, most of the great museums, libraries, cultural centers, and performing arts venues in our cities have been mostly or entirely funded by the wealthy, through private donations. Hospitals also would be far less adequate without the generous donations of those who have been blessed to live in this land. Who is Warren to slander and denigrate those who have worked hard and had success in this country? She should be ashamed of herself for pitting people against one another just to try to keep the government gravy train going a little longer.

    When I talk about our “tax consumers” today, I am not talking about the poor. I am talking about the legions of unionized government workers, who will pull any political lever and step on any other group of people to be able to continue to hold their jobs, full lifetime medical care, and retirement in their fifties at nearly full pay, with inflation escalators. I’m talking about construction labor unions who want to ensure that no public infrastructure or amenities get built by non-union labor, thereby costing taxpayers billions of additional dollars each year. I’m talking about environmentalists and regulators who insist on the artificial scarcity of energy, thereby depriving millions of the poor and middle class of good jobs in manufacturing (because of artificially high energy costs or severe environmental regulation which makes manufacturing impossible or unreasonably costly) and in domestic energy production. I’m talking about higher education, which has exerted its political power to ensure that government wastes tax dollars on education at unprecedented levels, serving to allow universities to accumulate many billions of dollars in endowments, and increase tuition at rates far exceeding general rates of inflation for decades. I’m talking about “green energy” shysters like Solyndra, who enrich and engorge themselves at taxpayer expense. These are the people Warren is defending, at the expense of sullying the reputations of the successful. And, incidentally, at the expense of the truly needy, since they are the first to feel the pain when tax dollars are diverted to the politically powerful.

  • MacPhee

    So who created value and wealth to begin with so that all those roads, schools, and emergency services could be established and paid for? It is individuals who create wealth, start companies, and pay taxes for all the public goods that she claims are responsible for people’s success.

    For the best response, however, see George Will’s column.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/elizabeth-warren-and-liberalism-twisting-the-social-contract/2011/10/04/gIQAXi5VOL_story.html

    His last paragraph encapsulates the argument against her field of straw men.

    “Society — hundreds of millions of people making billions of decisions daily — is a marvel of spontaneous order among individuals in voluntary cooperation. Government facilitates this cooperation with roads, schools, police, etc. — and by getting out of its way. This is a sensible, dynamic, prosperous society’s ‘underlying social contract.’”

  • MacPhee

    So who created value and wealth to begin with so that all those roads, schools, and emergency services could be established and paid for? It is individuals who create wealth, start companies, and pay taxes for all the public goods that she claims are responsible for people’s success.

    For the best response, however, see George Will’s column.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/elizabeth-warren-and-liberalism-twisting-the-social-contract/2011/10/04/gIQAXi5VOL_story.html

    His last paragraph encapsulates the argument against her field of straw men.

    “Society — hundreds of millions of people making billions of decisions daily — is a marvel of spontaneous order among individuals in voluntary cooperation. Government facilitates this cooperation with roads, schools, police, etc. — and by getting out of its way. This is a sensible, dynamic, prosperous society’s ‘underlying social contract.’”

  • http://leahhome.blogspot.com/ Leah O

    This person who built the factory is part of “the rest of us”, because their tax money also paid for the roads, and the present and future tax money paid out from the wealth the new factory creates is the “hunk of that is paid forward for the next kid.” Those roads and police men wouldn’t be getting paid for unless someone creates factories that actually pay money into the system.

  • http://leahhome.blogspot.com/ Leah O

    This person who built the factory is part of “the rest of us”, because their tax money also paid for the roads, and the present and future tax money paid out from the wealth the new factory creates is the “hunk of that is paid forward for the next kid.” Those roads and police men wouldn’t be getting paid for unless someone creates factories that actually pay money into the system.

  • Martin J.

    An excellent response to the column you linked to (by George Will) also appears in yesterday’s Washington Post:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/from-elizabeth-warren-the-proper-case-for-liberalism/2011/10/09/gIQA5ZZeYL_story.html

    A few choice quotations:
    “In this case, he (George Will) demonstrates his debating skills by first accusing Warren of being ‘a pyromaniac in a field of straw men,’ and then by conceding the one and only point that Warren actually made.”

    “Will knows danger when he sees it.”

    “What Warren has done is to make a proper case for liberalism, which does not happen often enough.”

    “..he has advanced arguments of his own that complement hers. In his thoughtful 1983 book ‘Statecraft as Soulcraft,’ Will rightly lamented that America’s sense of community had become “thin gruel” and chided fellow conservatives “caught in the web of their careless anti-government rhetoric.”

  • Martin J.

    An excellent response to the column you linked to (by George Will) also appears in yesterday’s Washington Post:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/from-elizabeth-warren-the-proper-case-for-liberalism/2011/10/09/gIQA5ZZeYL_story.html

    A few choice quotations:
    “In this case, he (George Will) demonstrates his debating skills by first accusing Warren of being ‘a pyromaniac in a field of straw men,’ and then by conceding the one and only point that Warren actually made.”

    “Will knows danger when he sees it.”

    “What Warren has done is to make a proper case for liberalism, which does not happen often enough.”

    “..he has advanced arguments of his own that complement hers. In his thoughtful 1983 book ‘Statecraft as Soulcraft,’ Will rightly lamented that America’s sense of community had become “thin gruel” and chided fellow conservatives “caught in the web of their careless anti-government rhetoric.”

  • steve

    I’m also amused by the phrase “the rest of us paid for”. As if those rich corporate folks don’t pay the same taxes. Actually they pay much more than the “rest of us”, insofar as 40% of “the rest of us” pay no federal taxes at all and many of those also pay no state or property taxes. Elizabeth Warren sounds like a hack to me; just like her boss.

  • steve

    I’m also amused by the phrase “the rest of us paid for”. As if those rich corporate folks don’t pay the same taxes. Actually they pay much more than the “rest of us”, insofar as 40% of “the rest of us” pay no federal taxes at all and many of those also pay no state or property taxes. Elizabeth Warren sounds like a hack to me; just like her boss.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “many of those also pay no state or property taxes”

    This isn’t really true. They pay sales tax and cigarette tax and alcohol taxes and landlords pass the property taxes on in the rents.

    However, after free public ed., Medicaid, food stamps and Section 8 housing, the net tax rate is below zero.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “many of those also pay no state or property taxes”

    This isn’t really true. They pay sales tax and cigarette tax and alcohol taxes and landlords pass the property taxes on in the rents.

    However, after free public ed., Medicaid, food stamps and Section 8 housing, the net tax rate is below zero.

  • steve

    sg #17,

    The taxes you mentioned aren’t state or property taxes. We all pay those taxes as well. Though you make a point about property taxes being passed on in rent. My point, as you also point out, was that they pay much less effective tax than “the rest of us”.

    Honestly, I think it’s bad for both the country and for the individuals that pay virtually no taxes. Regardless of how little they can afford to pay, it’s important that they pay something. Paying in the form of passed-along costs that they don’t see and probably don’t understand is not good enough. These people need to the write checks. That will give them every bit as much of a sense of community as “the rest of us”–both the good parts and the bad parts.

  • steve

    sg #17,

    The taxes you mentioned aren’t state or property taxes. We all pay those taxes as well. Though you make a point about property taxes being passed on in rent. My point, as you also point out, was that they pay much less effective tax than “the rest of us”.

    Honestly, I think it’s bad for both the country and for the individuals that pay virtually no taxes. Regardless of how little they can afford to pay, it’s important that they pay something. Paying in the form of passed-along costs that they don’t see and probably don’t understand is not good enough. These people need to the write checks. That will give them every bit as much of a sense of community as “the rest of us”–both the good parts and the bad parts.

  • steve

    Should be “write the checks”.

  • steve

    Should be “write the checks”.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Much of the incoherence of Warren’s comments have already been covered, namely that factory owners (and “the rich” in general) typically pay a great deal of money in taxes (personal, corporate, payroll, sales, luxury, etc.). But there is a point that is worth making in addition. Some extremely large companies pay very little comparatively in taxes (GE comes to mind, although there are others) but this is mainly due to political connections and lobbying that both parties, including the Democratic Party which is Warren’s party, have hard wired into our tax code. I would be very interested in hearing what Warren actually would do differently, but up to this point I have just heard populist generalities.

    This applies to many other politicians (or aspiring politicians) but Warren is a Harvard professor with something of a political resume. Anti-establishment rhetoric doesn’t exactly thrill me when it is coming from the establishment.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Much of the incoherence of Warren’s comments have already been covered, namely that factory owners (and “the rich” in general) typically pay a great deal of money in taxes (personal, corporate, payroll, sales, luxury, etc.). But there is a point that is worth making in addition. Some extremely large companies pay very little comparatively in taxes (GE comes to mind, although there are others) but this is mainly due to political connections and lobbying that both parties, including the Democratic Party which is Warren’s party, have hard wired into our tax code. I would be very interested in hearing what Warren actually would do differently, but up to this point I have just heard populist generalities.

    This applies to many other politicians (or aspiring politicians) but Warren is a Harvard professor with something of a political resume. Anti-establishment rhetoric doesn’t exactly thrill me when it is coming from the establishment.

  • kerner

    sg and steve:

    sg said: “This isn’t really true. They pay sales tax and cigarette tax and alcohol taxes and landlords pass the property taxes on in the rents.

    However, after free public ed., Medicaid, food stamps and Section 8 housing, the net tax rate is below zero.”

    For most of that 40% I disagree with both of you.

    First of all, there are state sales taxes, alcohol taxes, cigarette taxes, gasoline taxes, hotel taxes, rental car taxes, cellular phone taxes, and all kinds of other taxes we don’t think about. And for a little while longer, the excess payroll taxes not funding social security and medicare are going into the federal general fund. I believe it won’t be long before there are taxes on soda-pop and junk food too.

    Plus, substantially less that 40% of the population are living in section 8 housing or have kids in public schools, and aren’t getting medicaid or food stamps either. Even with 5 kids, I paid for a public school system I didn’t use for years. Now that my kids are grown, I’m still paying. All my kids are today paying for a school system they don’t use, because even the ones who have kids of their own aren’t sending them to public schools.

    Sure I drive on roads, but my gas taxes (state and federal), and my vehicle registrations are what pays for that (as it does for rich, middle class, and poor alike). If I take a highway through Illinois, I have to pay their tolls (which are just taxes in disguise). Anybody who practices a profession that requires any kind of a license pays a tax to do so. Then there’s gambling, which is basically a tax on stupidity.

    All that stuff adds up. I’ll bet a lot more of those 40% have a tax rate higher than zero.

    And I don’t think that the use of public services zeros out your tax rate, either. Shoot, we all use the police, fire, and military for protection and safety. does that mean that, if we don’t pay enough to cover a proportionate share of all that that we have a zero tax rate? Do I have a below zero tax rate if I go to the public library, instead of buying all my books? If I go to a public park instead of building my own softball diamond or golf course? If I go to the county swimming pools instead of building my own? If the city sweeps the streets and halls away dead animals do I have a zero tax rate because I didn’t pay somebody directly to do that?

    The middle class, and even the poor, in this country do pay taxes. Whether they pay enough is debatable, but lets not pretend they don’t pay, just because a lot of them don’t pay federal income tax.

  • kerner

    sg and steve:

    sg said: “This isn’t really true. They pay sales tax and cigarette tax and alcohol taxes and landlords pass the property taxes on in the rents.

    However, after free public ed., Medicaid, food stamps and Section 8 housing, the net tax rate is below zero.”

    For most of that 40% I disagree with both of you.

    First of all, there are state sales taxes, alcohol taxes, cigarette taxes, gasoline taxes, hotel taxes, rental car taxes, cellular phone taxes, and all kinds of other taxes we don’t think about. And for a little while longer, the excess payroll taxes not funding social security and medicare are going into the federal general fund. I believe it won’t be long before there are taxes on soda-pop and junk food too.

    Plus, substantially less that 40% of the population are living in section 8 housing or have kids in public schools, and aren’t getting medicaid or food stamps either. Even with 5 kids, I paid for a public school system I didn’t use for years. Now that my kids are grown, I’m still paying. All my kids are today paying for a school system they don’t use, because even the ones who have kids of their own aren’t sending them to public schools.

    Sure I drive on roads, but my gas taxes (state and federal), and my vehicle registrations are what pays for that (as it does for rich, middle class, and poor alike). If I take a highway through Illinois, I have to pay their tolls (which are just taxes in disguise). Anybody who practices a profession that requires any kind of a license pays a tax to do so. Then there’s gambling, which is basically a tax on stupidity.

    All that stuff adds up. I’ll bet a lot more of those 40% have a tax rate higher than zero.

    And I don’t think that the use of public services zeros out your tax rate, either. Shoot, we all use the police, fire, and military for protection and safety. does that mean that, if we don’t pay enough to cover a proportionate share of all that that we have a zero tax rate? Do I have a below zero tax rate if I go to the public library, instead of buying all my books? If I go to a public park instead of building my own softball diamond or golf course? If I go to the county swimming pools instead of building my own? If the city sweeps the streets and halls away dead animals do I have a zero tax rate because I didn’t pay somebody directly to do that?

    The middle class, and even the poor, in this country do pay taxes. Whether they pay enough is debatable, but lets not pretend they don’t pay, just because a lot of them don’t pay federal income tax.

  • Jimmy Veith

    Well, I don’t actually personally know Elizabeth Warren. However, I did hear her speak at a bankruptcy conference several years ago, and have followed her carrier since then.

    As a Professor at Harvard Law School, she has become the leading expert and scholar in the area of bankruptcy and consumer protection laws. She has also studied and written extensively about the plight of the middle class and seems to understands real life economics from Wall Street to Main Street.

    To Steve @ 16. Elizabeth Warren is no hack. She is one of the most intelligent and articulate spokesperson for the middle class that has come along in a long time. She has the ability to explain her positions in a clear, logical and convincing manner. I have heard her interviewed on television numerous times, and she actually does something that is very refreshing. She actually answers the questions that are asked of her without resorting to the tired cliché ridden babble of most politicians.

    Whether you agree with her politics or not, she is someone worth listening to and deserves your respect.

  • Jimmy Veith

    Well, I don’t actually personally know Elizabeth Warren. However, I did hear her speak at a bankruptcy conference several years ago, and have followed her carrier since then.

    As a Professor at Harvard Law School, she has become the leading expert and scholar in the area of bankruptcy and consumer protection laws. She has also studied and written extensively about the plight of the middle class and seems to understands real life economics from Wall Street to Main Street.

    To Steve @ 16. Elizabeth Warren is no hack. She is one of the most intelligent and articulate spokesperson for the middle class that has come along in a long time. She has the ability to explain her positions in a clear, logical and convincing manner. I have heard her interviewed on television numerous times, and she actually does something that is very refreshing. She actually answers the questions that are asked of her without resorting to the tired cliché ridden babble of most politicians.

    Whether you agree with her politics or not, she is someone worth listening to and deserves your respect.

  • DonS

    http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/10/obama-jobs-council-stacked-with-democratic-donors/

    This is what Warren and the Obama team mean by “paying it forward”.

  • DonS

    http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/10/obama-jobs-council-stacked-with-democratic-donors/

    This is what Warren and the Obama team mean by “paying it forward”.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “All that stuff adds up. I’ll bet a lot more of those 40% have a tax rate higher than zero.”

    I would bet it doesn’t. Consider just the public education for their two kids at (minimum estimate)$12K per kid per year for 13 years. That alone is about $300k. There is no way that the bottom 40% pay that much in tax over their entire lives. Heck they barely earn that much. The bottom quintile of earners would have to be paying more than 100% of their income to cover that cost.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “All that stuff adds up. I’ll bet a lot more of those 40% have a tax rate higher than zero.”

    I would bet it doesn’t. Consider just the public education for their two kids at (minimum estimate)$12K per kid per year for 13 years. That alone is about $300k. There is no way that the bottom 40% pay that much in tax over their entire lives. Heck they barely earn that much. The bottom quintile of earners would have to be paying more than 100% of their income to cover that cost.

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