These days, however, tax-cutters are hardly even trying to make the trickle-down case. Yes, Republicans are pushing the line that raising taxes at the top would hurt small businesses, but their hearts don’t really seem in it. Instead, it has become common to hear vehement denials that people making $400,000 or $500,000 a year are rich. I mean, look at the expenses of people in that income class — the property taxes they have to pay on their expensive houses, the cost of sending their kids to elite private schools, and so on. Why, they can barely make ends meet.
And among the undeniably rich, a belligerent sense of entitlement has taken hold: it’s their money, and they have the right to keep it. “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society,” said Oliver Wendell Holmes — but that was a long time ago.
The spectacle of high-income Americans, the world’s luckiest people, wallowing in self-pity and self-righteousness would be funny, except for one thing: they may well get their way. Never mind the $700 billion price tag for extending the high-end tax breaks: virtually all Republicans and some Democrats are rushing to the aid of the oppressed affluent.
You see, the rich are different from you and me: they have more influence. It’s partly a matter of campaign contributions, but it’s also a matter of social pressure, since politicians spend a lot of time hanging out with the wealthy. So when the rich face the prospect of paying an extra 3 or 4 percent of their income in taxes, politicians feel their pain — feel it much more acutely, it’s clear, than they feel the pain of families who are losing their jobs, their houses, and their hopes.
And when the tax fight is over, one way or another, you can be sure that the people currently defending the incomes of the elite will go back to demanding cuts in Social Security and aid to the unemployed. America must make hard choices, they’ll say; we all have to be willing to make sacrifices.
But when they say “we,” they mean “you.” Sacrifice is for the little people.
Funny how that works. But The Kroog is right. More and more we're being told that there's a moral component to cutting taxes for the rich. It works like this: You're a hard working Real American, right? Because the rich are supposed to be rich for a reason (they work harder than you and therefore they are more moral) that the proper thing to do is to allow them to stay rich while the least among us (who are the least moral because they are poor clearly because they are lazy and shiftless) should be made to sacrifice and work harder, thus becoming more moral in the process.
If you were putting in 90 hours a week at the law firm, you'd be rich too. Stop complaining and get to work.
The best part of this is that anyone who objects to this is clearly immoral and lazy. This Galtian Puritanism (the rich are rich because they sacrificed and worked hard) has of course gone back centuries to the age of monarchs and feudal lords, the Divine Right of Kings, modified for the age of Tea Party Populism.
It's a scam that the wealthiest among us are more than happy to spread.