Until Midterm Elections...

Scott versus Scott

Welcome to our blog. Here we will debate the days most serious topics and allow users the chance to discuss the topics as well. The range of topics will vary, but one thing will remain certain, the debate will rage on. Scott Lesinski is a proud conservative and Scott Jones is a proud liberal. However, the roles will switch on some topics. Stay tuned.

Scott Lesinski is currently an actuarial associate for a large human resources and insurance consulting firm in Saint Louis. He is also an avid student of US history and enjoys following current events, with an eye to their contextual relationship to the past. He is also, in fact, a former student of Mr. Scott Jones. Scott is working toward his FSA credentials, which is akin to earning a PHD in Actuarial Science.

Scott Jones is currently a high school social studies teacher at a high school in suburban St. Louis, MO. He teaches World History, AP American Government and Senior American Foreign Policy. He has a BS. Ed. (Secondary Social Studies) from the University of Missouri - Columbia and a M.A. (History) from Southeast Missouri State University. He is currently working on a dissertation in character education to earn a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Based on whose Morality? Why the Income Tax and Government Welfare are wrong and destructive.

I believe it was in my tenth grade US history class that I first learned the concept of “tax burden”. In fact, it was Scott Jones who taught me this concept and back then, the explanation he gave resonated and made sense. His explanation was a defense of the system of taxation here in America known as the graduated income tax, whereby income earners pay an ever increasing marginal rate of tax on the next dollar they earned over certain breakpoints. He explained that this was the moral way to spread around the tax burden on society, since the poor had greater need for their fewer dollars and the wealthy could afford to pay.



In America, we are conditioned to believe that goods and services ought to be distributed on the basis of need; that is why we have food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid, public education, and other forms of government forced wealth redistribution. It is seemingly conventional wisdom that Democrats are the compassionate ones because they sponsor an endless stream of legislation designed to “help the poor” and “make things fair and equal”. Indeed, many people seem to have an attitude that by supporting conservative policies, they are acting in an unfair and selfish way because they are not sacrificing for the good of others. It is in this light that Democrats and liberals claim a moral high ground from which they launch attacks at conservatives for being greedy or for the rich. In fact, any tax cut proposed by conservatives in the last 40 years has been demonized as tax cuts for the rich or tax breaks for the wealthiest of Americans thereby implying that only rich people benefit when taxes are lower and by further implication, poor people actually suffer when rich people are allowed to keep more of their money. The logical step needed to make that conclusion is that with fewer dollars coming in from those rich Americans, the government has less with which to support programs they say are designed to help the poor. The end result is that Conservatives are attacked as being immoral, uncaring, greedy, bigoted, racist, homophobic, etc.

The fact of the matter is that the exact opposite is true.

A simple economic truth is that when government taxes an entity, be it a resource, product, action, or lifestyle, less of that entity is generated. Conversely, when a government subsidizes an entity, more of that entity is generated. We can see this most recently with the “cash for clunkers” program: people were offered a tax incentive to buy a car, so more cars were sold in that given period of time than would otherwise have been sold. Likewise, the Maryland yacht business was almost put out of business by a punitive luxury tax in Maryland which caused far fewer yachts to be demanded and thus produced.

The same logic holds for dependency. Think about it: since the 1940s, government has assumed a role of provider for millions of Americans. A mindset of entitlement began to creep into the subconscious of many people. The reason for deserving benefits shifted from “I’m due this benefit because I worked for it” to “I’m due this benefit because I’m an American and I need it.” Poverty levels increased, and eventually became such a problem that President Lyndon Baines Johnson declared a War on Poverty and began the “Great Society” which was the greatest expansion of welfare benefits America had ever known. Government assumed an ever increasing role in the daily lives of its citizens. The multitude of special interest kickbacks and payouts rose to astonishing levels. In many ways, welfare destroyed the black family in America by replacing Father with a paternal Government and paying women to have children out of wedlock. More people signed onto government doles and the need continued to grow. To this date, trillions of dollars have been spent in this country to combat poverty and provide benefits to the poor, yet we see no improvement.

This outcome was predictable. Whenever government subsidizes an entity, in this case, poverty, more poverty will be created. Government has not the power to provide a high quality of life for all of its citizens, only we have the power to provide a high quality of life for ourselves. Thus as the government accepts more people onto its welfare roles, only more poverty can be the result.

Unfortunately, the evil that is Welfare is far more insidious than mere enslavement to government dependency. Welfare benefits and entitlements rob Man of his will to work. When a meager existence can be experienced while living on government handouts, the desire to improve one’s status in life diminishes. Eventually, the flame of freedom and the spirit of excellence die. Government welfare has as its goal the enslavement of the mind of men.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.”

Man cannot be free unless he is independent of the welfare of others and those living on the government’s dollar are slaves to its will.

As for the progressive income tax, this tax is an immoral tax. Taxes against the income of a man are taxes against the work of that man. Work is a product of the mind and it is the mind that makes us human.

This is important: The difference between humans and the rest of the life on earth is our ability to use our minds to do work and improve the quality of our lives and our world. Taxing the fruits of our labor taxes the very thing that makes us human. Taxing our incomes taxes us for existing, for in order for men to exist in a rational world, they must earn an income to provide for their needs. Therefore, since the income tax levies an assault on our existence, it is immoral.

All of this is in addition to the predictable decrease in work output our economy will experience when higher income taxes are levied. As stated earlier, tax something and you will get less of it. As work output falls, consumption falls, revenues drop and jobs are lost. This is a very simple and easily explained phenomenon, but it escapes our elected officials in Washington. If the politicians truly wanted to do what is best for the people of America, they would drastically reduce taxation and spending. They would pare back welfare so that it truly would be only a last resort safety net that would only provide the barest of essentials. When unemployment benefits run out, that would be it. The recourse of the poor would be in themselves, as it is already, but it would be revealed to them in a way they had never before seen due to the cloud of dependency. If government would allow men to live free lives, unencumbered by the punitive taxation and regulation they have placed on our backs, our economy would regain its status as the number one in the world.

But I am not in favor of this action for Americans alone. The history of the world is dictatorship, enslavement, dependency, classes, and vast poverty for billions of people. It need not be so for our future. I can envision a world…the whole of the world…governed by Reason and Logic, where all men are free to pursue the absolute limits of their dreams. In this world, the irrational governments of dependency would be replaced by simple governments of the rational thought of men based on the principle that every human being is born innately desiring freedom and deserving of it.

This is what I believe, that men and women are capable of far greater things than most of them ever accomplish. The reason many do not fulfill their ambition or even lose sight of it altogether is the interference of irrational beings promising benefits without work, subverting the natural order of life, replacing “earn” with “need” as the metric for measuring value. We cannot distribute the wealth of society based on the need of society; it is a contradiction to try.

Conservatives are guilty of the perpetuation of this ideology. When we concede the moral high ground to irrational men who claim that our ideas of limited government, low taxation, low entitlements and individual liberty and private property are based on greed and are not compassionate, we allow them to set the tone of the debate and poison the waters of liberty. When we buy into the premises of liberals and try to debate from within them, we have already lost. We must understand our own beliefs and not allow our words to be twisted, our motives perverted, nor our results diminished.

Freedom is the highest morality. And Freedom is under attack.

13 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  2. Okay, Scott I will post here and refer to the comments you mentioned on my post.

    The source of my lecture in your sophomore class - I am truly proud you remembered- was Adam Smith. He understood the tax burden on the poor was higher and the that taxes should be progressive, that is the rich pay a higher percentage.

    The problem is, and alway will be, is the distribution of those funds. How can we fairly distribute these funds to help the burdens of poverty, but not allow them to become a way of life for those in poverty.

    Our system has generally been to help children. While the nobleness of that cause, of which I know you agree, is the end goal. However, the implementation has caused other problems, mainly dependency. I would like to know the rate of poverty before LBJ's war and the rates after. I do not know these numbers.

    I will tell you, Scott, the outrage at conservatives and the greed label, comes not from the fiscal conservatives, but the social conservatives. The Religious Right. When those on your side argue that wealth is a blessing from God and poverty is His punishment, then we've got a problem.

    You argue for a government and philosophy based on REASON and LOGIC, and you sir have those, but too many on your side fail to support their ideas with these important tenets. The left is just as bad, but that is not the purpose of my defense.

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  3. In comments on my previous post, you argue that education was once really good and that liberals have undermined it the last 50 years.

    I do not agree with your premise. Education before the 1960s was do as your told without question. No reason and logic there. It wasn't taught as a premise of the education.

    The problem with the liberal education you trash is that the movement away from classroom/school dictatorship was to allow everyone's opinion to be equally valued. Another tragedy.

    However, the move to a pre-1960s education does not match the goals of our society. You argue for freedom, however, the education you refer to was one without such freedoms for the students.

    I stand by my original analysis. Teach kids history, philosophy, reason, logic, etc and freedom will be the end product for those students. A curriculum loaded with Math, Science and Literacy will help kids learn how to make a living, but it is the humanities that will teach them how to live a full, fruitful and FREE life.

    We can discuss how we accomplish this (your attacks on WAM and Extra Help are noted, but the problem at the school is more implementation than model), but it is a fruitless discussion until we get American to return to a basic civics curriculum for our children.

    Ben Franklin argued that the schools sole purpose was to create students that are economically fruitful and socially responsible. Today, we focus on the former and disregard the later. Franklin warned that if schools don't produce citizens that can handle freedom, we will lose it.

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  4. I think maybe we got our wires crossed on the education thing. I didn't propose "going back to before the 60s". I proposed exactly what you just outlined here: a curriculum rich in history, philosophy, civics and also the 4 Rs.

    I agree with Franklin's assertion, and the current system is racing toward the path of losing it. When more American teens can identify people like Ellen Degeneres and Simon Cowell (picking on my least favorite, mind numbing show), than list the presidents or state with exactitude the date the Constitution was signed, that's a problem.

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  5. "Education before the 1960s was do as your told without question."

    Why is that a problem? I definitely think critical thinking should be encouraged, if that's what you're implying with that, but I don't think violence, talking back, and complete disrespect for a teacher or authority figure is alright.

    "However, the move to a pre-1960s education does not match the goals of our society. You argue for freedom, however, the education you refer to was one without such freedoms for the students."

    So what exactly is wrong with making the students sit in a class and learn what they're supposed to? Unitl you're 18 in this country you shouldn't be and in most cases aren't free to do what you want without your parents consent.

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  6. Several points regarding your response to my post here:

    I have never heard of your argument against christian conservatives who blame poverty on lack of religioin. That doesnt even make sense, Jesus was a poor man (fiscally). Name for me the person on our side who claims that wealth is a gift from God and that those who are poor are so because they're being punished. And you don't get to say Pat Robertson.

    Regarding the income tax...

    I disagree with Adam Smith. Or at least his solution. By default, wealthier people (at least, those with higher incomes) pay more than the poor. But as I pointed out, and this is the critical point...taxing incomes is immoral. Furthermore, taxing the incomes of those who have succeeded more than those who have not is even more dispicable, because we are disincentivizing the most industrious among us.

    We need the Bill Gates, the Steve Jobs, the Sam Waltons, the Dave Farrs, the Henry Fords of the world to work as hard as they possibly can, because they have the drive that not many of us possess. Penalizing them is not only immoral but it hurts us in the long run because we'll lose out on even more success when they stop trying.

    This idea may seem radical, but it truly is not. In the beginning of America, we all saw ourselves as individuals and we all acknowledged the honorable responsibility we had to take care of ourselves and our families. The radical idea is the one of entitlement. The irrational idea is the one that claims that no matter what costs government places on their backs, the men of action, the men of production, will keep producing "somehow". The irrational idea is that by taking from the productive and giving to the slothful we will somehow raise the slothful out of their laziness and make them productive.

    I understand helping kids, but its not as if we're opening up huge government orphanages to care for them. When we absolve parents of the responsibility to open up a box of cereal, pour some milk on it and feed their kids, we drive them further into dependency.

    The way out of dependency is not easy. Its like coming off heroin. But like weaning oneself off of a drug, the first thing that must be done is the drug must be stopped.

    Our problem is that the pushers of the drug are doing so for elective power.

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  7. Wardo - I believe that the education of our young people should prepare them for participation in our democracy. Some of that requires that they get hands-on experience on how a representative democracy works. Schools today (and those of the 1960s) still do a terrible job of this. While we have made some strides, schools are still monarchies and then we just tell them when they get out to participate and vote. Doesn't work that way.

    I do understand the concerns of safety, but it doesn't have to be that way. I've never had a problem like you've described because I take great effort to make sure that I get the students to understand what we're doing and why. For some kids I am able to just command respect. For others, I have to earn it. One size does not fit all. However, too many teachers and administrators see it that way. It causes problems.

    Before you reply that I am a good teacher for doing this (ego alert), I believe this is the minimum standard for teaching. As we've discussed before, I believe most of the problems in our schools are not caused by the students. They are caused by the teachers and the administration.

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  8. Scott - okay so I can't use Pat Robertson. Another name that would be along these lines would be James Dobson. However, I will use the largest Protestant denomination - The Southern Baptist Church. Grew up in it. I know what they believe. While I've rejected the premise and became Roman Catholic, there is a strong belief within the church that God rewards his followers with riches is very strong.

    In fact, my rejection of the Southern Baptist belief probably would help explain why I reject many conservative principles. As I was growing up, we would receive the Missouri Southern Baptist Weekly on Wednesday and the UAW's Solidarity on Thurdays (Mom was conservative and Dad was liberal). Some of this garbage was in the MSB Weekly (i.e. the poor just need to be more faithful to God) and made the UAW magazine sound much more reasoned and logical.

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  9. Scott - do you realize that your suggestion would not allow for the Federal government to be able to pay for the $800 billion defense department and the $150 billion wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    I have no problem with your attack on entitlements so long as you are willing to admit that in attacking taxes you are attacking other parts of the government.

    The decision then boils down to what you support. The $1.15 trillion in defense and war or the $1.05 trillion in entitlement spending.

    I choose entitlement over war. I'm guessing you choose the other.

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  10. A couple of further points:

    I'm attacking income taxes, not all taxes. I would support a moderate consumption tax to replace part of the revenue lost from the repeal of the income tax.

    I believe defense of the nation to be one of the primary functions of Federal government. I do not believe selling government dope is an appropriate function of government.

    Do you have any comments regarding the morality of this whole issue? You favor entitlements but offer no rebuttal or comment regarding my clear statements that the level of entitlements you support is, I believe, wrong, destructive to the human spirit, and immoral.

    I mean, just think of what you are saying..."entitlement". What "entitles" a man to another man's money? Is one entitled to government redistribution simply by virtue of being poor? Are blacks entitled to my money by virture of my being white and they're being black, and many decades ago other white people enslaved other black people? Are certain Americans born with some Original Sin that dictates that they pay extra in taxes and float other Americans who could, but choose not to care for themselves?

    What "entitlements" should be valid? Do I believe that no provision be made for the infirm and elderly? No. Do I believe that children be left uncared for? No. BUT, I do not believe that government should supplant the parents. If the parents are government addicts, they need to be weaned.

    The majority of human beings never realize their true potential because of government: either its roadblocks, enslavement (literal), or its comfy blankets of welfare that envelop the humanity of a man, concealing it from even himself.

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  11. Why have I been silent on the morality thing...because I have so many things going through my mind that I have to organize them before posting.

    Scott - you are confusing social constructed meanings with morality. Morality is universal. Economics are social constructs. Hell, money is a social construct.

    What is moral is the innate code of behavior that is natural for us to balance our self needs and our need to be members of groups. We spend our lives balancing this because both needs are primary to our consciousness.

    Economics and money are just means to an end. Capitalism and money are neither moral or immoral. They are "tool" that allows us to meet our personal and social needs. No one can actually own money because it is not natural in existence. Taxes are along the same line. We can create rules that allow for money ownership, but those are just as socially artificial as the rules that created the money in the first place.

    We can debate all we want over the proper uses of the "tool" and how we can use that "tool" to better humanity, which in the case of the argument you present is money/taxes.

    We can even debate about the moral and immoral uses of the tool (money/taxes). However, taxes/money are social constructs and are defined by the society, which is neither moral nor immoral.

    However, a discussion about the morality of money/taxes is not only misguided, but sets moral philosophy back about 2,000 years.

    This is just the start of the many reactions I have to the post. I have more but need more time to organize them. Maybe a future post.

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  12. "Morality is universal"

    I know. It is moral to allow man to be free. It is immoral to retard man's innate spirit and liberty.

    "No one can actually own money because it is not natural in existence."

    Money is a medium of exchange. Yes it is a social construct, but what it stands for is not.

    Is food a social construct? Is a building a social construct? Are computers or medical devices social constructs? Of course not. Therefore, while we have created a medium of exchange that vastly improves the quality of life in the world, the utility that can be bought with money is most definitely NOT just a means to an end.

    You claim that nobody can own money because it is not a naturally occurring entity? Then you are implying that nobody can own anything whatever.

    And again, you keep missing my specification...I'm not railing against taxes...just income taxes...because of their retarding effect on the entrepreneurism, the freedom to grow, and the liberty of man. Big distinction.

    To use your own words against you, I'm not saying "taxes" per se are immoral...I'm claiming that certain uses of taxes are immoral.

    You must admit the effect income taxes have on the individual ability and will to achieve. That is my problem with income taxes.

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  13. Ok. Your premise is that a tax income stifles creativity and production. Your arguments is "ivory tower" stuff that conservatives love to rail academia on.

    Do you have any statistical evidence that supports the idea that a tax on income stifles economic activity? The Western European countries, all of whom have income higher taxes than the U.S., are the centers of great ingenuity, creativity, entreprenuership, invention, etc.

    Take a look sometime at the number of "American companies" that are actually subsidiries of European conglomerates. If things were so bad with these "burdensome" income taxes in Europe, wouldn't the situation be reverse since the taxation rate (income and consumption) in America is much lower.

    My argument before was just that income taxes in and of themselves cannot be immoral because it is a social construct. The use of income taxes is a different story, but income taxes are neither be moral or immoral.

    Similar to Democracy. A form of government is a tool of power. How the government functions can lead to moral or immoral behaviors, but the government is not at fault, the people acting on behalf of the government can act moral or immoral. Democracy is the same way since it can be used for immoral behavior (segregation) or moral behavior (defeating Nazism).

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