This is part two of a reaction I started Tuesday to a blog that reacted to my blog that reacted to the blog of Jack Craver of Isthmus. (I think that’s five prepositional phrases without commas.)
Craver asked in the comments section of my blog:
What tax rates do you propose as appropriate for the state on corporate and individual income?
What services do you believe the state should provide with that tax revenue? Which services go beyond what you believe to be essential services and into the arena of “leftist” government? Would it include BadgerCare?
Glad you asked, Jack! Answer number 1A: The appropriate corporate income tax rate is zero. One reason is that, as readers of this blog know, businesses don’t pay taxes; their customers pay business taxes in the cost of a product or service. Business taxes serve only to obscure the actual cost of government, and taxpayers should know exactly how much they’re being required to pay to fund government. There are three things for which businesses use profits — to reinvest back into the business; to increase compensation for employees; or to return to the business’ owners as dividends. Any of those is preferable to the trash can known as government. And if there are no taxes, there are no tax breaks, and there is no money spent on campaign contributions to encourage or discourage tax breaks.
As for question 1B, the easy answer would be “lower than Craver wants,” but I don’t know what the correct tax rate is other than whatever tax rates (and taxes) are necessary to fund the correct functions of government. The purpose of government, generally, is to perform the correct functions of government, which does not mean employing people (except as to perform the correct functions of government), or redistributing income, or effecting trendy social change that doesn’t have a basis in our inalienable rights.
What are those “correct functions of government?” Gov. Lee Sherman Dreyfus, economic conservative and social libertarian, identified three and only three functions of the federal government: “defending our shores, delivering our mail and staying the hell out of our lives.” (If only.) The state Constitution lists such government functions as enforcing the law, education (schools and universities), and purchase and/or construction of “land, waters, property, highways, railways, buildings, equipment or facilities for public purposes” — to wit, ”public highways,” ”airports or other aeronautical projects,” “veterans’ housing,” “port facilities,” “railways and other railroad facilities,” and “the forests of the state.” (The Constitution, however, says the state may fund the aforementioned list; the word shall only comes up on the subject of education.)
That seems to be a pretty good list. Which means there’s a lot that state and local government now does that isn’t on that list, or not to the extent spending on that government function is occurring today. When asked about waste in government, Sen. Frank Lasee (R–De Pere) used to bring up rails-to-trails spending — converting abandoned rail beds to bicycle paths — not because it wasn’t a worthy function of government, but because it isn’t worthy to the level of exceeding all other states in rails-to-trails spending. The state Constitution allows using public debt to purchase land, but at the rate of $60 million per year, with zero economic return? (The aforementioned Knowles–Nelson Stewardship Fund spending is down from $86 million per year under the previous governor and Legislature.) The Constitution does not require the existence of a State Patrol responsible for writing traffic tickets instead of conducting actual law enforcement. And where is the employment of executive assistants — who are political appointees for department secretaries — a core function of government?
What about economic development, including downtown revitalization? The answer lies in another question: How much government-funded economic development takes place to undo the effects of bad public policy? (The practical question, on the other hand, is how much government-funded economic development has to take place because other goverments are doing government-funded economic development.)
Craver tries to bait me by asking about BadgerCare, and I imagine he’d be interested in if I’d be interested in getting rid of, say, unemployment insurance, Social Security, or other social programs. His asking that question demonstrates the left’s utter contempt for anything that would limit the role of government in our lives, such as our founding documents. To them, the U.S. and state Constitution are nothing more than scratchings on parchment written by dead white men.
(Craver also asked what I meant in my reference to former Supreme Court Justice Louis “Loophole Louie” Butler, who got his nickname from his time as a Milwaukee public defender. What I meant was that any Supreme Court justice who ruled as he did in the lead paint case — that it was OK to sue a company that manufactured lead-based paint without proof that that company manufactured the lead-based paint that was involved in the lawsuit should be not just thrown off the Supreme Court — and Butler lost two Supreme Court races — but disbarred.)
And now for Craver’s grand vision:
Instead of talking superficially about “raising” and “cutting” taxes and programs, why don’t we talk about what the appropriate tax rates are for the services we expect? If we had that debate, there would be honest disagreement about what the government should provide, but at least voters would have a better idea of the system their politicians stand for.
If such a dialogue existed in America, I don’t think there would be any question that there is no meaningful left-wing power in the country. If there were, there would be a serious push for fundamental change to our economic system. Socialism, communism, the works. In fact, in the U.S. we only have one member of Congress who calls himself a “Democratic Socialist,” and there are a few Democrats who talk seriously about even developing a welfare state that rivals that of other Western countries. The health care plan the GOP denounces as an end to America as we know it was a carbon copy of the plan the Republican Party introduced less than 20 years ago. It’s not a “government takeover,” it’s simply a government handout to corporations — something both parties have proudly supported throughout history.
You don’t have to be a subscriber to Madison commie propaganda to believe the Democratic Party is not in the business of advancing leftism. You simply have to read a history book. I’m sure nobody is prouder of that fact than the people on the right who have been running the show for the past 30 years. Thanks to Ronald Reagan and his disciples, we don’t have a left and a right in this country. We have a center-right and a far right. And then we have some liberals watching from the bleachers.
It doesn’t always have to be that way, however. The political character of a country can change overnight, often with horrifying results (ever heard of Nazism?). People who ridicule the suggestion that Democrats could not win by running further to the left either have no sense of history or are willfully ignoring it. Over the past 100 years American political values have changed drastically many times. We’ve gone from no income tax to a top marginal rate of 92% and then back down to 35%. We’ve gone from segregation to a black president. Soon we’ll have gay marriage, not just because people have gradually accepted it on their own, but because enough people in politics and media talked about it that people began to see the issue differently.
Today’s liberals generally hate markets, but perhaps the reason why “Democrats could not win by running further to the left” is because Democrats have figured out that being more leftist than they already are is a non-starter among voters. (If you think about it, voting is the ultimate market.) The purpose of a political party, after all, is to get its candidates elected and keep them in office. American voters have had the choice, since before World War II, of Wisconsin’s own Fighting Bob La Follette, Henry Wallace, Adlai Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey, Ted Kennedy, Dennis Kucinich and others more left-wing than either the Democratic presidential nominee or the ultimate presidential winner and chose otherwise. (Barack Obama did not become president because of his ideology. In fact, his poor poll numbers probably could be described at least in part as voter remorse.) Ronald Reagan probably drove the GOP to the right, but voters decided to move the country rightward. If Craver and his fellow travelers don’t like that, well, to quote a former coworker of mine, it sucks to be them.
If left-wing ideas would be more popular if only those ignorant voters (such as those who voted the wrong way according to Isthmus Nov. 2) realized how wonderful those ideas are, then, for instance, Obamacare would not be polling as poorly as it is. (For that matter, Democrats in Recallarama would be campaigning on restoring public employee collective bargaining “rights,” but they’re not, are they?) Maybe voters outside the People’s Republic of Madison are smarter than Craver seems to think. Some may even realize that monthly U.S. job growth since Obama signed health care deform into law is one-tenth what it was before Obamacare became law. And liberals have yet to satisfactorily explain why, with enough exceptions for you to be able to count using both your hands, liberal talk has been smothered on commercial radio by conservative talk.
Craver’s blog mentions three presidents — Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower — as, he claims, liberal icons in the White House. (Which would have come as a surprise to Eisenhower. Then again, by today’s standards, Richard Nixon was a liberal. Which makes him an even worse president than people think.) I know of no non-socialist economist who would claim the economic system the U.S. had in World War II as the ideal. I’m also unaware of any liberal who believes detaining tens of thousands of Americans based on the shape of their eyes represents the highest of liberal ideals. And as lefty as Roosevelt and Truman may comparatively have been in their day, they ultimately fail the leftist test because they believed in our country and defending it from its enemies. The reaction of the American left to the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s and radical Islam in this century says all you need to know about whether the left would ever actually fight to defend this country from foreign enemies.
Craver and readers who disagree with my philosophical bent may dismiss what I’ve written yesterday and today as the rantings of a relative of Joseph Goebbels. My views are my own, but I think my views represent the mainstream of political thought outside the People’s Republic of Madison than Craver’s do. The people I know and associate with — whether conservative, moderate or liberal — are not obsessed with politics, focus on their own lives instead of trying to control others’ lives, and seek to improve where they live by doing the work themselves instead of waiting for government to show up and bail them out.
Maybe Craver is right after all when he claims that there is no real American left. But if there isn’t, it’s because in the marketplace of ideas, the left lost, and deserved to lose, and deserves to keep losing.